Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mexican Sink

Hooray!  It's in! 
If you have heard my talk about my trip to Mexico and falling in love with their folk art, you know about this sink.  (You'll also be able to read about it in my upcoming quilting book.)
My husband and I schlepped it all the way home from Cabos.  That was 2 years ago. 
It has been sitting on my living room floor ever since.
We remodelled our powder room and had it installed. 
It looks great and reminds me of our trip every time I enter.

A Plant Anyone Can Grow

Hostas!  Gotta love them.  I  have a Scottish friend named Elizabeth, who is a master gardener. Her gardens are almost as important to her as her family.  I, on the other hand am a wannabe gardener.  Actually I used to be a wannabe gardener.  Now I have lost all interest in planting.  My problem was that I would have a big burst of motivation in the Spring and plant a bunch of flowers.  As long as there were Spring showers, I was golden.  
When the kids were little, I would spend the month of August with them in the mountains and my husband  would come up on the weekends.  My flower boxes on my deck were sometimes in full bloom then between the rain and occasional watering.  My husband would be in charge of these flowers while we were gone.  Between his travel schedule and late hours at work, I was very often disappointed by the time we came home in time for school.  Dead! After a few years, it wasn't worth the nagging and aggravation, so I just put silk flowers in my planters.  It did fool many people.
Anyway, back to my friend Elizabeth.  She told me about the beauty of hostas.  "Plant them in your flower pots and  they'll come up every year".  I was skeptical.  So a few years ago, I gave it a try.  The one hosta I planted lasted the summer, died back after the frost in the Fall and low and behold sprouted from the pot in the Spring. 
So now  each Spring I plant one more and each Spring up they pop. 
I have pots of them on my deck.  The foliage is so lush and it's amazing how  many shades of green there are.  It's the middle of April here in Pennsylvania look at that foliage.   I feel like a master gardener, for a bit. 
Thanks Elizabeth.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Art Quilt Elements

The Wayne Art Center located in Wayne, PA is home to  a wonderful biennial art quilt show.  I am so fortunate that it is a 15 minute drive from my house.  The name of the show is Art Quilt Elements and it draws entries from the top quilt artists from all over the world.  The show is divided between 2 galleries and you just hold your breath as you enter each one with the anticipation of what you are going to see.

The show did not disappoint.  Many of the works were cutting edge and exciting.  Two trends were the use of sheers and hand stitching Hand stitching may appear to be an oxymoron used in the same sentence as art quilts, but the integration was seamless. They did not look like your grandmother's traditional quilts.

There were some pieces that did not seem to merit being in such a prestigious show.  But there are always questions about the judging process and how quilts are chosen.  One in particular was sooooo very questionable.  You must come to the show to see for yourself.

No photography was allowed in either of the galleries.  But if you head to The Textile Blog, by John Hopper, you will get to see some photos that he had permission to show and an overview of the show.  Art Quilt Elements will be there until May19th.

 AND, if you love to walk, there is a rail trail, The Radnor Trail that you can hop on from the parking lot of the Art Center to take a beautiful 4 mile spring walk and digest  the future of the art quilt.

Friday, April 23, 2010

And The Winner Is:

It is noon EST on Friday and I have used to pick the winner of the book give away - Fabric+Paint+Thread=Fabulous by Pat Durbin. And the winner is: #22 commentor, Carole Blackburn . Congratulations! have fun experimenting Carole.

And congratulations to Pat Durbin for her ribbon at the AQS Quilt show in Paducah!!! Yeah Pat.  If you want to see the other winners:

Nancy's Most Excellent Adventure

I have a wonderful friend named NancyShe is one of my oldest friends.  We met doing a school charity quilting project while ours sons were in elementary school.  It's hard to believe it's been 16 years.  With the advent of Spring and after being cooped up for a snowy winter, I thought I would treat her to a day of fun in the city of Philadelphia to celebrate her upcoming birthday.
We started at The Magic Garden.  This building was a project started by Isaiah Zagar, a mosaic mural artist.  The walls and the floors both inside and out are adorned.  Almost every nook and cranny, creating little passages, is covered with mosaics made from tiles, broken mirrors, toys, bottles, bicycle tire rims and many found objects.  It is really sensory overload.  You don't know where to look first.  It is still a work in progress, with Isaish, now in his 70's, still being the creative director.  The tiles with designs on them, like the faces and words,  are made on the premises in their basement kiln.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the enormity of the project.  It is truly mind boggling.

We headed down to Penn's Landing and had lunch on the Mosholu, a tall ship built in 1904,  sat alongside the window and had a wonderful view of the Atlantic Ocean and a delicious meal.
Our final stop was the Perelman Building at The Art Museum of Philadelphia to see the embroidered Kantha quilts of Bengal.  I chose this day to go, because there were 2 women who came all the way from Kolcutta  to demonstrate how they do their stitching.  

