Monday, February 27, 2006

Thank You!

What a terrific, supportive group you all are! I am trying to get some email messages sent, but I want to say here that you are all much appreciated. I feel very encouraged and loved, and that's a really nice feeling. The medicine I started at the end of last week is knocking the stuffing out of me, but mentally and spiritually I feel pretty good. I am told I will adjust some to the side effects (nausea, exhaustion, feeling a little spacey.) I hope so. I was a little disappointed to find out that another side effect is weight gain because, you know, I am so svelte to begin with. (NOT) Just a quick word and I will move on from the big C topic. I want to give you a couple of links to check out:

We had a really busy and fun weekend, a surprise birthday party and huge family gathering for one of DHs brothers, and a nice dinner out with another group. I decided to stay home from work today and so far it's been very nice. I took the girls (dogs) up the hill for an early morning walk and just enjoyed the fresh air and the smell of the coming rain. The forecast says we are in for a BIG storm, which is actually a good thing because everything is so dry around here. I saw some gorgeous wildflowers in bloom too, probably from the little bit of rain we had last week. It is amazing to me how little moisture it takes in a dry climate to bring out color.

This afternoon I am off to my workroom to make some postcards. The due date for a little swap I am in is, let's see, tomorrow. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! If I get rolling, I'll make some to donate too.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Its a Good News/ Bad News Kind of Thing

The "butterfly vine" we have in our yard is called Passiaflora and looks like this one. You can see more kinds of plants and great butterfly pictures here. See another good web site with advice and great links for building your butterfly friendly garden here. Even if you can't grow passiaflora in your climate, there are plenty of butterfly attracting plants that you probably CAN grow. We also have a nice hummingbird population living in our yard. They especially seem to like the birds of paradise and the lavender.

Thanks to everyone for all your comments on the last post. I really did have a wonderful time with the journal quilt.

OK, now for the bad news/ good news stuff. Since some of you have asked, I got the call from my doctor, the biopsy results are in and they were positive. That would be the bad news part. You could have knocked me over with a feather. For all that I just had surgery for a biopsy, I was absolutely shocked to discover that I have uterine cancer. The next step will be a hysterectomy. Thankfully, I am old enough not to need my uterus any more.

I am starting today on Megace, which is a drug to stop estrogen. Next week I will consult the cancer specialist and we will be scheduling surgery soon. If the cancer is small, the hysterectomy will be it. If it has started to spread to the uterine wall, radiation will also be part of the treatment. The good news is, if you have to have cancer, uterine cancer is often pretty well contained and doesn't spread. The other good news is that I probably won't have to do chemo.

I am staying positive and have plenty of support from friends and family. That's good news too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

February Journal Quilt

" Feast of the Butterflies"

In our yard we have a couple of wonderful plants we call the "butterfly vines." Every spring we see dozens of butterflies feeding on the flower nectar and the yard is full of them. Some time later we see dozens of caterpillars living on the vine and eating the leaves. Then come the cocoons and the next spring we have butterflies again. I think it is a marvellous thing, so I made my quilt in celebration of this cycle.

I fused leaves to a white backgroud. With batting underneath I did some thread work and then cut out the shape I wanted to use.

I decided to use these fabrics with my applique piece. The multicolor fabric looks like it could have been painted, but it is from a thrift store sundress. It was a fabulous find, and I have gotten a lot of good use from it. In addition to the fanciful leaves and flowers I can cut from it, the complicated abstract pattern lends itself to cutting imaginative shapes. It was easy, for example, to find an area to cut the purple caterpillars from. The green background fabric has a textural look and a slightly Asian feel to the subtle design.

I added more leaves and cut flower shapes until I was satisfied with my composition. Once everything was fused in place, I added another layer of batting and a backing and finished off the quilt "pillowcase style". Then I used machine applique and more quilting to hold it all together. I has a slightly dimensional feel because of all the layers. The beads in the flower centers made a finishing touch, and if I had come to this point sooner, I might have added more beads. It's still a possibility.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Here are some of my favorite illustrators. Maybe "favorite" is the wrong word because there are hundreds whose work delights me. Next time you are in the library, spend a little time in the children's section. Enjoy.

Mercer Mayer

James Marshall.

