a blog about creating (meaning)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Cheers to Quilting for a Cause in the New Year

I read an article in American Patchwork and Quilting (February 2011--yes, I know, it's till 2010 here in northeastern U.S.--the issue arrived in the mail yesterday) about a nonprofit organization called "Quilts for Kids."  I just sent for their kit to make a quilt for a child in need.  The kit comes in one to two weeks, so I'll be in China when it arrives, but it will be here waiting for me when I return. I need projects with a purpose, and because I'm still in a cast (week twelve begins Monday...) this seems like a great focus for a couple days. The organization asks that, for every kit you receive, you make a second quilt of your own fabric to return with the first quilt.  You can read more on their site.  The url is included in this post or you can click the link under the sidebar, "Giving Back."

One of my New Year's resolutions is a commitment to what I call "Art Activism" on my website or "Sewing for a Cause" in my new, soon-to-be started, blog of the same name ("art activism" was not available).


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lined Fabric Envelopes

I've been experimenting...  Once I make another one, and have a slightly better idea of what I'm doing, I'll post instructions!  This was fun to make and looks okay, but I made several mistakes and had to do some altering to make it work.  

This envelope became "gift wrap" for this little yellow angel. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

No galvanized hardware, please!*

Hand rusted muslin, machine pieced and quilted.  7.5 x 9.5
Finished!  This is my contribution to the New England Quilt Museum's shop to sell as a fundraiser.  New England SAQA called for members to contribute in support of the museum and their generous hosting of the New England SAQA exhibit, "No Holds Barred," beginning at the end of January, 2011.

I'll add "How to Rust" instructions here soon. It's fun and easy (but a bit smelly).

* Galvanized steel does not rust!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blue Sky at Dusk

5:00 pm -- I'm amazed by this marine blue winter sky. It's 18 degrees  F.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Quilting for a Cause

The first quilt is a donation to my local "100 Nights Shelter" (see link under "Giving Back"); it will be given to a homeless boy to keep as his own when he leaves the shelter. The second quilt was going to be a donation to fulfill my promise to a local childcare center to donate a quilt to their annual spring auction, but now I think I'll also give it to 100 Nights to gift to a child, and I'll make another one for the children's center auction.
Cotton, Warm and Natural batting, 64" x 76"


Cottons, Warm and Natural Batting. 46" x 54"


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Burnt Orange Wool

Orange wool, Wam and Natural batting, free-stitched on machine, 5" x 7" matted to 11" x 14"

This small art quilt did not photograph well.  The thread--both color and quantity-- is muted and understated, but the contrast is greater than shown here.  The process was fast--an intuitive choosing of color and design that developed as I machine stitched.  This may become my SAQA donation for the New England Quilt Museum in honor of the SAQA exhibit, "No Holds Barred" starting in January 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Playing with Scraps

I do have a major* project in the works, which I'm documenting by taking photos and notes (see "I Took the Process Pledge" button for more info), but it won't appear here until it's finished (it's a gift). That said, I put some of the scraps to use by weaving, fusing, and stitching them to form a small rectangle. 

I'm not sure what I'll do with this--make it into a journal cover, perhaps, or maybe an insert for a pillow. I'll take a picture of the stitching when I get my camera back--it's on loan for a few days to help document the Veteran's for Peace protest against the ongoing war in Afghanistan.  The peaceful demonstration is occurring at the White House today--even as I write this. 

* Major for me--it's all relative!

a stitch in dye: Cathy's Ocean Revisited

Check out this beautiful embroidered art quilt by Malka Dubrawsky. Really--now!

Here's the link:

a stitch in dye: Cathy's Ocean Revisited

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Potato Meditation

It's not unusual to see distinct shapes in potatoes, but these hearts brought me up short for  a minute, and made my own heart catch in a moment of simple gratitude. 

Then I wondered if I was just getting a bit batty after so many days stuck in the house, as in, "wow--look! see the cool hearts in this potato I just sliced--awesome, take a picture!" but grateful in any case. Not for being stuck in the house--this is week nine in a cast and on crutches, making this camper very unhappy and more-than-a-little stir-crazy--but for being warm, for having shelter and food when so many don't, and mostly for the good hearts of my family and friends. There are many, many good hearts in this world.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The star is one of several I hang across the back windows during Hanukkah .

A tree-house behind the house, built years ago.

Quilting Arts Series

Although I'm absolutely a visual and kinesthetic learner, I'm still not much of a T.V. viewer, even for a good contemporary quilting show like this (see below). This offer is tempting me, however, especially as we head into the short, cold days of winter--as true in Beijing as in Marlborough. Should I go for it?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chinese Fiber Arts in Lowell, Massachusetts

This exhibit is very high on my to do list--I'm hoping to get there in the next week or two, with or without cast and crutches! 

