29 Jan

A Creative Funk

It’s been a tumultuous week on the political front and my desire to stay informed and engaged is in direct conflict with my need to accomplish anything. I’ve been jumping from outrage to outrage, trying to peel the layers back and determine what is actually normal and/or true (but not necessarily my cup of tea), and what is just plain nuts. It’s exhausting.

I want to express my confusion, rage, frustration, and my votes and letters to representatives in government seem rather meaningless. And this week, I’m feeling like my art is rather meaningless too. There is so much beautiful, impactful, art on social media, and I see it reaching and connecting to so many people, that I figure anything I do is lame. I commented as much on a friend’s post, but then decided to delete it because it was self-centered and whiny, and not appropriate for someone else’s post. So, I’m saying it here.

Maybe I’ve already said enough. ‘Murica, my US flag made of tessellating gun shapes speaks to the intertwined relationship between America’s self image and guns. Death Shroud for Democracy is my commentary on the tearing apart and dismantling of American democracy. In my opinion, we’ve been functioning as an Oligarchy for quite a while, and the new administration appears intent in meeting it’s campaign promises to metaphorically burn the place down. Most recently, I finished #notnormal, which tries to draw attention to the normalization of Donald Trump’s antics. I had assumed that these pieces were the beginning of something. That I could keep going. But this week, I’m not feeling it. I’m not up to the task. Everything I consider has been done before, and done better by others.

Another friend reminded me that my black and white scrap quilt is pretty awesome. That was a perfect smack upside the head. Yes, it is awesome. And maybe it’s perfectly OK to retreat into a year of scrappy medallion quilts and samples for work which are all about the process of making, or the pretty colors and patterns, and perhaps a perfect escape from the tedious reality of parsing news from fiction and real outrage from outrage merely for the sake of drama or distraction.

29 Jan


This is not normal. And yet I find myself trying to normalize it. I’m outraged, and then I have to double check and find where so much is just the usual transition from one party’s administration to the other’s. But it’s all mixed up in the truly unusual, and it’s nearly impossible to disentangle one from the other.

Notnormal web

#notnormal, 2017, 32″ x 48″

Up is down and down is up in this new era of alternative facts, and reality TV as reality.

I created this quilt with SAQA’s Poster exhibit in mind. Originally, I was going to make something completely different, but after November 9th this begged to be made.

The gradated background and jumbled piecing of the border represent the topsy turvy feeling of current politics. There are 50 stars, 20 white ones for the states Hillary Clinton won and 30 orange to black ones that Donald won. All have raw edges because many Americans are feeling pretty raw. Scrawled overall are tweets and statements from and about Donald, which fall into the category of being “not normal.” The sad thing is that this graffiti is already dated. Every day there are more statements I could add. Perhaps I will add more. Perhaps in four years this will just be a tangled mess of threads.

Notnormal detail

25 Jan

Knit Night

Socks are a staple of many knitters’ project lists. They’re relatively small and therefore quick to knit, they’re practical, and most people love to get hand knit socks. My feet are always cold, so once I learned how to knot socks, I was pretty much hooked. I’ve knit three pair for me, one pair for my daughter, one pair for my son, and I’m working on a pair with a friend’s son in exchange for a handmade yarn bowl!

Sweater Socks

Sock yarn comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. My first three sock knits were hand dyed yarn and are all about the color (green for me, purple and gold for the daughter, blue and orange for the son, and PDX Carpet for me). The socks above though, are about the magic of self-striping. They look like complicated Faire Isle color work, but it’s just one yarn that changes color at planned intervals. I was intrigued by Regia’s Design Line and specifically these ones by Arne and Carlos. I love the way it looks like a little ski sweater for your feet. The skeins seemed small, so I got two. Not wanting to waste yarn, I just kept knitting until I got close to the end of each skein — which meant I had to shape the calf. It was a good exercise, but the socks slump down, so I think I’ll stick to the usual, same as the length of the foot, height for future projects.