And who could forget Rosemary Well's Max?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Where the Wild Things Are

There has been a lot of talk around the web ring lately about favorite children's books. I have enjoyed reading everyone's choices, nodding in agreement and savoring the memories of discovery. The joy of books is a wonderful passion to have. Somehow I am not surprised that a group of artists would also love books, since they open the doors to imagination in the way they do.

Choosing a only a few favorites has left me paralyzed with indecision, so instead of a list I will show a few at a time in an open ended fashion, giving some time to think about and appreciate each one.

I have been a long time fan of Maurice Sendak. (Read more here.)Long ago, I delighted in the drawings for the sweet Little Bear stories (Elsa Holmelund Minarik) and later Where The Wild Things Are,
In The Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There. I read these stories over and over to my neices and nephews and later, to my son. For a time in our lives, we would recite the "wild things" book together from memory.

William Steig is another favorite author. I always think of "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" (1969)

but some of you may be more familiar with this story.

Another all time favorite: Ezra Jack Keats. I love his artistic style, so much expression conveyed in the bright simple shapes of his illustrations.

And I have bittersweet memories of reading "Peter's Chair" right about the time we were thinking about moving our son to his "big boy" bed so we could pass the crib to his little sister. I seem to remember buying and painting a small chair.

One final entry for today, a memory of enchantment from my own childhood. This one was a Newberry winner, published in 1958. "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rainy Saturday Morning

A thousand thanks to everyone who had a suggestion to cope with insomnia. Thursday night, I did some deep breathing, took a hot shower with lavender body wash, listened to relaxing music, drank chammomile tea, and took a benadryl :) . Out like a light and slept all the way through 'til morning. Did the same on Friday night, except no benadryl, and only woke up once. Hopefully the good sleeping will continue. I can't believe how much better I feel.

I awoke to wet ground and cloudy skies, and the rain continued through the morning. We are desperate for rain here, and it almost looked like the trees were singing, they were so happy to have the dust washed from their leaves. It was chilly, so we made a nice fire in our big stone fireplace and enjoyed our morning coffee. Then Jerry cooked a nice big breakfast with lovely omelets and we watched a movie, "The Thing About My Folks". Two tissues, at least. It was one of those movies that the critics hated but I liked. Certainly worth the price of a DVD rental.

The rest of my day is wonderfully open ended and I feel like going back to my workroom. See you later.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Paperwhites and Sleepless Nights

I'm posting mainly so you will know I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. I'm still here, and not doing much else but resting when I'm not at work . This has been difficult since I seem to be in a season of terrible insomnia. I am reluctant to turn to medication for aid in sleeping so I am looking for alternatives. Four hours a night is not cutting it. Has anyone discovered the best cure for insomnia yet?

The pretty photo of paperwhites is courtesy of Webshots, in case you need a little spring cheer. We have them in our yard, but they are just starting to come out and I haven't taken photos yet. There is always some kind of flower or other in bloom, which is one of the things I love about living in California.

I have not been back in the sewing room since Monday when I added more fused shapes to my garden quilt. Jen asked how big it is. Right now it is 20" x 30", so it's not huge. It could always "grow" into multiple panels, though. You never know. Either that or I'll get tired of it, and it will go into the closet with all the other unfinished projects.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Today's Progress

I stayed close to home again today, sadly missing out on a gathering of my quilting friends. Looking on the bright side, I did spend more time working on adding color and fused shapes to my Spring Quilt. I found a great handpainted yellow with orange and will be enhancing some of those flower shapes with this fabric. I tried using pastel in addition to fabric ink, markers, and paint, and I was happy with the result. The colors can be built up gradually and blended, just like on paper. Has anyone else used artist's pastel on a quilt and did you use a fixative?

There will be more green leaf shapes across the bottom, stronger orange flower shapes and possibly the addition of some other colors (blue I'm thinking). We'll see where this takes me, but I'm certainly having fun.

A Spring Quilt

Thanks so much for all your good wishes. I know I am very, very blessed. My brief contact with the hospital had me remembering all the times I've been in them as a visitor, not as a patient. One thing led to another, so I spent a lot of time with memories yesterday. Not all of them were sad, so it was a good quiet time of reflection.

I spent the day doing things I love to do. Reading, napping, drawing, messing around with fabric. I packed up the pastel blocks (again) and started working on something more interesting. The blocks were part of an exchange a few years back but I have just never gotten up the enthusiasm to put them together in a quilt. I am just not a pastel person. I know it would be a worthwhile challenge to add some more blocks and figure out a way to liven everything up and make a nice useable spring quilt, but...

