30 Mar

Need more help — from Germans

I have a special request for my German readers and lurkers. A few months ago, during Fliegenpilz-mania another blogger posted a link to some very cute green ribbon with red Fliegenpilz on it. I am now ready to buy some, but I don’t remember who wrote about it, or where they found it. Googling for “mushroom ribbon” and “Fliegenpilz Bänder” wasn’t very helpful. I thought maybe one of you knows where this ribbon is hiding (no it’s not hiding at Farbenmix).

29 Mar


I keep saying that one of the things I really like about blogging is that I can talk to like-minded people regardless of our geographic locations. I belong to a real life quilt guild and two small groups, but my “art quilt” group resides on-line. So, like a few others in the past few days, I’ve realized that I can look to my virtual art quilt group for a little help with my latest Work In Progress.

I’m working on a 12″ square quilt and I wanted to continue in the same theme as “My Dream House Has Roots.” I’m finding that square is hard for me. I like rectangular. Also, the elements I’ve been making are rectangular. I made a “roots” monoprint and then stamped a row of little houses to go with it. My drawn houses were too big as I wanted the roots to be the focus. It needed something on the side though, to square it up. I like to include traditional elements and the idea of flying away felt right — being one of the things that keeps us from establishing roots, so I made the flying geese:

Flying Geese to square up houses with roots

But now I think that the geese are overpowering the poor little houses, and I want the focus to be the other way around. I’d redo the geese with even paler colors, but I’m afraid that all that piecing adds an intricacy that will always overshadow the delicate houses. I have a bunch of big drawn houses laying around, so I tried one of them on the side. I like the way the windows can be the same color as “my” house, and it’s definitely “calmer,” but I wonder if the message is now a little lost.
Another house to square up houses with roots

I was hoping that the mere act of posting this would bring the answer to light, but I’m realizing that maybe the best thing to do would be to start over — maybe with a medallion quilt sort of centered layout (maybe that IS the answer).

So, now it’s my turn to ask, what do you think?

Oh, and while you’re at it, does anyone have any suggestions as to how I should quilt the ladybugs? I’m leaning towards either a grid (probably oriented diagonally) or an overall leaf pattern…

26 Mar

Step Away From The Pins

Good friends of ours will be having a baby in May. Since I already made a quilt for their first child, I figured it would be no surprise if I made one for the second, so I could ask the mom if she had any color or design preferences. She said she would probably go for a ladybug theme in the baby’s room and I was off and running! I knew I didn’t want to get too literal, and I wasn’t in the mood for appliqué anyways. I had made a small paper pieced ladybug quilt, but that was a but too fussy for my mood as well. I was leaning towards freely cut Drunkard’s Path blocks when Brenda posted her two baby quilts, here and here, and that pretty much sealed the deal.

I finally got some time to work on the quilt last week. Even though the quilt is made primarily out of stuff in my scrap bag (and why won’t it ever approach empty?) I wanted to do a good job, so after stacking and cutting my green and red pairs, I diligently marked my curves and pinned them at strategic points. Darn, there’s puckers. So, I clipped the curves and added more pins. Still puckers! Sure, I could steam the bejeezus out of the blocks, but that’s wasn’t really the right answer. I made a half dozen of these blocks, cursing myself for being so lame at something everyone else seems to be doing with ease.

Then I thought some more about how I was doing it. When I do a traditional Drunkard’s Path, I add seam allowances to both the concave and the convex templates and they no longer nest perfectly together until you sew them together. My stacked and cut pieces fit together fine — until they were sewn. Doh! That’s why no one uses pins with this method! By not pinning (like when I did the gentle curves in my Traumwald and Fliegenpilz I quilts, and the bathmat) the shapes can ease together in a “close-enough” kind of way, and then you just trim off all that messy edges stuff.

So, I pushed the pincushion to the back of the sewing table and just winged it. Ahhhhh, much better! Now I just have to embroider a few more antennae and then it’s ready to quilt 🙂

Ladybug quilt work in progress

BTW, I can totally see a Fliegenpilz version of this for the guest bed/sewing room staging area.

