Tuesday, March 29, 2005


It's time for some privileged information. There seems to be a rash of studio cleaning on blogs these days. I find that inspiring except that none of them seem to have sewing areas as atrocious as mine. To me, they look a little messy. Mine's not 'a little messy'. Mine is an nonnavigatable heap. My family calls it the Black Hole. I haven't even been sewing in there.....I carted my machine up to the kitchen table.

How does this happen? Don't I know how much better I feel when I can work in there? Is this some deep hidden reference to where quilting ranks on my priority list? Do I need to call Betsy, my beloved therapist? (probably, but that's another post).

So, here are the provisos: no mocking laughter, no sending the photos to girfriends with subject title 'you thought yours was bad' or some similar quip, no---absolutely NO---patronizing comments starting with 'you poor thing' followed by good advice.

You MAY pray, send good vibes, etc...., paypal a gift certificate to a cleaning service, show up sometime this week with a shovel and some tall boots.

The Room:

This is the room where I'm suppose to sew. One of my machines is buried in here somewhere....

Room 2:

(Sorry. This image has been deleted. Trust me, it was awful.)
This is my mangle/storage room. Maybe you can discern part of the mangle in the lower left corner, hidden under the mountain of batting.

I have to dig it out this week. Why? Because I made a solemn vow to my devoted husband that I'd finish my taxes before going to IQA in Chicago next week. And my tax info is buried somewhere in there. Today I'll hold my breath and dive in.

Call 911 if you don't hear from me soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


That's right. I survived. I fed, entertained, refereed and enforced bed time for 8 boys, ages twelve to seven (originally thought it was 7 boys, but another one sneaked in somehow). I did this without being duct taped to a chair and having the house set on fire. No one bled. No one blew anything up.

And I am still on the island.

Of course, they left no food, so I'll be starving now, thank you.

To my surprise, all participated willingly in dyeing t-shirts. They were even excited! We did the tying as a group, with some leaving to catch a glimpse of Star Wars while others stayed for a little private tutoring. I had the dye station all set up and brought them downstairs one at a time for dying.

This is my Tiger-Buster adding his first color...

Here's your basic primary colored, spiral t-shirt, tied and dyed....

Having a batchin' good time....

Here we have Princess Angel-Baby, Tiger Buster, and Spaceman SpudBoy modeling shirts (Angel Baby's belongs to a 'stinky boy' not here at time of photo). We used mx dyes, primary colors plus turquoise, and did some secondary color mixing right on the shirts. Fun was had by all!

Friday, March 25, 2005


My buddy, The Boogerman (yes, with a name like that all small children love him) cheated at the amaryllis game by going to my photo page and looking at all the photos! So, to catch everybody up to date, I'm posting an Amaryllis Slide Show of the flower from bud to full bloom. It's amazing to watch! Almost as good as time lapse film. There's even one pic at the end that Boogerman hasn't seen (nyeh, nyeh to you B-man!).

Here is today's Amaryllis photo:

It is fading fast....but like all life cycles, note the new bud coming up on the right.

Time to tie dye!

Am I Crazy?!?

Yes I am. 7 boys, 12 and under, are under my roof. I invited them (except for the two that live with me). I said, 'Please come make wreckage of my already disorderly home!' They have watched movies and eaten pizza and nachos and made a mind boggling maze of linked Game Boy cords. My supportive husband and I put them to bed all in one room. I got out of bed at 5 a.m. to find only three sleeping in the original space. 2 had migrated to another bedroom. One was sleeping by the dining room table and 1---and I had to search for him-----was asleep on the bathroom floor.

Holy Cow! Have I lost my mind?

Yes, completely. Because this morning I'm going to tie dye t-shirts with them.

Pray for me.

Thursday, March 24, 2005




Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I've got that tingling, fuzzy feeling in my chest today.

My world seems to be up in the air. Nothing feels settled. Several quilt projects are half done, waiting for the spark of inspiration. Every room in my house needs a little work....not really crusty, but in need of a little up keep. I'm in the process of choosing paint colors again. That takes forever for me. It's so easy in my work and so difficult in my home. Why is that? The weather is the chaotic....mud mixed with snow, puddles and ice, green in one friend's yard, barren in mine. Oy!

Here's a little green in my house:

This amaryllis suddenly burst into life after months of not being watered. I love how plants to that....react to the longer days and prove you wrong about being dead. The photo is actually older. I've been waiting for a chance to share it with you and will post the photo progression in my sidebar every day.

