Friday, October 30, 2009

New Sponsor!

I'm happy to announce that I have a new sponsor and not only does she have a wonderful online store, but she sells something that can be hard to find and that I need and use daily. That's a pretty tall order, but it's true. My newest sponsor is r0ssie and along with selling her wonderful, handcrafted items, she's also just started carrying plexiglass shapes and clamps for itajime. Itajime is a Japanese dye technique that's a subset of a bigger group of techniques called shibori. If you've ever tie-dyed anything then you have done shibori. Itajime is a very specific method that uses clamped shapes to create patterning. Like in this quilt:

All the circles in the quilt are dyed onto the fabric, not appliqued. The process is amazingly simple. All you need to do is sandwich a bit of fabric in between two same sized shapes. You keep the shapes in place by using "C" clamps. When you immerse the fabric in dye the fabric covered by the shape remains unchanged while the surrounding fabric is dyed. Pretty cool, huh?
When I've mentioned this technique before, folks have contacted me asking where to get the clamped shapes. My best advice has been to contact a local plastics fabricator and see if they'd be willing to make shapes out of scrap plexiglass. Although I've not had a problem finding someone to do this for me locally, others have not been so lucky. That's all in the past because now we have r0ssie. Yay!
I wanted to introduce my newest sponsor in some significant way, so I decided to craft something special using her shapes and clamps to pattern my fabric. I thought a fair amount about what I wanted to make. I didn't really want to make another Twinkle mini quilt. That didn't seem unique enough. I didn't want to pattern and dye fabric for a pillow. I frankly didn't know what I wanted to make. And then fate and the weather stepped in. Fate in the form of this article in the latest issue of Stitch Magazine.

For those of you who haven't gotten a copy of the fall issue of Stitch, there's a wonderful feature on a San Francisco based designer and dyer who makes a line of clothing called Ocelot. I'd read an article about this women a few years ago in Fiberarts magazine and loved the simple, graphic patterning she dyes using itajime. Seeing this article in Stitch reminded me of how much I love her work.
Then it got a little colder. Not bone chilling or anything. This is Texas after all, but fall was definitely in the air. So I started thinking about scarves. Put the two influences together and you get this:

I clamped two lengths of black fabric with a pair of 4" circles and discharged(bleached) the background. I removed the clamps and over dyed the fabric green. The beauty of working with black fabric is that I didn't have to keep the shapes clamped in the over dye bath because the black circles, being darker than the green dye, were not altered by the dye bath.

I sewed the lengths together and backed it with a soft, homespun green plaid.
I'm in love with my new scarf and even more in love with my new plexiglass shapes. I've already ordered two more pairs of 4" circles.

Having purchased plexiglass shapes from a local vendor, I can tell you that the prices for these are really good. Even better is the fact that r0ssie's is one stop shop for itajime supplies because you can order your "C" clamps at the same time you buy your shapes. The selection of shapes includes two sizes of circles, two sizes of squares, a 3" triangle as well as bundles of squares, circles and mixed shapes.

This is perfect way for you to try this technique without spending hours searching for the supplies.
Go ahead. Order some shapes and clamps form r0ssie and then head over to Dharma Trading Company to buy a starter Procion MX dye kit complete with instructions. They even carry black cotton fabric suitable for discharge. By this time next week you'll have you very own Ocelot-inspired scarf.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

They Grow

I got my contributor's issues of the latest Stitch magazine the other day along with the return of the project I made for the issue. While shooting pictures of the project this morning I though about how interesting it was that today I was going to post about making a baby book.

On Saturday, my first baby won't officially be one anymore. She's turning 18. I've thought about this off and on over the past weeks, but I haven't really delved into what it all means. I tend not to deal with emotional stuff until it's right in front of me.
For instance a few weeks ago we were at synagogue for the end of Yom Kippur. For those that don't know, this is a seriously solemn holiday and most of it is spent at services. We were finally coming to the end and I was feeling that relief I always feel when I know that there's a full year's worth of days before I have to deal with Yom Kippur again. As we turned to leave the sanctuary, my girl was standing behind me and, when I saw her, I started to cry. Not, little tears, but all out weeping. Partly it was because I realized that this was it. Next year she'll be away at college and she probably won't be able to come home for the holiday and the other part was a sense of stupidity on my part. How could I have gone through Jewish New Year the previous week and now all of Yom Kippur and not thought about this until just this moment?
I hugged her and she seemed to know that I wasn't just happy to see her. She knew that this was a bittersweet moment and probably one of many to come in the next year.

