Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finishing up 2009

Thought I would get in one last post this year. Here is the (nearly) finished Waterlilies piece I created at the request of my mother-in-law. I started it in October and worked on the quilting during that month. I have to admit, with this piece, I spent so much time with my seam ripper, I decided to give it a name! (I named him Jack; I think that's appropriate -get it? - Jack the Seam ripper!). I redid the quilting, or portions of it, more than once, and also had to redo part of the binding. Another thing that slowed me down was choosing the border fabric. I bought one fabric, then wasn't sure, and kept shopping at various stores up until last week, when I decided I'd better just make a decision and finish this! I think I bought four different fabrics in all. I ended up going with my first choice after all, and I'm happy with it. Yesterday I added a few sequins for sparkle and I still have to add the sleeve for hanging and label on the back. I hope my inlaws will be able to take it with them when they leave on Sunday. My mother-in-law seemed very happy with the final result. She plans to hang it over their bed. I think the oval shapes which appear to float over the surface and the calming color scheme are appropriate for a bedroom. Here are a few detail shots of the piece:

I have been thinking about the past year's accomplishments and contemplating goals for 2010 - I'll share that with you next post!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

13 Years ago today...

...I had a little Christmas miracle of my own! My water broke at 11:30 pm on December 23rd, 1996 but I was in labor for more than 12 hours, walking the hospital halls in hopes of hurrying along the delivery, when I finally broke down and took the pitocin and epidural. I remember looking at the clock (after another 12 hours) at 11:45 pm on Christmas Eve and thinking, "I'm not gonna make it!" and I was right. She made her appearance at 3:14 am and I remember the doctors and nurses having a good laugh when Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" coincidentally started to play on the homemade tape we brought with us. It was surely a memorable night, and now we celebrate more than Christmas every year, although, I have to admit, her birthday often gets lost in the excitement of the day. But I do manage to bake a homemade cake for her every year, with delicious buttercream frosting (this year I used the Ghirardelli baking cocoa - to die for!) and she always gets a few extra gifts to open. I hope to take her (or possibly the whole family) to NY to see "Wicked" some time soon. (It's hard to believe that picture was taken 13 years ago! A teenager, already? And she's already taller than me!)
And by the way, I am really enjoying the scanner more and more, as you can see. The baby picture was, of course, not digital, but now I can post anything and save them on disc permanently!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Can you guess...

...where I've been?

Now can you tell?

One of the things I love about Disney is the theatricality: you feel like you're there (or at least on a really good movie set!). Every detail is so convincing, from the architecture to the props! As a person who works with small (minute) details, I can really appreciate all the planning that goes into a project. And it's nice to see that their attention to detail is worth it, it really pays off to create the full effect. It was great to have a change of scenery, get away from the endless laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning details and have a little fun! We had great weather, which gave my poor chapped lips and cracked cuticles a little respite. Now I've been home a little more than 24 hours and I managed to finish and mail the Christmas cards, do 3 loads of wash, make a quick trip to the grocery store, and bake a batch of cookies! I guess the vacation is really over... (By the way, most of these were taken in the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Amazing, no?)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Collaged coasters

The last few days, I've been working on these gifts for co-workers. I used the same paper-cloth technique I've been experimenting with, this one all in shades of blue and white, with silver accents (she celebrates hanukkah, which begins tonight). I really enjoy this technique and the small format as well as working on several out of the same cloth and making each one different and unique with embellishments and words.

Here is a second set I made for another friend - totally different color scheme and feel. She is a very high energy person and loves to celebrate Christmas in a big way, has a big family party every year and I hope she'll be able to use these then. Fun!
We are leaving tomorrow for a family vacation, so I won't be blogging for at least a week. I'll try to take some interesting photos while I'm away, so I'll have something creative to do and think about. Times like this, I wish I knitted or crocheted - so easy to bring that along! I'll just take my book for the plane ride. See you next week!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Here is the final finished piece. I decided to use a dark green wool felt as batting, backing, and border (how's that for economizing on time and materials!) and hung it from a natural branch from the backyard. I've tried to think of something else to call it, but "Photosynthesis" just seems right, obvious or not. I don't usually work abstractly and I almost didn't bother taking part in this challenge, but I do like the final piece. So it pays to push yourself outside your comfort zone sometimes.
Now the holiday rush is on and I still have many more bookmarks waiting to be finished, as well as the Waterlilies piece for my inlaws, which still needs a border and binding... St. Nick won't be the only one burning that midnight oil!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Final day of the month!