I think the real cause for my tentative feelings is because yesterday I accepted a comission--a substantial comission. Comission work has not gone well for me. I develop hangups that cause me to procrastinate and then it all goes haywire. Every time I take one on, I promise myself that I won't screw it up....yet I always do. Currently I have five in the docket and am working on heart quilts instead. Not good business.

So, once again, I'll control what I can today. I'll do laundry and pick up the house. My sewing machine will wait patiently. Maybe there'll be time for a little stitching this evening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It Worked!

Bust my Buttons, it worked! Realize now that a neurosis lives in my brain. It declares all handdyed/painted fabric completely ruined as I put it in the dryer. Sometimes it says the fabric is trash until ironed and my reasonable self can see the beautiful intracacies that exist. And then there are the pieces that after ironing....well.....mustering great tact.....must have a nice personallity. "Guess it's black overdye for you, buddy" (insert maniacla evil genius laugh)

Back to the banner.....
Upon closer inspection of the back, dye does appear to have bled into the resist areas:

My buddy Molli and I both agreed that the texture on the back was waaay cooler than the front. But hanging it up backwards in my Sunday School room was out ....can't you just see a bunch of first graders pushing up their glasses and trying to figure out what the heck those letters were? Poor babies.

It seems the resist didn't push all the way through the fabric, so the top fibers (those soaked with resist) remained white while the bottom fibers, not having taken much resist, soaked up some dye. That's what the voices are telling me, anyway.

Now, we could spend time discussing design issues, or more creative lettering, bwah, bwah, bwah.... The facts are that it took less than an hour to paint this banner (not counting the time spent looking for the Ann Johnson 'Color by Design' book to get the corn dextrin recipe. let's just forget that, shall we?) and that here in Frozen Michigan, where Evil Snow is still visible......the banner made people smile:

Monday, March 21, 2005

Banner Girl

This morning finds me sitting on the couch with complete silence. Mark it down as an Important Day to Remember. Whoa! It's over now. There's a child helping himself to breakfast. Dang---see how short that was? That moment of peace? But having savored even two seconds of solitude will wash a sense of calm over my whole day.

That's the intro. Now for the goods.

I lead a Sunday School opening on---you guessed it---Sunday mornings. It's fifteen minutes of raucous guitar and complete anarchy with children ages 3-9. Then I send them off to their teachers who must live with the consequences of my rash actions. Yes, I get weird pleasure out of this. Don't know why, not planning to analyze.

So, for my opening room, I've been mulling over some new art, namely a banner celebrating Palm Sunday----something springy and festive. Saturday night, I made the jump. I bent my will upon jumping in while disregarding the fact that there is no clear space in my painting area---it is full of kid's coats and school stuff and furniture I mean to reupholstered (see 'about me' to the right). Disregarding the fact that there is no room on the table where I mix dye---it is covered with laundry, the clean and the unclean. And completely ignoring the fact that my loving husband is upstairs single handedly putting to bed three unruly children. So determined was I to have my way.

I began by sketching in Corel Photo Paint:

Then I proceeded to prepare fabric and supplies. Translate: rifling through piles looking for the #$%^!# Ann Johnson 'Color by Design' book that I know is around somewhere---I know I've run by it recently. Translation #2: being disgusted at the old batch of corn dextrin paste that is discovered to be moldy and the fact that I don't seem to have any fresh corn dextrin. Oh look! I apparently ordered a 10# box of it last fall. See? I'm a genius after all.

O.k., moving on....we have sketch, we have supplies. We begin:

The words are painted in corn dextrin resist and are drying. The palm frond is painted with a greeny black mx dye--no thickener. There are three fronds in the sketch, but I'm happy with one big frond. I'm feeling really loose and in a groove at this point. I decide to mix up some turquoise, lighten my outline green and add a little yellow to it.

Life is good. Now for the background wash. But the corn dextrin's not dry. I coax it along with a hair dryer and ponder the fact that I could've started earlier in the day and allowed the dextrin to dry on it's own. But creative geniuses are suppose to have completely messed up internal clocks, right? I'm happy with the hair dryer. It seems to be working quickly.

So, I begin to lay down the background wash, mixing colors as I go. All is well.

Then I identify the tingling feeling I had in my chest while hairdrying: the resist is not completely dry. There could be some serious bleeding when the dye hits the resist. As the dye runs into the resist area, I can see it bleeding under the fabric and I...I....well, in the words of the always wise, ever eloquent C-3PO....