24 Mar

My Tribute to Dschingis Kahn

Quilted Chaos, one of the quilt groups I belong to, does a challenge each year. This year’s theme is “Splendors of the Orient” and must include some of this gorgeous silk:

Silk Challenge Fabric

I decided that I’d focus on the Silk Road, specifically the Mongolian section. My original idea was a bag or box of some sort that might have belonged to a merchant. It would be dusty and brown on the outside, but when the merchant opened it to show his wares, it would be bright and magical inside. The colors in the fabric were in a sort of zig zag pattern which suggested that my vessel be triangular. After much research on Mongolian imagery and after blocking out the triangles on my fabric, I decided that the triangles weren’t as WOW as I had hoped and the whole vessel idea wouldn’t give me the opportunity to include as many pom poms, tassels, and armor texture as I wanted. Besides, my very supportive friends (not!) suggested that a vessel wasn’t a quilt and that I was cheating by just using the fabric as a lining — no challenge there. I was prepared to counter their arguments, but the seeds had been sown.
I liked the idea of the Mongols providing the trade and security needed to make the Silk Road successful, so I focused on a shield shape and textures borrowed from Mongolian armor. If I divided into quadrants it would give me lots of opportunities for embellishment and a variety of fabrics like I wanted. I could also fussy cut the feature fabric if I liked.

When I had the whole thing almost together, I stood back and hated it. How many times have we seen this cut-up circle? I feel like it is done so often that if one does it, one must do it well. I had NOT done it well. My feature fabric didn’t look any more special than it had as a three dimensional triangle, and my curves were awkward to say the least. My overall circle motif was not looking very circular. And the diamond shape from the challenge fabric didn’t stand out as I had hoped, nor did the shapes look good fanned out as they had in my sketch (I was limited in the size I could make things due to the size of the piece of challenge fabric we each had).
Shield Quilt WIP

Now the fabric was cut to bits and I couldn’t start over, so now my challenge was to figure out how to rescue it. I took off the diamonds and repositioned them, rotated the composition, removed the water/air symbol, re-did a few curves where I could, couched on some more silk yarn to guide the eye around the circle, and added a bit more challenge fabric to the “shield.” Now it was a little better. All I could do was go ahead and finish it.

I do like a few details, especially those inspired by armor, like the 3-D wool rectangles and the painted Tyvek:

Applique and tyvek detail

And the pom-poms. The kids and I had great fun making pom-poms! The mere chance to put pom-poms on something probably makes this whole stupid challenge quilt worthwhile:

Pom Poms and tassle detail

I’m OK with it now, although I’ll never love it, and I don’t think it will ever hang in my house. Maybe I could trade it for a few meals at the new Mongolian BBQ in town….

What I can’t believe is that with all my research on things Mongolian (mainly Ghengis Kahn), my glittery gold fabric, and my interest in all things German and kitschy, I didn’t remember this video (be patient through the wierd animated intro). Now, a campy disco revival quilt based on a song all Germans over thirty can sing along to would definitely have a WOW factor!

Speaking of WOW, this challenge did bring out the creativity in many of the other group members. K is working on a Japanese themed crazy quilt built around this silk embroidery crane she made:

K's Crane

Gorgeous! V actually made a beautiful quilt, but still couldn’t stay away from her true calling — purses! This one matches her jewel tones quilt:

V's Challenge Rucksack

I wonder what M will dream up for us next year.

24 Mar

The Snowy Day

Winter made one last feeble attempt to assert itself this week. Thursday and Friday brought us our second snow “storm” of the season with wet, heavy, slushy snow.

Katja with a snowball

Perfect for making snowballs! Very confusing for the garden though. Our crocus bloomed in late January after our last snow, and everything is budding now. I think the dafodils will suffer, but since the tulips haven’t bloomed yet, they should be OK. Katja was in heaven and splished and sploshed all the way to Kindergarten yesterday.

Katja's Snowy Day

She reminds me a little of Peter from The Snowy Day. (One of my vary favorite childhood books — the illustrations in which would make great quilts now that I look at it with a quilter’s eyes.)

Inside the house, who could get anything done on the computer with helpers like this:

Computer Helper

The snow has all melted now, and the usual springtime temperatures are predicted for tomorow.

22 Mar


Tuesday night was “Quilted Chaos,” the mostly American, very informal, quilt group that meets in the area twice a month. I had to share D’s Süße Sac she brought. She took my class months ago and has made several more bags since. Sorry for the crappy lighting, but I loved the cute Valentine fabric combined with her meticulously pieced half-square triangles. It’s so great to see someone take something you’ve taught them and be inspired enough to go run with it!