Here is a small sneak peek at what I've been working on since last week, actually thinking about since September, when Jane Davila gave us this macro-photo-inspired challenge. I toyed with other photos, but kept coming back to this one. I thought about altering the original idea somehow, like making it a different color, or using a different print fabric for each section, but in the end I used solid green fabrics, one a pale green silk, the other a moray tafetta. The background, which shows the veining, is this glittery textured fancy dress fabric I was given by my sister (who sort of inherited a huge amount of scrap fabric from a close family friend). I like the way all three fabrics are different shades of green and have different textures. The veining reflects a lot of light, and brings to mind light falling on leaves and the way that light is transformed and then transported throughout the leaf. I may call the piece "photosynthesis" but my husband thinks that is too obvious a name. Right now I am finishing up all the little hand stitches which indicate the veining; then I will need to layer it and do some machine work. Hope it's done by Thursday's meeting!
Meanwhile, even though I didn't post art every day, I did art most days this month and posted more than I have in any other month since I started blogging over a year ago, so that is something. Art Every Day Month gave me the nudge I needed to finish up several smaller projects, to experiment a little, and to complete things I had on the back burner, like this piece and the Partridge in a Pear tree. So I'd say it was a successful venture for me, and I actually will miss posting on Leah's blog and having so many other new people visit here and comment! All in all, it was a good thing!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Playing with that scanner again...

A few months back, I came across this faded photo of my older sister and myself (I'm the one making the funny face). It was taken at place called Open Woods Lake just outside of Honesdale, PA. We used to spend a few weeks there every summer until about 1968, when the owners sold the place. I just love the photo, but the original is not long for this world. I've been meaning to scan it in and play with the editing software to see how I might recapture some of the original color and detail. Below is the resulting photo. Amazing, right? (Does this count as art for today?)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Catching up...

Aside from the usual creative homemaking I do as par for the course, most of the creative things I did this week involved a camera. First, I managed to capture Cassie (left) and her best friend, morning exercise buddy, and next door neighbor Sophie (right) as they shared a chew stick. They don't stop moving much when they are together so I'm surprised I managed to snap this lucky shot!
I also "creatively" removed all the cobwebs from the back and kitchen windows on Thursday morning, and captured Cassie "helping" me, below. (For some reason, we have an abundance of orb-web builders in our backyard, and helpful as they are for bug control, they leave a mess behind as you can see!) Every fall after the spiders disappear for the season, I clean everything off so I can let as much light in as possible during the dreary winter days ahead.

I took advantage of this gorgeous sunrise that greeted me this morning. We are lucky enough to have a house on a small lake (and I've heard, if you're lucky enough to have a house on the water, you're lucky enough!). I sometimes wonder how photographers can take credit for their nature photos. All I did was push a button, and look what I got! God (and technology) did the rest!

Lastly, I have managed to layer, stitch, embellish and bind three bookmarks, from the paper cloth I mentioned in the previous post. I wanted to add words, and I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the calligraphy I've done here. In the last batch, I printed words onto tracing paper right in our HP printer, but this time it keeps spitting out the paper! I'll keep playing with it, and with other embellishment methods. I think I can get about 20 bookmarks from the paper cloth I made. That should keep me busy for a while...

Monday, November 16, 2009

AEDM Day 16

Once again, I am avoiding some projects that have deadlines in order to have fun and explore! I got such positive comments about the bookmarks that I decided to make another batch of paper-cloth in order to make more. The library where I work has a holiday sale every year, selling slightly used and new books at great prices. I thought I might donate some bookmarks and see how they are received. This is the latest paper-cloth, which I learned from an article by Kelli Nina Perkins in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (May/June 2009, issue 24). This time I stamped some white snowflakes onto the tissue paper before tearing it up, and I layered it on a fabric that was already a pale lavender. After the glue wash was dry, I added some scraps of dotted swiss, curtain lace, and other sheer fabrics. Next, I will make a quilt sandwich and do some machine stitching all over it to make sure everything is well attached. Then I'll cut it into bookmark-size strips and add embellishments and words. I'll bind them with a zig-zag stitch, yarn or cording. Even though it seems like a lot of steps for something I'll be giving away, it's nice to have a bunch of small projects to work on when I only have a few minutes, or I'm just too tired to tackle one of my more ambitious projects.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Christmas Card

There is a pear tree growing in our neighborhood and I passed it almost everyday on my daily walk with the dog. The pears looked so ruddy and earthy, it got me thinking about how I might incorporate them into my art somehow. I tried photographing them, but the pictures didn't come out very well (I just couldn't get close enough, and the day wasn't bright enough). I decided to just use them as inspiration for this year's Christmas card. I've been thinking about and planning this design for a while, but the actual construction only took a little more than two days. I was fortunate to come across just the right fabric and ribbons (the tail piece was just a small swatch I picked up for free!). Another reason it came together so quickly is my right and left brains seem to be having an easier time working together! My right brain always comes up with these great ideas, but my left brain has to figure out how to make them into reality, how to logically construct them in a simple, fast, neat, meaningful way. Things just seemed to gel with this piece (maybe I'm finally getting my act together...). Some questions for you: Should I add snowflakes or something in the upper corners? What could the card's sentiment be? I'll mull those over for a few days...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Art Bookmarks