Changing Landscapes: Contemporary Chinese Fiber Art
October 23, 2009 through March 14, 2010
The American Textile History Museum presents the first exhibition of contemporary Chinese fiber art ever to travel to the United States.  Organized by the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, this exhibit celebrates virtuosity of technique and profound cultural and artistic expression.
Exhibit: Changing LandscapesExhibit: Textile Revolution
Changing Landscapes was co-curated by Ni Yue-Hong, a professor at the Fiber Arts Institute of Tsinghua University in Beijin, and Deborah Corsini, curator of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. The artworks shown have been drawn from the past five Lausanne to Beijing International Fiber Art Biennale exhibitions.  This selection offers two-dimensional tapestries as well as sculptural work by emerging, mid-career, and master artists who study or teach at institutions of higher education throughout China.  All together, the work is a snapshot of how three generations of artists working in fiber media are documenting, navigating, and responding to the tremendous economic, political, and social changes that have transformed the Chinese landscape over the past decade.  The featured artists also delve into our collective human experience, commenting upon such universal themes as nature, our relation to the past, the meaning of home, and the power of artistic expression.
The Lausanne to Beijing International Fiber Art Biennales began in 2000 as a continuation of the work of the Lausanne Biennale exhibitions held from 1962 to 1992 in Switzerland.  Professor Lin Lecheng of Tsinghua University, himself an exhibitor at Lausanne, led the effort to develop this prestigious international exhibition in China.  In each year since the biennale began, the exhibition has grown and includes artworks gathered from artists in more and more countries around the world.
In developing Changing Landscapes, the tapestry Floating House by co-curator Professor Ni Yue-Hong was identified as an extremely important award-winning work that serves as the signature piece for the exhibition.  According to Jane Przybysz, Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and Corsini, Floating House “masterfully depicts an architectural structure in monochromatic tones precariously tilted—as if literally at sea under a night sky—in an ocean of shifting saturated colors. . . . It successfully captured the sense of uncertainty that—not just foreigners living in China—but many Chinese people and particularly Chinese artists had experienced in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, during which time tradition was deemed anti-revolutionary and much historical art was destroyed.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

(Almost) Finished! 100 Quilts for Christmas

I finished the quilt top for my "100 Quilts for Christmas" donation (a nice thing for a Jewish quilter to do after Hanukkah, yes?). I was in such a rush to get it off to the long-arm quilter* that I neglected to take a photo--sorry.  I'll take one when it comes back--hopefully soon--before I add the binding.  My quilt will go to a local shelter, 100 Nights (see link in side bar under "Giving Back"), along with a monetary donation. It was -5 F here two nights ago. Everyone has a right to food, shelter, and clothing.

*No large-scale quilting for me any more until the cast comes off and I can walk again!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Free-stitched Chinese Lantern Cards

New embroidery design--free-stitched Chinese Lanterns.
Hand-dyed felted wool, cotton floss. 2.5" square
 Previous design, mounted and

                                                               placed with a mailing envelope in a cellophane envelope.

This is a great on-the-go project. The designs are small and free-stitched, making it easy to grab a few fabric scraps (I prefer linen or wool, but anything could work), floss or crewel yarn, needle, hoop and scissors and go. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

(One of) a 100 Quilts

I've been working on my quilt for the 100 Quilts for Christmas project.  I chose a masculine theme and colors, as mine will go to a homeless shelter where most visitors are male.  This quilt will be sent out of the shelter with someone in need, a gift and a reminder that someone cares.

These are 8.5 x 11.5 blocks left from an early project.  I've got them put together into a 47 x  54 top so far.  I changed the orientation of the rectangles about half-way through, from lengthwise to widthwise.  Now I need to figure out a very wide border, get it on and get the whole thing quilted.


 No matter how dark the night, a new day always dawns,

and I am grateful for such beauty.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards

I've been thinking about Elizabeth Edwards and all she's endured this past decade. I read this morning that she is very ill and treatment is no longer appropriate. By all reports she was still in good spirits and making the most of the time she had left, expected to be not more than a couple months at most.  I write "had," not "has," as the Washington Post has just announced her death this afternoon.

Good bye to a brave woman and a warrior for human rights, and especially the rights of those less privileged.

She is already missed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chinese Lanterns, Part II

Orange wool, black floss on 6" hoop
Step two: Play around!  Lacking crewel wool and impatient as ever, I found scraps of wool and embroidered this outline (free hand) as a sample of sorts.

Ritan Park, Beijing

Ritan Park is about three blocks from the apartment.