Quirky pop culture reference: I was watching Amazon’s show Lilyhammer, about gangsters in Norway. At one point, one of the guys is knitting a sweater for the baby his girlfriend is expecting, and the other guys tease him. He retorts that plenty of men knit, and hadn’t they heard of Arne and Carlos? I happily chimed in, “yeah, even I know about Arne and Carlos!” It’s the little things.


21 Jan

Nina’s Quilt

Last year a longtime family friend asked me to make a quilt for her sister’s 50th birthday. That sister and I were best friends from middle school to well into our adult lives. We don’t talk or see each other much these days as our lives have diverged on different paths, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the rare opportunity to re-connect. Of course I said yes to the quilt project and dove in enthusiastically.


Nina Quilt WIP1 I started by pulling several color stories from my stash that I thought Nina might like and sent photos to her sister, Kara. I also invited Kara to look at my Pinterest board of quilt inspiration and tell me if anything struck a chord. Kara liked all the colors, and chose a few inspiration quilts that had a single block, sometimes a bit wonky. From that, I created three “sketches” in Adobe Illustrator showing different color and design options.


Nina Quilt WIP2 Kara chose a design which I planned to create with the Quick Curve Ruler, a tool I had recently used for a sample at work and really enjoyed. I started with my stash fabrics, cutting and sewing and putting everything on the design wall. At first, it was a big jumbled mess. I had wanted the quilt to be scrappy looking, so my intention was that it have more variety than the Illustrator sketch, but it had gone too far. I stepped back and realized that I had to pay closer attention to the color placement that was indicated on the sketch, and more importantly, that the print fabrics needed solids or near-solids as a foil. Once I got a handle on the specific fabrics, then the quilt started coming to life.


Nina Quilt WIP3 About half way through, I ran out of stash fabric in the appropriate colors, so I  went shopping. I really needed solids, which I did not have many of in my own collection.


Nina Quilt WIP4Using the ruler made a pretty precise quilt and I had in mind something with bit of bohemian flavor. The mix of fabrics got me part of the way there, but I knew the quilting would take it all the way. I machine quilted it, loosely following the curves, but adding some undulation. I used variegated thread and changed the colors a few times. I also used variegated perle cotton in a variety of coordinating colors to hand stitch, with large stitches, between every second or third row of machine quilting. The result is a wonderful texture and a subtle softening of the regularity of the ruler curves.


Nina Quilt med

Photo by Bill Volkening

This project was an absolute joy to make. I thought about my friendship with Nina as I chose fabrics and sewed. I was even able to incorporate a fabric her late mother gave to me about 25 years ago. I wish I could have been there when Nina opened the box since the gift was a surprise. But she later wrote,  “Every time I look at it I smile and think to myself how lucky I am to have a sister who was kind enough to commission it and a friend talented enough and who knows me well enough in a sort of gut way to make something so perfect for me.” That’s the kind of reaction I was hoping for. I couldn’t be happier.

18 Jan

Knit Night

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Knit Night post. Knitting has taken a back seat to home improvement projects, and then to sewing samples for work. It hasn’t disappeared though. Looking back, I see that I’ve actually missed posting knit projects. I think they ended up on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll catch up with a few of the more recent projects in upcoming weeks.

Most recently, like many others, I knit a pink “Pussy Hat” to wear at the Women’s March on Washington (or more specifically, it’s sister march in Portland). It ends up that I’ll be working that day, but a friend of a friend plans to march so I’ll give her the hat. That works just as well!

Pussy Hat

My hat is made from leftovers in my stash. The only pink I had was some vintage mohair given to me by a friend who was thinning her stash. To make gauge, I paired it with Northampton wool leftover from one of the crocheted blankets I made years ago. It ended up that the mohair wasn’t quite enough, but luckily I had a second small skein. It was paler, but did the job. The result is a fuzzy, thick, warm hat that will keep any head warm on a winter day outdoors.

Pussy Hat WIP


13 Jan

First Finish of 2017!