Here is what I did instead. This is just a beginning and in my head are lots of ideas for more painting, fusing, threadwork, collage etc. Who knows how much of it will get to the quilt?
The geraniums are scavenged out of another quilt. Some of the leaves are from one of my yard photos, printed from the computer on to prepared fabric. I am also using some paint and crayon, which is why you see that stark white background. In addition to more painting, I am going to do a sheer fabric collage over the whole thing so it won't be stark white. That little red piece in the corner isn't attached yet, I just put it there to give you an idea.

Looking at these photos now, I see a thickish stem shape I need to remove right away. I can peel it off easily enough, though I'll have to fuse something else in its place. I'm thinking more fabric bits...
I don't know if you can see the "sketch" lines very well, but I am drawing on the fabric with a micron marker to make a guide, at least for some of it. I find myself impatient with lots of sketching and numbering pieces and all of that, so I rarely do it. If this one is a bust, I might have to go back to that method. Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Yesterday was a strange day, but I'm glad it's over. I had a little out patient surgery, what my ob-gyn affectionately refers to as Dusting and Cleaning. It served the dual purpose of clearing up what my grandma used to call "female trouble", and providing a source of tissue for biopsy to see if something more serious is needed. The pre-op area was huge, filled with curtain partitioned spaces that immediately made me think "surgery factory". Despite the large volume of work, everyone was kind and professional. More to the point for me, I got enough drugs quickly enough to ease my considerable nervousness, what my doctor refers to as a "margarita in the lobby." She came swirling in attired in a bright pink surgery turban and sat down with me for a few minutes to see if I had any questions. Her gift is in being able to make her patients feel comfortable in a very short time, and I find myself trusting her. This despite the fact that she is probably young enough to be my daughter.

In the curtained area next to mine, I listened to some nurses struggling to get IV lines into a woman whose veins were pretty blown by chemo. There was some discussion about her port and more discussion I couldn't hear. I got the distinct impression that she was in trouble because she was having surgery before her chemo was even finished. Not sure what that means. It certainly put things into perspective. I have been thinking about her a lot even though I didn't get to meet her. I know from my unavoidable eavesdropping that she is only 42 and that she has already had surgery for breast cancer.

The last thing I remembered was the chill of the operating room, the nice feel of the warmed blankets, and the dreadful plastic smell of the mask (or maybe it was the gas?.) I woke up in what seemed like about a minute later. Everything went fine. DH brought me home, made me a little soup, and then I spent the afternoon napping in a drug induced haze. Today I feel pretty good, armed with a little extra strength ibuprofen. I plan to stick close to home, but I have plenty of choices as to how to occupy my time.

I could dive in to one or both of these:

I could do something with these:

My recent surgery, however minor, gives me the perfect excuse not to spend my day cleaning. I might, however, have to do at least a little something about this:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Thread Play

Thanks so much for your encouraging comments! I need to work on my indoor digital photography skills, as I don't think the color and shine show up quite right. In "real life" the color is not garish at all, just shimmery and kind of glowing. No wonder quilt artists get hooked on silk.

Deb asked about bobbin work, in particular what perle cotton you use and if you can wind it by machine or hand. The answer for winding depends on your particular machine. If you can adjust the speed of your bobbin winder to SLOW then you can do it by machine. If not, winding by hand works fine. You can use any perle cotton you want, either from the little balls or from a skein. I have also used regular DMC. You really are not limited. If you want to use a REALLY thick yarn or decorative thread, you can bypass the bobbin altogether and sew it on the front of your work by couching (sewing across it with a zig-zag stitch). If you want only the couched thread to show, use monopoly, and if you want the zig-zag to show, use the color of your choice. Some of the most beautiful thread I have is hand dyed from Artfabrik. I also like the gorgeous stuff from Superior, and Madiera is also nice.

Here is a website that talks a little about bobbin work. They are showing wearable art, but of course you can use it however you please. Here is some good information about thread and needles (although there are even more "brands" of thread than are mentioned). One more site here.

There are lots of great books out there on the subject of thread embellishment (I have several), but you can get started with the simple info on the websites. Some recommend having a separate bobbin case to dedicate to thread work so you can play around with the tension. If you have a "drop in" bobbin no case is needed, just bypass the tension altogether. Try something new, and have fun!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Red Sky

This is how I started my day yesterday. I looked out the window and saw this and knew I had to share it. I ran outside and took these from my driveway. I did wonder if we were going to have a know, "red sky at morning, sailors take warning".