"I'm Scrap!"

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Getting it Together

Hi. It's taken some time to figure this blog thing....where to store photos, time of day when noone's screaming, "MOOoooooooom"....you know the drill.

But! I've been taking pictures like a mad fool and have a great deal to talk about.

Want to see a recent piece?

and a close up....

Yikes! That's a lot of stitching! Sure was fun, though. Even the Evil Metallic Thread played nice. The background is velveteen and the heart is stitched on a piece of cotton/Lycra that was -The- right shade of pink. I culled those fabrics from a box being tossed by a friend. The flower behind the heart is from a piece of polyester tricot, vintage Salvation Army.

More and more of my fabric is coming from 'alternative' sources. My husband and I were checking out a newly found thrift store the other day and when he saw the screaming turquois tie in our pile, he began gesticulating vocally until I explained that I didn't expect him to -Wear- it....it was for my stash. There's freedom in letting him think I'm crazy, anyway.

So, what is this? The piece is titled 'Bloom' and is 11" x 14". I made it for an exhibit called
Keiko and Friends ,organized by Laura Wasilowski, creative genius behind Artfabrik. If you're going to Chicago, stop by the Fine Line Creative Arts Center and take a look.

Friday, March 11, 2005

She Conquers All!

Well, maybe not *aaalll*....

But I did conquer the Evil Metallic Thread!

The photo is mediocre, I know. But do you get the idea? I finally got to the point where I could do some smooth quilting before the thread would fray. And then when it frayed--but before it broke completely, I'd pull some fresh thread through the needle. With some threads, one just has to be resolved to some breakage.

So, what did I do to get this thread to work? Well, lemme' tell ya', it wasn't pretty. There was whining and furrowed brows. There were complain-y phonecalls to girlfriends. There was chocolate, lots of chocolate....which means a few extra pounds (that I just lost)....followed by depression, then the fetal position...

OK! Was that more than you wanted to know? See what a truly Evil Thread can do to a girl? Here's a list of items and techniques tried with the E.M.T.

-a variety of machine needles in various sizes---finally settled on a Schmetz size 16 topstitching needle.

-Threads in the bobbin...fat ones, skinny ones, pretty ones, ugly ones. In the end, bobbin thread had nothing to do with it.

-Thread Tension, bobbin and needle. Niet.

-Sewer' Aid....a silicon lubricant that can rescue some threads....like the last Evil Thread I chose---a variegated Sulky cotton. No dice---didn't fix a thing. Some say you can't use this stuff with metallic, but this particular E.M.T. had enough non-metallic content that I thought it worth a shot

-Using a higher chair. It did help my back and wrists, but not the quilting problem.

-Turning the thread cone up side down. Yes, we're getting desperate at this point, but there's something fuzzy in my memory about thread twist....

-Naked Voodoo Dance under a full moon. You never know...

What finally did the trick?

A pair of snug gloves with rubber-impregnated finger tips and a thread net.
Turns out the real problem was too much jumping around. The thread was coming off the spool too loosely and not feeding into the tension disks correctly. And the quilt really needed to be hooped. Even with a darning foot the quilt was jumping around too much, not allowing the tension controls to do their job. The gloves helped turn my hands into a human hoop, giving the stability needed. I was able to rip through the quilting at a good clip without fraying.

The thread net was an inspiration---I saw it in my toolbox and said, "Oh yeah!" The gloves were a matter of finally caving in. They were at the table watching me the whole time, probably thinking, "You idiot." It took a week of horsing around before the solution came into my head.

The real lesson here is to be determined to use what you want to use and to keep a variety of supplies on hand. Yes, it was a frustrating process. Sometimes one has to live in that place for a time. But once the solution came, I was freeee! And the joy of free motion quilting was mine to savor again.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who's In Charge Here?

Today, I wake up to discover that I am not in charge. The universe is in charge and I am a spec.

There are children everywhere, calling my name. There is laundry rising to incredible heights. Cowpaths guide me through the house. There are no clean spoons. Where is my husband, my helpmeet? He has gone to work, like the good boy that he is. (sigh)

So! What can a spec control in her corner of the universe? She can control this:

and change it into this:

Hooraaay for Super Spec!

She can not, however, control this:

....all thanks to this:

Boooo! Down with Evil metallic thread, even if it is too beautiful to ignore.

Tune in tomorrow when Super Spec uses her amazing (though microscopic) control powers to stamp out a New Evil.....

The Thread Basket of Dooooom!