D's Süße Sac

Speaking of sharing, Terry sent me a wonderful little package after our swap. She said that although she got a quilt from me, and my mom got a quilt from her, I didn’t get anything (other than that little thing called life I got from my mom). So she sent me a cute tin hand milagro from her trip to Mexico, some fun fabrics from her favorite shop (I already know what I’m doing with the red polka dots) and a piece of gorgeous silk screened fabric she made herself. I was going to be stingy with it, but I just realized that it’s the perfect size to cover a pin-board that I have, so it’s going to be part of my new decor in my sewing room (don’t hold your breath for “after” pics).

Fun fabrics from a friend

And lastly, since I usually share pictures of my cute daughter, I thought it was time to share one of my son. We went out to dinner last week and at one point I looked up to see this:

Headless Zavi


21 Mar

You Noticed, Didn’t You?

This post has been accidentally sitting in my “Private” folder waiting to be posted for two days now while we’ve been trying to figure out why WordPress has been giving me blank looks after I log in. It was originally title “Did You Notice?” but now, two days and a bunch of comments later, I think I can safely say yes, you did notice :-).

So, it’s done! My website has been totally revamped and now includes lots more quilts to look at! I now have three — count ’em, three — galleries, all nicely organized by theme. I think that the rest of the website looks clean and well organized as well. And, unless you are reading this in your RSS feeds, you should be able to see my new blog theme made to match the rest of the website. (I hope you CAN read this in your feeds though, because that was on the fritz too.) Purdy, no? I think yes, but if you stumble across something that doesn’t link correctly or looks awful on your computer, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do to improve it.

One of the email/chat/yahoo groups I belong to has been talking of late about building websites for artists and what some of the options are. My solution? Phone a friend. More specifically, Joe Wellborn.

I went down this path because I knew above anything else, I wanted to get my website off my husband’s computer and onto mine. One thing we do have going for us is that we have our own host. Not actually a server computer in our house, but a lifetime subscription to a whole lot of space on someone else’s server which is what gives us a place to park my website. Fabulous Tech Support that my husband is, I hated relying on him to update my website. This became crystal clear to both him and me when he was away for five months AND his computer was broken. Then all my pictures disapeared when one viewed the site in Internet Explorer and as far as we can tell this is because some versions of IE have issues with FrontPage, the program TS&WGH used to build the site. FrontPage has been discontinued so we’re not going to hold our breath for a patch or whatever it takes to sort out the “issues.” Anyhoooo, it just made sense to rebuild the site on my Mac. I had bought the Adobe Creative Suite when we bought my computer because it bundled Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign — all of which I already couldn’t live without — along with a few others that might come in handy some day. One of the other programs is GoLive, which is for building websites. (I’ve been reminded that iLife, which comes free with most Macs, also has a web building program. If I remember correctly, I think I had been avoiding that one though because it was very template based, and I wanted the freedom to arrange my website however I darn well pleased.)

My original idea was that I could use GoLive to rebuild my site. I tried to see what I could do with it in January, but couldn’t wrap my head around the terms they were using. I knew what features I wanted my site to have, and had an idea of the aesthetic I was looking for: gallery with the ability to see the work large, ability for me to update the gallery frequently, link to a blog that looked like it was part of the whole package, a place for my patterns, the requisite bio, a less-is-more look. Unfortunately, I was bogged down by the technical aspects. So, I called my pal Joe, who is a graphic designer and does lots of web-related work, to ask for his help. I explained to him what I wanted and we talked about some options. We toyed with the idea of making the whole thing in WordPress so that I could update it easily just like my blog, but all the pages then looked too “bloggy” and I wanted my gallery to have a different look. We finally decided that the best thing to do would be for him to use his expertise and technical know-how to design the site in Dreamweaver (his comfort zone) or GoLive and then I could update it using this nifty program I had never heard of called Contribute. I can even go “behind the scenes” in GoLive if I need to to tweak the code (Joe gives me cheat notes on how to do whatever task needs doing — I feel like such a Code Monkey ;-)), so Contribute was the only program I needed to buy, and it’s VERY affordable given it’s capabilities and the capabilities it gives me.