Instead it was oddly overcast without a hint of rain. We had only an occasional glimmer of sun.

Inside, in the afternoon, I got back to my workroom and spent the day working on this.

I used couched thread, more bobbin work, different colors of shiny thread. A couple of people asked about "Deco-Bond". It was one of the required items for an embellishment class at Road to California, and I bought mine at a quilt show booth. I have never seen it around here, but it is a thick, somewhat soft stabilizer that can be fused. I think I heard in a class that it can be bought at Hobby Lobby, but we don't have those here either. I think I like it as a stabilizer, but it IS thick and it isn't tear away, so you have to be happy to have it as a permanent part of your piece. The quilting and embellishment are being done in one step here since I put batting in between the painted silk and painted Deco-Bond.

Sometime before I started adding more paint to get the contrast I wanted, I decided I liked the horizontal format. I might be pretty close to finished. When I get home from work today I'll have another look.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Happy Mess

Yesterday I spent the entire day in my workroom. I pretty much have no idea what else happened around here, except that my wonderful DH cooked up a pretty tasty hot chicken dish and I showed up in the kitchen in time to make the salad.

You are looking at some of my fun. I cut a nice hunk of silk, backed it with Deco-Bond and painted away using Dyna-flo and Setacolor. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to do a lot of thread work later. Let me just say I LOVE painting on silk. It handles quite differently than cotton and looks so shimmery later. I bought a whole bolt from Dharma, so I expect to learn a lot more as I go.

After it was dry I couldn't wait to get it under the machine. The paint had soaked through both layers, and I thought the Deco Bond might actually make a nice backing. It peeled off easily, so I added some batting in between the layers and used a little 505 adhesive spray to hold it all together. 505 is pretty nice for non-stickiness and non-stinkiness, but you still need good ventilation when you apply it.

Dove into the thread and found a nice electric blue pearl cotton for the bobbin. Did some thread drawing on the front for a guide, then flipped it and started the bobbin work.

The element of surprise when you look at the front is really fun (well, it's not a complete surprise, you kind of know what to expect, but still...). I just love the strong lines you can make with heavier thread.

I also love the shimmer of Superior Threads Rainbow trilobal poly. I have in mind to do more thread work on this piece. I have so many wonderful threads, have I mentioned that they are my new addiction? I don't know if I will add some solid fabric pieces as applique, or go paint on it some more or?. It lacks focus now, so it has to go up on the design wall. To be continued.

Oh my, I hope the rest of the house doesn't look this bad!

Friday, February 03, 2006

All in the Family

For a few days I have been working on string quilt blocks to make use of some of my old stash, but, trust me, it isn't interesting enough to take a picture of. Instead I will show you some very exciting art.

This is "Importance of the Neutral Color Red" done in 1959 by Alice Trumbull Mason.

This is "Compass" by Emily Mason. Not sure of the year

This is "Cloud" by Cecily Kahn, 2005.

Besides the fact that these are beautiful works of art, can you guess why I have shown them all together?

These are three generations of women painters. As far as I know Emily is still alive and working and Cecily has established herself as well. Just in case that wasn't enough art in one family, here is a little something by Emily's husband (Cecily's father) Wolf Kahn.

"Blue Triangle", Wolf Kahn, 2004

Can't you just imagine what it was like around their house?

Here are some links: Wolf Kahn, Emily Mason, Cecily Kahn, Alice Trumbull. You can get lost in these beautiful pure forms and colors. It's interesting to me that Wolf Kahn was, of the four artists here, the one who painted the most recognizable subjects (landscapes), but he has clearly moved towards abstraction. I imagine it would be impossible not to have your own work influenced by an artist you lived with. So, what do you think?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Artist's Books

I know at least a few of you are interested in or make "altered books". As a rather large part of what I do for a living, I repair books. Nothing rare or special, just regular books that circulate and are much used by our students. From me they get glued hinges, new spines, spanking new end papers or tipped in pages. This is far, far less interesting than the "book art" which always facinates me. Someday I will make the leap. In the meantime, I read about it and try to learn what I can. Check out this book artist's blog. Amazing and fun work.