Posted in Art, creativity, embellishment, journaling, productivity, quilting, stash, surface design

Making art every day

I subscribed to Lesley Riley’s 52 pick-up, which is a year of weekly creativity prompts to encourage more regular art and creativity.  Feeling accountable to a supportive group of other people is helping me to form better habits.

And every day I succeed in spending time creating, I get a star!


In real life the stars look better than they do in the photo, which often happens with glitter and metallics.  They’re foiled, a technique I’ve had a lot of fun with for years.  You can get the foils and special glue from Jones Tones.

But, breaking news!  and not good, although definitely a first world problem, Dharma Trading, the go-to source for all things fibre arty, posted that the foil is being discontinued and they (Dharma) are looking for a replacement.  In the month since they posted, the more conventional colours have been snapped up but they still have purple, green and blue.

I fused the square fabric onto the Disco Dots to have a little more body to stand up to the writing and foiling and free motion quilted along the lines.

Posted in Art, Environment, Homeschooling, International, Poll, surface design

Creepy before and after

Our new home has a backyard, greatly appreciated after so long in apartmentland.  The enthusiasm may wane when the grass starts to grow and needs to cut, we’ll see.

Only thing is, this is part of the deal …

IMG_0002AT LEAST it’s not facing the house, but it’s firmly settled in the ground and not for us to remove (rental).  Young Sprout did NOT like seeing this from the house, let alone playing near it.

First attempt was to place a garbage bag over the top.  That lasted a few days and then blew off into the bramble bushes.  The middle of the bramble bushes.

IMG_0003This is somewhat of an improvement.  From the house, seen in profile it rather looks as if it’s facing a firing squad, and apparently Young Sprout and Pirate Girl have used their rubber dart guns for target practice, although I’m positive they would not have ever seen a firing squad since they don’t watch a lot of movies.

I used some recycled Indonesian cotton that had been used as packing in an international move and is great for surface design, soy wax resist, etc.

Posted in Art, creativity, Environment, quilting, surface design

Bloggers Quilt Festival Fall 2013

Blogger's Quilt Festival -

It’s that exciting time of the year again!

For those who can’t go to Houston we have the Bloggers Fall Quilt Festival, and here is my entry to the art quilt category …


This piece evokes the Grand Canyon where you can gaze down at millions of years of rock layers carved by the Colorado River, then up at the big Western sky.

I  made this in late spring using a variety of techniques, creating strata which I pieced like bargello for the rocks at the bottom, which I then ice-dyed (soaked the piece in soda ash solution, then placed it flat on a rack in a large pan, covered it with ice cubes and sprinkled various procion dye powders over the top).

I used a similar ice-dyeing technique for the sky at the top, making several attempts before I was satisfied.

The river is a synthetic fibre.  I made several trial blocks to get the curving effect.

It’s 17 inches wide and 22 inches high, and was my entry into our Guild retreat’s challenge.  Our theme was the Wild, Wild West and really nothing is wilder than the Grand Canyon.

First featured here

with process posts here, and here, here, and here

.. and now I’m off to check out everyone else’s entries!  Yay!

P.S.  For the first time, I’ve entered a second quilt in the festival, in Baby Quilts

Posted in creativity, quilting, stash, surface design

Improvised piece

Inspired by Rayna Gillman’s book Create your own free-form quilts: a stress-free journey to original design


What’s great about this book is that the author is into surface design as well as quilting and so has suggestions for the questions that plague me:

  • What to do with the ugly commercial fabrics?
  • What to do with the muddy/unfortunate/bizarre results of dyeing and surface design experiments?
  • What to do with the amazing fabric that is just too lovely to cut?  Sometimes this comes from a store and sometimes it’s the result of good things happening in the dye tub

Our guild is blessed with an extensive library and resource centre, where I found this book.  After reading it several times I really REALLY  wanted to experiment with the method, but given the other projects I have on the go, I had an argument with myself.  I won and the left-brained disciplinarian lost (as usual).

This piece measures 10-1/2 by 26 inches and contains

  • ugly commercial fabric (the brown and green print)
  • less successful surface design (the navy horizontal strips)
  • amazing pink and green deconstructed screen printing (in the vertical strips that are woven through from top to bottom, towards the middle)

Lessons learned:

  • It’s good to just play from time to time without having a precise vision in mind
  • Letting go of all the design rules about coordinating colours and how to choose fabrics can be a big challenge
  • This method is very conducive to Working In A Series because there is just so much to explore.  There will be more of these!

In honour of having taken the process pledge, here are some process pix:


This is the navy (see why it was a problem child?) with yellow print attached to two of the strips.


photo(67)Here’s the strata that ended up being sliced between the horizontal areas.  This shows much more clearly the beautiful pink and green deconstructed screen print.  The pale green fan print is one I’ve used in many different pieces, although I’m not really a fan of 30’s reproductions, which is what this looks like.  But I love being able to mix up such disparate fabrics as these, the green and black batik and the green and pink/purple/burgundy stripe at the top.

Posted in quilting, surface design

Challenge Process 4, Previewing Possibilities


If the sky were deeper it might look more like the big skies of the southwestern desert.

Of course there is a maximum size of 24 inches for both height and width so adding sky (how much) means chopping down below by at least an equal amount.

Trying to make sure I`m happy with the end result, that it will seem to be in proportion and say what I want it to say.

This is just an audition.  If I go this route I will be dyeing some yummy cotton-linen fabric from Satin Moon Quilted Garden which I used in the strata just above the black fabric with the dots.  There`s still time to think about this, especially in light of the fact that I should build up my supplies of ice before doing any more dyeing.