Obviously, everyone has different needs and this solution wouldn’t fit everyone’s problem, or budget, or whatever, but it sure worked well for me so I thought I’d share in case anyone wanted to know. I hope you like my new site too.

19 Mar

Fabric Collage Course in Halle

Between doing and re-doing images for my re-vamped website, working on a challenge quilt for our local quilt group (more on that in another post), and preparing for my weekend in Halle, it seems to me like I’ve dropped off the the edge of the blogospere. I’m back now, and it looks like I have blog fodder for a little while at least.

Last summer I sent two of my little collage quilts (“Staufen Vineyards” and “Foggy Morning in Czesky Krumlov”) to a show in the german town of Halle/Saale. The co-owners of the quilt shop Patch & Work, Sabine and Grit, created the show as part of the entire city’s celebration of it’s 1200 year Jubilee. After the show, they asked me if I would be interested in coming to their shop to teach a class on this fabric collage technique.
“Ummm, OK,” I said. I wasn’t sure if this was teachable, since I just kind of “did” it — riffing off of a kick start in Sue Benner’s workshop at Art Quilt Tahoe two years ago.

I brought some of my quilts from my exhibition, some samples especially for the class, all of my of pre-fused fabric, and a friend to help me translate (she is also friends with Sabine from when Sabine lived in our area). We took the train and I’m sure our traveling compatriots thought we were a couple of American loons, chattering away and spreading our challenge quilts out on the table to work.

Working hard on our challenge quilts

We arrived safe and sound in Halle, where Sabine met us and whisked us off to her house for a weekend of wonderful hospitality.

Halle Hauptbahnhof

She was quick to point out the lovely Socialist architecture near the train station:

Ugly Architecture

All of Halle is not so blocky and dull though. In our short tour, it actually reminded me a lot of Wiesbaden but without the lush green hills as a backdrop. Much of the buildings were very Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil, as it’s called in German) — tall with lots of flowing, curvy details and fancy roof lines. What was noticeable however, was that one building would be freshly painted and wonderful looking, and then right next door would be a delapidated building with no window panes. It was everywhere and did not seem to be restricted to certain neighborhoods. Where someone had managed to make some money in the new economy, or hold on to their livelyhood through the DDR era, then the home or business looked like any other in modern Germany, but the rest were just left to the ravages of time.

Saturday morning Sabine brought us bright and early to her and Grit’s adorable little quilt shop:

Patch & Work, Halle/Saale

And then the ladies started pouring in. Everyone was so enthusiastic — and well prepared! I had been a little concerned that the students might not have a lot of fabrics to work with, given the general frugality of German quilters and the compounding factor of being in the former eastern bloc. I shouldn’t have worried. Since we only needed small bits for our collages, everyone had plenty. Some had even taken the time at home to pre-fuse all their teensy bits, or to sketch out their image. I gave a presentation, and explained the basic technique, in English with Kathy translating. Then they all got to work, and I made the rounds — helping and commenting in German. When I got stuck on a word, Kathy and Sabine were there to help me out. My favorite was when Antje (in the far back corner) asked for a “Bügelgenehmigung,” or official hall-pass kind of permission from the teacher — to iron her strips 🙂

We had two rooms to work in, and though the space was on the small side, no one seemed to mind. There was lots of swapping of fabrics and conversation. The lady below (I don’t remember her name) works, or had worked, in an interior decorator’s shop and had lots of wonderful fabrics to use in the image of the castle in her home town. The photo doesn’t do the texture and sparkle justice.

I don’t remember the lady in the foreground’s name, but she was working on a picture of the castle in Halle. I think the lady in the background was also named Sabine. She had come all the way from Leipzig for the class. She created a lovely, subtle, Moroccan themed scene based on several photos she had.

And here’s the first lady’s castle a little further along:

And here’s most of the work, mostly finished. One lady had to bring her daughter to class as she had been sick and couldn’t go out horseback riding with the rest of the family that day. She made the wonderful fish picture, and decided NOT to go home when her dad came to pick her up halfway through the class. All the ladies thanked me profusely and promised to send photos of their works after they quilt and bind them.
Finished (mostly) collage class work

I needn’t have worried about my ability to share this method of working. The Sabine, Grit, and all the students assured me they had a great time. I know I did!