When my girls were little I used to get a kick out of making books for them. They weren't fancy, usually just collaged pages with or without words. The books never lasted long, often becoming torn or stained, but that didn't matter. The fun was in the making. Actually, that's usually the case.

From the moment I thought about submitting a design I knew I wanted to make a baby book. The idea came to me almost fully formed and I knew it was meant to be.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to share this idea and I really hope it will inspire others to make books for their kids. It's like chocolate and peanut butter, two great things together. You love crafting for your children and they love, love, love books.
You can't go wrong.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Me and My Stack

...of books.

Those are most, but not all, of the books I purchased so that I could sell signed copies from my shop. The official publication date isn't until next Tuesday, so I'm going to hold off on selling any until then, but I know that the books have been shipping out from Amazon and, I assume, Barnes and Noble already. I decided to wait because otherwise the publication date will feel like a regular Tuesday instead of a really exciting, amazing, I've never-had-a-book-published-before kind of day. I do have a few things planned for next week and I even have another giveaway planned for this week as well as a new sponsor announcement, so the fun doesn't need to end.

Which brings me to last week's giveaway. I'm happy to announce that Ann was the lucky, randomly chosen winner of Spike Gillespie's Quilting Art book.

Ann said,

It looks like a fabulous book. Congrats on getting your quilts in it.

So, Ann, if you'll email your address to me at, I'll send your book to you faster than you can ask, "Where's my book?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gratuitous Self Promotion Week

I'll bet you didn't realize we were celebrating self-promotion this week? Sure. It begins the day after National Bosses Day.
Well, not really, but I'm going to engage in a wee bit of self-promotion this week anyway. Before you turn the page or click your mouse, there's stuff in it for you, so, stay with me.
About a year ago a friend and author, Spike Gillespie, contacted me about a new book she was writing. Spike is a well-known local author and had written several books including one about quilting. She was now working on a second quilt-oriented book focused on art quilts and their makers. I mentioned in my last post that I used to make art quilts and that I'd had some success exhibiting them. Spike wanted to interview me and shoot pictures of some of those quilts for her book.

Her book, Quilting Art, was recently released and it is definitely worth a look. It's packed with wonderful quilted art from 20 contemporary quilters as well as studio scenes and interviews. Spike even included a sidebar with each interview featuring some bit of advice from the artist. The book is well laid out and and organized. There's even a photo of each of the artists.

I have 3 of my quilts included in my section, all of which hang in my house. Remember what I said about running out of wall space in the previous post?

Actually that last quilt was made as a bed quilt from my middle daughter, but it now hangs in our stairwell. I got tired of picking it up off the floor.

I hope you're inspired to take a look at the book through the link. It really is quite lovely. And, if you'd like to try to at win a copy, feel free to leave a comment and I'll award one to a randomly chosen person. Thankfully, I have two, one to keep and one to share.
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Opportunity

