30 Mar

1000 Quilt Inspirations

Have you seen this book yet?

1000 Quilt Blocks book

It is chock full of quilt blocks and details for one to peruse. It’s by no means definitive (the quilt world is just too too huge for that), but there’s plenty to catch the eye. The book is divided into sections: Traditional, Modern, Pictorial Art Quilt, and Abstract Art Quilt. The traditional section sometimes leans towards the arty, and I doubt any hard core Modern quilter would see themselves in the Modern section. Really, the sections are there to add a little structure, and that’s OK. Given that author Sandra Sider is an art quilter, I’m not at all surprised at the leanings of the book. That’s also OK. It’s a book of inspiration, and it provides plenty.


100 quilt blocks inside

I have three pieces in the book — all from the Twelve by Twelve Colorplay series. Fellow Twelves Brenda Gael Smith and Deborah Boschert have work in the book too!

It’s a nice resource when you want to browse for inspiration. The book can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or through the publisher themselves.

24 Dec

Two Twelves in DC

Brenda pretty much said it all on the Twelve by Twelve blog. She was visiting DC, I live relatively close, and so we met for a day of art and catching up. It was grand!

Coincidentally, there was a quilt show that opened the same weekend at the National Gallery for Women in the Arts, so of course we took the opportunity to see it. But we met first at the National Portrait Gallery since it opened earlier. Neither of us had ever been there, so we joined the highlights tour for a taste of the history, architecture, and the art itself.

There were the classic Presidential portraits  of Washington and Jefferson, and two life masks of Lincoln showing the physical effects of the stress of the office over a five year period — the latter mask being much more gaunt than the first. What I enjoyed most though were the galleries of more recent presidents as the artwork reflected the styles of each period so well. As Brenda noted, the expressionist brushstrokes of Elaine deKooning’s Kennedy captured the sixties so well, and Chick Close’s Clinton portrait is iconic. There’s also a Norman Rockwell portrait of Nixon that is surprisingly warm and intimate.

After our intro to the Portrait Gallery (definitely worth a return visit), we stopped for a bite at Capitol City Brewing Company, and then off to find the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  The Work’t by Hand collection is predominantly quilts from the late 1800s, but covers a wide variety of styles from crazy quilts to Amish, to broderie perse and Stars of Bethlehem. No photos though. As the title suggests, the hand work on these quilts is just exquisite. We spent quite some time marveling at the variety of stitches on the crazy quilts and the beautiful embroidery. As I see an appliqué project on my horizon, I am inspired to make my stitches as small and invisible as possible in emulation of the fine workmanship. I am also inspired to add tiny bits of sparkly sequined ice skating costume fabric as in the one quilt by noted scrap quilter Anna Williams.

We took the opportunity to check out the museum’s permanent collection while we were there. Of course Brenda and I were drawn to the pieces that most referenced fabric. The only two I took photos of were a very quilty piece thick with paint, by Valerie Jaudon, titled Bay St. Louis.

Bay St Louis

And several pieces by Andrea Higgins which looked like extreme enlargements of fabrics, but were dimensional paint. I particularly liked this one, titled  Jackie (India) which is part of a series inspired by clothing worn by First Ladies.

Jackie (India)

We had a lovely day talking art and life, and it was fantastic to add visits to two more museums I had not seen before. I am lucky to live so close to a city with so much to offer, and which is a destination for so many friends as well!


12 Dec


Today is 12/12/12, one of those auspicious repeating number days. Our Twelve by Twelve group was lucky enough to be able to schedule our challenge so that the last pieces for this year, 2012, would be revealed today. Our theme was Sweet, and we’ve created some lovely interpretations, from the sweetness of sugary candy to the sweetness of a group of friends creating together. Check it out

As the year draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about an overarching project for next year. I’ve never really done one, and I’m not sure I want to add more commitments to my to-do list, but I’ve been thinking that a simple drawn (or otherwise) self portrait per day would be informative. I shy away from studying myself and I’m not sure if that’s because I don’t think I look like I do in my mind, or if I have a larger distaste for self reflection as that would infer a follow-up with self improvement. Last year I had tried to draw myself regularly as a way to get to know me, but I didn’t stick with it. Perhaps stating in public that I will do a 365 day project will keep me accountable and I will do it.