In the previous post I mentioned wanting to make scrap quilts from my bins of leftovers. After several years of this being a back-burner project, I finally had motivation to finish it. Leftovers 1 is done and submitted to IQF’s Beauty in Pieces special exhibit. My fingers are crossed that they’ll like this wonky, freeform, take on a scrap quilt.

Leftovers web

Leftovers 1, 2017, 76″ x 83″

I started by making the quarter log cabin blocks, not exactly sure where I was going with them. I played with setting them on point to make zig zag rows which looked pretty cool, but then I bored of making them. I was distracted by seeing posts of Sherri Lynn Woods’ Get Your Curve On workshops, so I started sewing wedges, happy that they went faster than the log cabins. That’s the point where the pieces told me they wanted to be a medallion and it grew from there with more purpose. I had lots of squares already cut and leftover from making Temporary Safety which came together easily as a checkerboard, and the center of the quilt was set. The mostly checkered border was inspired by my trip to the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum and seeing Margaret Fabrizio’s Kawandi-inspired work. I still have enough fabric to make another round, and as a bed quilt, it could use it, but I stopped when I reached the maximum size for the exhibit, since I think it’s submission-worthy. I quilted Leftovers 1 on my home machine with wonky leave and scallop motifs mixed with straight-ish lines. It’s quirky, but hopefully that’s it’s charm.

With seven bins of fabric and twelve months, I hope to keep this momentum going and make more medallion style quilts in 2017. The rules will be to endeavor to use just the fabric in the scrap bins, but if necessary, I can go to my regular stash. New fabric is only allowed for backing. New batting is allowed. For continuity, I’ll create these from the center outward, Medallion-style, but other than that anything goes design-wise. It’s going to be fun!

08 Jan

2017 Goals

I’m kind of hit or miss with the end-of-year or beginning-of-year blogging. I think it’s worthwhile though to look back and see that yes, it was a good and creative year, even though looking at everyone else’s lists might make you feel like  slug. Looking forward at potential goals for the upcoming year isn’t a bad idea either. Apparently I didn’t do this last year, so I don’t have a comparison of what I wished to accomplish in 2016 and what I actually did. But, I know that my intention for the first year in our new house and new city was to just roll with it. And that I did.

Now, six months beyond “The Year of Great Transition” home renovations have slowed down, and I mostly fill my time working at The Pine Needle Quilt Shop (which I thoroughly enjoy). There’s been a few art quilt moments, like Home is Where the Army Sends Us being part of a superb exhibit at the Textile Museum in DC, ‘Murica going to the big quilt festival in Houston, a gorgeous commission quilt that was a joy to make and very well received, and Death Shroud for Democracy being accepted into SAQA’s Layered Voices show to debut at the Quilt Study Center in Nebraska.



Sliding into 2017 I am looking forward to a few more home projects, some relatively quick DIY ones like patching walls, painting, swapping light fixtures, and installing a stair runner, and some which require professional help, like new front and (possibly) back doors, and some backyard landscaping. I’m still working on the #notnormal quilt to enter into SAQA’s Posters exhibit, and the scrappy quilt for Beauty in Pieces. My pie in the sky goal for 2017 is to not only submit a proposal for a book, but to also have it accepted and start working on making it a reality.



But back to that scrap quilt. See all those bins? They are stuffed with scraps. In 2011 they were similarly stuffed, so I sewed all the bits together, cut them into rectangles, and by 2015 finished four quilts made from all those bits. There was a brief moment when the bins were nearly bare, but not anymore. I had so much fun making the medallion quilt from the neutrals bin (that is inexplicably still pretty full) that I’ve decided to make 2017 the year of the scrappy medallion quilt. I’m going to take each bin, or a pair of bins, and build quilts from the center out until I run out of fabric. I think, if necessary, I will allow myself additional fabric from my regular stash, but nothing new unless for a backing, and the quilt must “read” as predominantly scrappy. I think this will be fun!

Happy New Year and happy sewing!