I started creating these bookmarks with leftovers from the quilted paper-cloth I made for the 4x4 exchange in September. I made the orange and yellow one today, out of leftovers from the second batch of paper-cloth. I was invited to participate in an art swap (really sort of a glorified chain letter) so I whipped up this bookmark. It will be going to Hawaii, and I thought maybe the recipient would enjoy seeing some autumn colors. I've added words and phrases to the front or back, which I think will help bridge the connection to the viewer. I've enjoyed creating with this paper-cloth technique because whatever I make out of it is something truly unique. And isn't that what art is supposed to be, a unique expression of the creator?

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here it is, Art Every Day Month, and I'm actually posting two days in a row! I think this is a first for me! This 5"x5" piece is made up of scraps from previous projects. I got the idea to use them up, possibly in pieces that are mosaic-like. This piece did not turn out the way I expected - it's not mosaic-like at all, but I like the color palette and I had fun embellishing it. It actually took me three short sessions over the course of three days. (Between the dog, the kids, the phone and my work schedule, I have to make the most of every quarter-hour).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves!

We are almost at the tail end of another beautiful autumn here in the northeast. I always find myself particularly inspired this time of year, as I do in the spring. Change can be refreshing. This is a black birch tree near our house, on a particularly mellow day, with the autumn sunshine lighting up the leaves from above. I want to remember this shade of yellow come January!

Here is the same tree about a week later, as November's frosts have deepened the yellows to burnt orange and umber. Still breathtaking shades.

Well, with all those gorgeous leaves to admire and photograph, there comes a down side, being they fall and must be raked or blown off the lawn. Of course blowing is the popular and easy way to go, but I hardly ever go for what is popular or easy (why is that?). I have been weighing the benefits of both over the years, and I still think raking wins out, as hard as it is and as long as it takes. For one thing, when I am outdoors on a beautiful fall day like today, I really enjoy the sounds and smells of the leaves being raked, and a leaf blower totally destroys both of those. Leaf blowers are noisy and they stink! The final benefit to raking is the aerobic exercise and burning of calories it provides, which I could always use. So the girls and I have our work cut out for us.

So, I actually have been creative the last six days, even though I haven't posted any of my projects. Here is the wall hanging/mobile inspired by the beauty of autumn. I considered making more of a stationary piece like a quilt with nine blocks, each one featuring a different leaf, but I wanted to capture the motion and change of autum. At first, I stitched each leaf (by hand) to a length of metallic copper embroidery floss, which is difficult to work with and allows the leaves to flip over, which I wanted to avoid. So I ripped out all that hand stitching and restitched them to this copper mesh ribbon which keeps them flat. But the ribbon wasn't a good vehicle for the beads, which I wanted to include for interest and contrast, so I strung them on strips of a sheer pale blue synthetic, which also brings to mind the crisp autumn breezes (I hope). So even though I haven't posted my daily creative projects, I have been doing something creative every day. Sometimes it is only for 30 minutes to a little more than an hour at the end of the day, but at least I've been getting it in! My projects often take more than a day to complete at that rate, so I don't often post the works in progress. Also, I like to wait for daylight to photograph them, and I'm usually finishing up at night.
Sometimes I ask myself why I go through such lengths to create something like this when it doesn't really serve a purpose: I don't plan on selling it, it's not a gift, it isn't useful beyond its visual interest and decorative qualities. The only reason I can come up with is that it's fun, and I seem to have a need to make things; always have. So instead of spending my free time watching TV, I make things like this. Go figure.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A new adventure...

Heard about this Art Every Day Month through Jane Davila who leads the Fiber Arts Northeast group I meet with once a month. Thought it might be fun and motivating to try to do something creative once a day, even if only for a few minutes. (Maybe I can get more people to visit and comment on my blog too!). I actually have been doing creative things for the last two days, so I'm already on track! I don't have any new photos to post yet, but I've been creating more of those stitched paper-cloth leaves from my previous post. I decided to string them together in a sort of mobile/wall hanging. I've already learned a few things that I coulda, shoulda, woulda done: I backed them with plain muslin, but since they are strung and sometimes flip over, it would have been better to back them with more paper-cloth. Also, I wish I had strung beads between the leaves to add more interest, and maybe even some gentle clinking as the piece moves (I am thinking of hanging it on our front door). So anyway, I'll try to tie it all together tomorrow, photograph it, and post it. I hope that by taking on this gentle challenge, I will be more motivated to complete some projects I need to get done by mid-December. I plan on including some baking and writing among the art, since anything goes, baking serves a dual purpose (it is creative and it feeds the family), and writing can be done anywhere (while waiting in the doctor's office, traveling to grandma's etc). Check in with me again tomorrow...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rainy Halloween crafts