I’ve been thinking about these things as I sit and stare at the ceiling, or my computer, and wonder why, with all this time that I have (my kids are, after all in middle school and leave me to my own devices for six hours a day) can’t or don’t I accomplish more. I stared at piles of Christmas gifts today, incapacitated by my inability to stick in and wrap them so that I could package them so that I may get them to the post office. I did finally decide how they should be wrapped, and found appropriate outer packaging, but had dithered too long and didn’t have time to stand in line at the post office before the kids would get home. So I thought about accountability here. I thought about my to-do lists and my ambitions and the things I want to do but are lower priority than the things I need to do, or should do. I thought about Getting Things Done. And I may have thought up another 365 day project. What if I wrote, every morning, what my aspirations for the day were. Then, I could write what I actually did each day — to include time spent staring at the ceiling, or the computer screen, or picking up the dry cleaning. I suspect the lists would be quite different, though I’m usually happy if I can cross one thing off my to-do list each day. Maybe by the end of the year I’d be better at reconciling the aspirational list with the reality of what I can and do accomplish each day.

I won’t blog daily lists (or portraits for that matter) as I know that would only encourage me to spend more time at the computer. But, occasional checking in would help keep me on track. Now, to start today (and end on 11/12/13), on the next solstice (the 21st), on my birthday, or at the start of the year?

05 Dec

Adjusting the Process

I may be easing into a new way of working. As I focus more on drawing, it is only natural that I try to make a connection between my works on paper and my works on fabric. The connection need not be obvious or intentional — I’m just trying to be mindful of it’s possibility.


The last Twelve by Twelve challenge of the year is Sweet. It will be my last challenge with the group, so “Bittersweet” came to mind. As usual, I went to my working sketchbook and wrote down things that came to mind when I thought of sweet or bittersweet. Then, instead of going to my fabric stash, or being satisfied with rough little sketches, I went to one of my heftier sketchbooks and drew/painted studies of bittersweet. I drew two varieties of the plant, and painted abstractions such as the triangles in the page above, and a stylized berry pattern on another page which also included a drawing of a pile of dark chocolate.


I like the concept, and there are some interesting elements going on. But I’m quite sure I don’t want to be so literal as to recreate my sketchbook drawing in fabric. So often, something is lost in the translation when trying to recreate a drawing or a photo in fabric. The medium is so much a part of the message. So, what to do, what to do?

Somewhere along the way, keeping up with the doings of our teenage German exchange student, something caught my eye. She had posted a cute picture of herself and her sister on Facebook. A friend responded with “sweet,” but in German, which is “suess.” He used the extended German alphabet, with contracts the double esses to an eszet (ß), which looks to Americans to be a funny B, and changes the ue to a u with an umlaut (ü) — which looked to me like a cute little happy face in the middle of the word! Süß! How sweet is that?! You never know where inspiration will come from.

Now I’m thinking I will go with the typographic interpretation of Sweet and not the bittersweet aspect. So, was all the drawing and exploration of Bittersweet a waste of time? Absolutely not. It was part of the process. It helped me clarify. It provided me with a color scheme I will stick with, and options for details if I want or need them. I’m thinking that the triangles could reappear as a quilting motif, and the red berry pattern could translate nicely to embroidery…

01 Oct


The most recent Twelve by Twelve theme was Maverick. Today was reveal day. While I liked the concept I had for my piece, I don’t think the final artwork really did it justice.

Others in the group were far more successful though, so go check it out. Terri will announce our fifth and final theme for 2012 on the second, so that should be fun too!

19 Sep

Arty Fun Weekend

Now that we live on the US Mainland, everyone seems so much more accessible.

Long time blog buddy, turned Twelve by Twelve compatriot, turned real life friend, Deborah, is only a state and a district away. We’ve been plotting to get together and decided that last weekend was the time. She had a SAQA Parlor meeting and a Metro Threads meeting so I jumped at the chance to tag along and meet other area quilt artists. I thoroughly enjoyed the programs and the sharing of artwork and discussions that emerged. We enjoyed sharing our 20×12 pieces that we’ve completed so far.

While we were off doing our thing, Deborah’s husband gallantly herded the kids. They were amazing together. Reading, playing games, goofing off. They entertained each other for two and a half days.

My man had spent the last three days working in the area so he met the gang at Claire’s soccer game. Deborah and I eventually caught up with them too. I love it when two families can play together so easily.

On Sunday, Deborah treated us to a delicious crepe breakfast and then we headed off to DC to visit the Spy Museum. Totally fun. I think everyone enjoyed that!