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns are indigenous to Japan and southeastern Europe, not China.  I've always been intrigued by these vivid, paper-thin (when dried) flowers.  Psysalis alkekengi come in many colors, ranging from yellowish-orange to leaded-lipstick red. Yes, there is lead in most commercial lipsticks. Lead is readily absorbed through the thin membranes of the lips. Pick your poison wisely. Myself, I like Burt's Bees! Back to the lanterns.  
Sketches for Chinese Lanterns
I am working on a crewel-type embroidery design for stitching Chinese Lanterns on wool. I have ideas about making a quilt with embroidered squares, but a pillow would probably be more practical in terms of time, energy, and durability.  I'm fondest of functional art and craft, but then again, the images I have dancing in my head might lend themselves to wall art as well. I can clearly see in my mind's eye what these various projects might look like, even at this very early stage.  However, I'm experienced enough to know that what my mind creates may well be far afield from what my hands construct. I invite you along to share the process and see where it takes me.
Detail of sketch

Taking the Process Pledge

  • It's a crisp Monday morning, with flurries floating free on on the wind, making me feel as if somehow I'm cozy and warm inside a gently shaken snow globe.  I was reading Malka Dubrawsky's post about her upcoming book tour for her wonderful new book, Fresh Quilting. (A must have/use! To go to her site, A Stitch in Dye:  a stitch in dye ). I'm in the middle of checking out the spots on her tour (great links--check it out!) when I see, on the Tall Grass Prairie Studio blog (http://www.tallgrassprairiestudio.blogspot.com/), an "I Took the Process Pledge" button.  I am all about process--in my teaching of writing, in my creative work, in my life--I relish the process part of thinking, planning, doing, unfolding, and surprise.  Following the button, I find the sweet, really, serene blog by rOssie: http://r0ssie.blogspot.com/   What a great idea!  I Took the Process Pledge myself.  And even though I am process-oriented, I don't always or even often remember or take the time to snap pictures and share that process, so thanks, Rossie, for this great reminder. I shall try harder!
  • Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Faking It (Improvisation!)

    Garnering inspiration from Kristin Nicholas' Colorful Stitchery, I set out to recreate some of her on-the-wild-side type crewel flowers last night. I did it, albeit sans wool crewel yarn or wool.  So maybe I didn't "do it"-- maybe I just faked it, using a linen tea towel (I bought a dozen at a local bargain store last year) and embroidery floss on hand.
    I used a four inch hoop, new linen fabric, and embroidery floss.

    Stock cards, with 2" x 2" opening. 

    I'm not sure if I'll finish these cards or use the embroidery for something else--perhaps small squares in a patchwork pillow? I didn't trace or copy patterns, I just looked at the pictures and made the designs as I went. The detailed image is a flower design from Nicholas' book; the other two designs are my adaptations. There were more than two adaptations at the end of the night, but they were promptly deconstructed. I do have to learn that stitching, like writing, sometimes works using what Peter Elbow calls the "dangerous method" (winging it without much direction at the last minute), but not often. Today I'll work on a pattern I have in mind for Chinese Lantern flowers (I don't know if that's really their name, it's just what I've always called them.)

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    New Inspiration


    I just received, via parcel post, the new-to-me, but clearly very-loved-by-someone before me, book titled Colorful Stitchery, by Kirstin Nicholas.  Published in 2005, I'm not sure how I missed this gem from my southern "neighbor" on her sheep farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, just over an hour's drive from my house in south-western New Hampshire.
    Here's just one of the inspired and inspiring pages from this book.

    Some of her designs are really funky and fresh. I'm especially enamored with her seemingly sashiko influenced pillow embroidery designs.

    Check out her work and her gorgeous wools and patterns!

    Watch for my Nicholas' inspired work here soon.  I may not be able to get around much with this eternal cast and crutches, but I am finding a silver lining in the extra time to create and keep the dining table cluttered with materials and projects.



    Eat, Watch, Sew

    Alone in house and determined to finish this yellow wool doll, I gathered materials (including rice crisps and chocolate soy milk) and cozied up in a corner to work while watching Eat, Pray, Love on pay-per-view.
    At the last minute, I decided to ditch the face for the simplicity of a blank slate--an "empty mind" perhaps. Julia Roberts made me cry. 
    Wool felt, beads, button, embroidery; stuffed with unbleached wool roving. About 6" x 4.5".

    Shadow, shade, and light--an ill-executed photo with angelic rays of light from the heavens (my kitchen window).

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Pocket Doll meets Spirit Doll

    With or without faces, these dolls garner praises from family and friends.  I've made some version of these little treasures for years.  I also make a similar version (with legs) with school children when I travel to teach at the Bapagrama School in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Everyone loves these dolls.

    Three dolls with stuffed felt bodies and glazed polymer clay faces.
    You can get directions and a full-size template by pasting this link into your browser:

    Enlarge it, shrink it, tweak it--make it your own!