It has been a dreary wet week here in the Hudson Valley, and even Cassie is a bit bummed by all the wet weather. Here she is on Wednesday after her daily morning play session with the two dogs next door. They always seem to find the one spot in the yard where grass doesn't grow. It gets nice and muddy and they roll and play and end up looking like something the cat dragged in! I had to quickly bathe her before work and then clean up the tub! Today we are playing indoors, or staying on the leash!

While my husband was out with our two youngest girls for a wet afternoon movie, my oldest daughter, who is home with flu-like symptoms (!) stitched up a bunch of these quickie pumpkins and gourds. The idea came from the October 09 issue of Family Fun magazine, and they were so easy and quick (and of course I happened to have a decent stash of orangey-yellow fabrics), she was able to fill up some otherwise boring hours keeping her fingers busy. She really loves how cute they came out. They will make nice seasonal decorations or Thanksgiving dinner centerpieces or something.

Here is another batch of paper-cloth I made in September. I had set it aside, not sure how I would use it, when I thought about cutting out some leaf shapes. I just love the endless variety of leaves that are scattered and mixed in big leaf puddles all over the lawns and roads this time of year. The maple leaf in the upper right was layered with felt as batting, machine stitched around the edges, and hand stitched for veining. What will I do with them when they're all quilted? I'm not sure... I could string them together somehow in a garland or mobile-like wall hanging, or print inspiring words on them and give them as little gifts... I'll play with them and see what develops...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More experiments...

After playing with the new scanner a bit, I realized the main reason my husband bought me the darn thing is so I can scan in my work rather than photograph it (I can't seem to get enought light on my pieces, or get close enough to get good detail). Of course, not all pieces fit on the scanner top, but this one did - why didn't I just scan it in to begin with? Anyway, now I (and you) can compare the results with my other post of this piece. Any difference?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Experimenting with leaves

Here are some beautiful leaves from the yard that I've scanned into the new scanner/copier my wonderful and generous husband gave me for Mother's Day. (I've been planning on using it before now, but I've been busy...really, really busy, I swear!). Anyway, I love the way this captures the leaves so accurately! I didn't even press and dry them (they get crinkly and crack) - just used them fresh from the lawn this morning (picked them up on my morning outing with the dog). I want to print them onto fabric to use in my art. Now that they are all stored and saved on the computer, I can use them at any time! What do you think of that? Ain't technology neat? Gotta start using it more...!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

That time of year again!

Here we are on our annual apple picking trip. The trees were pretty picked over, but we had no trouble filling our bushel bag. The weather was lovely, just beginning to really feel like fall.

Here is Cassie, now 4 1/2 months old, tasting some windfall apples. It was fun bringing her along. She had a great time walking the rows of trees and meeting many friendly people who were eager to pet her.

Here is the bag of apples we brought home. These should last until Christmas, with proper storage.

And then home for a nice hot dinner, beef stew with noodles and crusty bread...

And here's dessert! A little ice cream, a little whipped cream, Mmmm!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A heavenly weekend!

I spent the weekend at a "Quilter's Retreat" organized by the lovely folks at the Country Quilter, Jane Davila and her mother, Claire Oehler. It took place at the Interlaken Inn in Lakevile, Ct, just over the border from Dutchess County, NY.

The conference center has many outdoor amenities like a pool, tennis court, and golf course, and has gardens and spaces to accommodate weddings. The food was plentiful and delicious, with a full breakfast buffet featuring an omelet station (I love that!), many home-baked snacks like pastries, cinnamon buns, and pretzels, and delicious desserts too!

Below is only one of the conference rooms we took over and filled with sewing machines, fabric, design walls, and fun people! There were 3 rooms like this! The wet weather on Saturday only made us cozier, as we were all indoors together creating quilted masterpieces. At first I thought I might have difficulty concentrating enough to compose a new piece with all the hub-bub going on around me, but I found I was able to screen it out and get down to business. Also, as my piece progressed, it was nice to have some favorable feedback from other quilters passing by.
This shot below features my table group and my work-in-progress, the waterlilies piece I blogged about in June. It is coming along, thanks to the long uninterrupted hours I had to design it, choose fabrics, and begin the fusing and quilting. I hope it will be finished in time for Christmas.
I owe a big thank you to my parents who were able to come stay with the girls (and the puppy) this weekend so I could enjoy a few days of indulgence! Thanks, Mom and Dad!