The guys then left and the moms walked the kids over to the Corcoran to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit our peer group has been raving about. I can see in the fields of color and simple geometric shapes why the paintings have so much appeal to quilters. I have to admit that the first room or two of paintings did nothing for me. I found them to be “neither nor,” as one instructor of mine used to say. They seemed neither intentionally messy nor finished looking. However, as the exhibit progressed, I gained an appreciation for the insight into process which Diebenkorn appeared to be giving us. The layers informed each other and one could almost imagine the internal conversation the artist must have been having with himself about color and proportion. I still didn’t love most of the paintings, but I could respect what Diebenkorn was telling me, and there were a few that I do like, such as #122, an untitled one that could be interpreted as a landscape with a building, and the mostly dark #138. Part of the series included very small paintings on cigar box tops, which did appeal to me. There were small details of the box texture or printed labels that showed through the paint in enticing ways. I think it was the contrast in scale and rhythm that was working for me and which wasn’t so immediately evident in the larger pieces. I particularly enjoyed viewing the exhibit with a friend because we were able to discuss our reactions and interpretations of the art right there with it in front of us. We couldn’t linger too long though because the kids were not Diebenkorn fans. Deborah mentioned that it could be instructive to reproduce some of the paintings in cloth and stitch to see what happened, particularly since she saw Diebenkorn’s work to be almost opposite from her own in it’s spareness. That got me thinking about a what-if. What if we chose an artist whose works were very different from our own, or who we felt we didn’t like or understand, and tried to replicate their colors, composition, textures, etc in our medium (fabric)? I think it has the potential to be an interesting exercise — a learning experience, a path towards growth.

On the way out of the Corcoran, we made a detour through the small exhibit Anima, by Charlotte Dumas. Out of the corner of my eye, on the way to the Dienbenkorn exhibit, these photos of horses looked like they could be sexy portraits, but when we went in, they were far more moody and serious. My daughter Katja exclaimed that the horses looked like they were dying. Upon reading that these are the horses which pull the caissons with caskets at Arlington National Cemetery and that they were photographed at the end of their work day, I saw that my daughter was right on in her interpretation. Unfortunately, I don’t think that she really grasped that she “got” the art. I was still proud of her.

We treated the kids to ice cream and headed home, with full tummies, full hearts, and full minds. I can’t wait for more weekends with friends like this.

Claire and Zavi counting squirrels on the White House lawn. Deborah has more photos and her impression here.

26 Jul

Long Beach

This weekend is the International Quilt Fest in Long Beach, CA. Unfortunately, I missed being there by one month, but I encourage anyone else in the area to go see the amazing quilts — to include the Twelve by Twelve exhibit of all our Theme quilts and all our Colorplay quilts. While there won’t be as many actual Twelves at the show as we had in Houston last November, Karen, Gerrie and Terry will be there. Please stop by and say hello!

20 May

Decisions, Decisions

Obviously, with there being a good month between here and there, I’m going to need a project or two to work on. Ideally, this should be small enough (and with TSA approved components) to travel on a plane, yet with large enough bits that I can work on it in the bouncy environment of a plane or car. It should also be something already in the queue — not something completely new. Here’s what I’m considering:

Road Trip Project option 1
The crochet afghan inspired by one my great grandmother made. TSA and car-friendly, especially as I can work on it without my reading glasses. Awfully bulky to carry through an airport though. Maybe I mail it to my aunt at our first stop and work on it in the car as we drive cross country.

Road Trip Project option 2
The Service Flag quilt which keeps getting set aside because of higher priority projects and because it’s too big to be easily portable. This project will have to get packed up and I’ll see it on the other end in July.

Road Trip Project option 3
The next Apron in my series. I think I know what I want to do with it, but I’m not quite sure, and I haven’t had time to try things out. If I can steal some time this afternoon to make a few decisions and do a little prep work, this might offer some good handwork for the trip. Except that beads and sequins might not be especially practical for a traveling project…

Road Trip Project option 4
This cross stitch table runner I started probably 10 years ago, is perfectly small and portable, but I’m not sure I can count squares on that dark fabric in the poor light of a plane or car, even with my reading glasses. I may pack it just in case. It might work for evenings in hotels and friends’ houses.

Road Trip Project option 5
The universally accepted travel project: English Paper Piecing. Usually hexagons, mine is pentagons, diamonds and triangles. It’s not great in bumpy environments, but it’s not bad either. This will probably come along.

Road Trip Project option 6
Finally, the project I probably should be pulling together, the next Twelve by Twelve challenge. During most of the time allotted for this challenge, I have been focused on my website rebuild and our impending move, then we’ll be on the road. I won’t be able to give it the thought I usually do, but I have an initial idea I can make travel friendly. I think that’s probably a better plan than skipping this theme altogether.