(written May 14)

Posted in quilting, surface design

Wild, Wild West Challenge #2

Just to reflect that just as you have to break eggs to make an omelette, in surface design sometimes gorgeous results have to be hidden forever.  This is the back of the ice-dyed strata, about to disappear in the middle of a quilt sandwich …

foundation backEasier to bear because of the fabric I dyed in the same bath intended for the binding, which looks even better!  And won’t be used for binding.

Posted in quilting, surface design

Wild, Wild West Challenge #1

Strata after ice dyeing
Strata after ice dyeing

To make the challenge piece I was inspired to make an impression of the Grand Canyon by making strata in a variety of fabrics including upholstery samples.

I scoured them by washing in Synthrapol to remove the Scotchguard or Teflon treatment, then piece strips onto a muslin foundation.

The work was soaked in soda ash solution then taken out of the solution and placed in the bottom of a rectangular bucket, slightly scrunched.

A LARGE bag of ice was dumped over the top.  Then several different colours of procion dye were sprinkled onto the ice.

Here’s how the strata looked after it came out of the dye bath after 12 hours of soaking.  There was still a little ice floating on top of the melted water but I wanted to get on and knew it would take a long time to dry because of the heavier fabrics in the work.

Posted in creativity, quilting, stash, surface design

New Experimental Wall Hanging in Progress

This piece was started on the last afternoon of Ana Buzzalino’s workshop while our main projects were soaking in the dye.

The bright turquoise is pure polyester that will not be affected by procion dyes.

Everything else is 100% cotton except for the centre Chinese print and the purple, which are both poly-cotton blends, and some of the neutral pieces around the borders, which are upholstery samples.



I’m in the habit of prewashing all quilting fabrics other than pre-cut jelly rolls and charm packs and the like.  That said, I wash my stash with regular detergent.

Scouring means using Synthrapol to really remove all dressings and treatments and ready the fabric for surface design treatments.

In this piece I did wash the upholstery samples in Synthrapol, and the muslin I’m dyeing for the binding was also scoured when I bought it, since it was intended for dyeing.


That the printed cottons (pink with Chinese characters and the purple and pink dots around the border) will take up less of the dye than the other fabrics.

That the upholstery fabrics will retain more of the dye than the piece used in my other workshop project, which glowed when it came out of the dye and then mostly rinsed off.


Purple polyester serger thread, which will retain its current colour and contrast with the dyed finished wall hanging.

I’m new to free motion quilting, not that I need to say that to anyone who knows about FMQ!  But you have to start somewhere and since this is a very experimental piece I figured it was a good place to start.  I used the approach explained by Elizabeth Hagh of the Modern Quilt Guild and found it was much faster than quilting with a walking foot.  Maybe this will inspire me to persist and tackle larger pieces, of which I have several almost ready to be quilted.  I bought 5.4 metres of Warm & Natural the other day based on current projects, so that’s an added incentive.  The batting was 50% off so to me this was a rational decision …


Blue with a large white hibiscus print.  Since this will be dyed purple I wanted a simple backing in a primary colour, and was limited to finding something large enough that I wouldn’t have to piece it before starting the quilting.


Posted in creativity, quilting, surface design

Ana Buzzalino Workshop

Our quilt guild was recently blessed by a presentation followed by a two-day workshop from Ana Buzzalino of Calgary.

We pieced directly onto a quilt sandwich (backing, batting and muslin foundation) using cotton, poly cotton, and other fabrics that take fiber-reactive dye.  I.e. no wool and no pure polyester.

Ana is an absolutely inspirational teacher and although my machine was not behaving terribly well I felt brave enough to attempt free motion quilting and curved piecing.

In fact, as often happens in life, the challenge with the machine led to a serendipitous find.  I left the workshop to drive straight to Sawyers where Denise identified and fixed no less than three issues, so no wonder I was frustrated!  Anyhoo, they had a table full of polyester serger thread in all colours.  The polyester doesn’t reach with the Procion dye so you can choose the best colour for each project.  Before the workshop I had been somewhat challenged to find even white polyester thread.

Having finished a piece in the course of the workshop I left buzzing with ideas of other things to try.  Ana’s supply list was to bring suitable mixed fabrics in light and neutral colours, all of which pick up the dye a little differently.

For the second project which we began as our quilted projects were steeping in the dye bath, Ana gave us some pure polyester turquoise fabric (think bridesmaid dress!) and some lilac poly cotton.  I’m still working on that, because I added in a bunch of black and white prints and it’s grown and grown.

I decided to make a small experimental piece and ice dye it so instead of it being one colour all over you would get a marbled/mottled effect.  So I used some of the turquoise and lilac, plus other black and white fabric, and an upholstery sample which I prewashed with Synthrapol to remove the Scotchguard treatment.  Ana is big on using fabric with writing on it, which is another thing I enjoy working with, so I used two fabrics with Chinese script on it.  The dark purple one in the photo started out neutral; the lighter one with the larger characters started out hot pink.  I think this must have made the fabric less able to pick up other dyes.

So  the front is the last photo, quilted with fuchsia polyester which stayed the same colour.

And the back was a cool bicycle print!AnaBuzz002

At the workshop Ana reminded up to throw some plain muslin into our dye bath so we’d have the exact right shade of binding.  I placed a piece under the quilted piece, covered everything with ice, and sprinkled the powdered procion dye over the top of everything (navy, fuchsia and grape).

However much as I love what happened with the intended binding piece it’s too light to work as binding. (see photo, which is navy and white basically).AnaBuzz003

Fortunately I have a dark purple fabric with YET MORE Chinese script!  Which will be the binding.  Lesson learned, next time I’ll put the binding over the top of the quilted piece so it’ll hopefully be nice and dark yet the piece will still look good.