When I first started making quilts I made them as a departure from the other art I was making. My background was in drawing and printmaking and there were several things that ended my infatuation with those media. The first was accessibility to the kind of space and equipment you need to make prints, especially lithographs, my specialty. The other was the price of framing and shipping large scale works to shows and galleries. I didn't have a wood shop and couldn't make my own frames, so I had to pay to have it done.
The third and probably most compelling reason why I changed media was that it just felt empty. I would make stacks of drawings or prints and, naturally, not all were great, but even the few that were OK really posed a dilemma. I didn't feel like I knew what function these "things" were supposed to serve. I could give some away, maybe sell a few, but that left plenty for me and I only had so many walls. I just didn't feel like they had a purpose beyond their making and that was unsatisfying.
I began making quilts. That might not seem like a natural transition, but I should note that I already had a longstanding interest in sewing and a lot of my drawings explored ideas in terms of grids or sections. I loved gluing bits of other papers on to my drawings, so the leap to making quilts wasn't that momentous. I made one "traditional" quilt mostly to learn the process, but soon after got swept up in learning about dyeing and patterning fabric and my focus was definitely art quilts. And I loved making them. But, after a while that functionality bug reared its ugly head again.
At the time I was passionate about African-American Improvisational Quilts. This was before the Gee's Bend Quilts were discovered. Rather I learned about these amazing quilts through books like Who'd A Thought It by Eli Leon, Signs and Symbols by Maude Wahlman, and a monograph about Anna Williams( the book, Anna Williams: Her Quilts and their Influence is unfortunately out of print). There were a lot of commonalities among these quilts, but one aspect really struck me. The women who made the quilts often made them to give away to strangers. I thought a lot about how I could do that in my own life and with my own quilts, but couldn't quite imagine pulling up to a stranger on the side of the road and handing him/her a quilt that I'd spent months working on. I liked the idea of it and I wished I was the kind of person who could divorce myself from my personal investment and just do the right thing. I realized that part of the problem was the labor intensive nature of the quilts I made. If I could simplify the making, then I probably wouldn't be so attached to the final product. But I didn't know how to do that without also feeling that the final product didn't meet my aesthetic standards.
Anyway, the short version of this(is it already too late for the short version) was that I relegated the issue to somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind and went about my regular life.
Until Jade Sims contacted me. She's a fellow Austinite and crafter and she runs an amazing website called Craft Hope. The focus of her website is to match charities with willing crafters to make much needed items for adults and children.
She asked me to donate a design for a book she was writing also called Craft Hope. Moreover, she requested that my design be geared toward adults as she already had several items for kids. I never really considered designing anything other than a quilt. I still wanted to make a quilt that was simple, but beautiful, and that you could happily give to a stranger. The difference this time was that I'd had a fair amount of design experience and I knew how to simplify my ideas.

I worked with big pieces of fabric, included some hand dyed cotton because that allowed me to put just a bit more of myself in the piece, and assembled a big, lap-sized quilt with an attached strap for portability. My idea was that this could be given to someone who is homeless and it would be easy for them to bundle up and carry.

I limited my palette to make coordinating the fabric easier and chose mostly yellows to make the quilt feel more cheery. I also used flannel as my backing for added warmth.

I didn't quilt or tie the quilt as I used a bonded batting and the edges of the batting are machine stitched to the quilt. Also, I wanted to make this a quick project so that folks wouldn't get caught up, like I used to, in feeling that they'd invested a lot of time in the quilt and were attached to it. If you'd like to tie or quilt your version I think that would be lovely.
Are you interested in making this project? Great. Go to Jade's website,, and check out her post about the intended recipients of the quilts and how to get involved.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter asked me if I thought anyone really led an exciting life that impacted others every day. She asked because it seemed to her like most of the lives she's familiar with were pretty steeped in routine and she can't think of anyone who flits from one adventure to the next making a big impact wherever they go. I replied that maybe excitement and meaningfulness is not about the next moment's adventure, but the accumulation of small acts that touch other people. As an example I told her that each meal I make her is not that special on its own, but when she thinks back to all the meals I've made her and the commitment to taking care of her that implies, I hoped she had a sense of how much I love her.
The same is true for these quilts. Each one is wonderful, but maybe not monumental. The collective weight of all the quilts and the generosity of their makers could be miraculous.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Color My World Daily

That's the name of a flickr group I belong to. Except I never get to add any images to the group. It's not because the group is moderated by some overbearing ogre that just doesn't want to see the likes of me and my images in the group pool. Rather it's because the featured color changes everyday and I seem to be totally out of sync with that day's hue. All that changed today. Guess what today's color is?

Yep, it's orange.
And, through some miracle of happenstance I live in just the kind of neighborhood where folks not only own an orange couch, but find it acceptable to deposit that couch on the curb once they're done with it. Add to that I'm the kind of neighbor who's ready and willing to screech to a halt and pull her car over just to catch said couch on film(or rather as a whole bunch of pixelated dots).

Austin is truly my kind of town!