The quilts on display at the museum are from the late 1800's and early 1900's and were solely made for family members.  Photography without a flash was allowed.  Nancy's camera did a much better job than mine with the low light.  Most of the quilts had some sort of a center medallion, with the other designs surrounding it.  Many of the edges were finished with a blanket stitch.  Some of the edges had no stitching at all.
We then went to watch the women stitch.  There has been a movement to  teach  this art of embroidered quilts  to contemporary women so that they can earn money by selling the finished embroidered pieces.  Some of the larger pieces can take them up to a year to make.  The amazing thing about the embroidery is that almost all of the designs are made with a running stitch.  In making the quilts, the first step is to draw their design onto the  background cloth.  Then it is outlined and then filled in.  After that the background is quilted.  One of the ladies used a hoop and the other did not. Instead og the silk sari thread that they used in the late 19th century, the women were using Anchor floss - 2 strands.                 
The motifs in these quilts  are so simple and naive - truly folk art.  Of course I am mesmerized by their many tree interpretations.  There are lots of peacocks, birds, elephants, circular medallions and paisleys.  They depict what is common in everyday life.

The quilts, which are part of 2 private collections, will be in Philadelphia through July.  It is definitely worth the trip if you love folk art and embroidery.

Hope you had a great birthday adventure Nancy! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Reviews and Give A Way

Oh Happy Day! I was so thrilled to be asked to review some books for Martingale & Co. I had my choice and chose what seems to be on the surface 2 very different books. But at their core is the opportunity to stretch your creativity.

Mary Lou Weidman has distilled her creative process and has articulately included it in Out Of The Box, unleash your creativity through quilts. This is truly fabric folk art with all of the how to's. Mary Lou offers extensive tips on how to come up with a theme, how to put together fabrics, putting words on the quilts and where to find inspiration.

You can't help but smile as you leaf through this book. The fabric color choices - plaids and polka dots and stripes - and the people depicted as caricatures, are bright and cheerful. These are combined to enable you to make a quilt that tells a story - the joy of becoming a Grandmother or a tribute to her Grandmother, the cowgirl. Included there are also lots of quilts created by her students. An added bonus is directions for preparing these wild scrappy borders, that she calls hoochy mama borders. But be warned, this book assumes prior knowledge and gives little instruction on applique - the predominant technique used for putting together the quilts.

Although you may be attracted to this book by the colorful quilts, all of Mary Lou's tips and techniques can be added to your quilt design toolbox, no matter what your color palette.

The second book is Pat Durbin's Fabric+Paint + Thread = Fabulous. This book involves the use of paint and threadwork to create nature type art quilts. It is a peek into the methods that Pat uses to maker her amazing landscape quilts. Since these techniques were new to me, I decided to give them a try. I went to my local chain craft shop looking for the paint that Pat recommends in her book - SoSoft Acrylic by DecoArt. I didn't find that brand, so I chose what I thought was a suitable substitute. For the threadwork, I already had the water soluble stabilizer and the spring loaded embroidery hoop and lots of different thread.
I love making trees, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to use Pat's method and make a little artquilt with a painted background. I started by painting an 8x10ish piece of fabric. I learned that less is more. Since you start with damp fabric, it is best to let the paint move a bit on its own.

While it was drying I worked on the trees. I thread painted a large one and 2 smaller ones. They were fun to make. To keep it simple, I cut the background to make 2 little pieces. I really didn't want to add any other elements.

I layered with batting, did a little free motion quilting, fused and stitched down the moon and then added the trees. I finished one as a postcard

and the other I bound as a little piece.

This was a lot of fun. I am happy to say that I have added some techniques to my toolbox. And I would like to share the fun with you. I want to give this book away! Leave a comment here before Thursday, April 22rd. On Friday, April 23rd at noon, EST I will pick a name from everyone who left a comment, with a random number generator. If your name is chosen, I will send you this wonderful book via US Mail. BUT, YOU MUST LIVE IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES. (Sorry to my overseas friends.) So check back here on Fridayto see who the lucky winner will be.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Afternoon To Recharge

While I was "working my butt off " (ha ha) at ProChem, my traveling companions (husband and dog) spent their days checking out the scenery of quaint New England towns nearby. They found lots of them, on the water and with lovely looking shops and lots of museums. Their trips underscored that next time we come to Fall River to dye, extra days must be built in.
But, my husband was so impressed by the town of Newport, RI, that we stayed an extra night. After class was over on Sunday, we drove about 20 minutes to see the mansions. I got whiplash. I didn't know where to look first. Eleven of the mansions are owned by The Preservation Society of Newport County, RI and are open as museums. These were summer cottages! During the late 19th century, families like the Vanderbilts fled the city for some R&R at the seashore. Their cottage is called The Breakers and is the centerpiece of the Newport Mansions.

There are also many private estates and mansions. Since we had little Bailey with us, we chose to do the gawking and driving tour. Walking would be the best option. We will do that next time. One of my favorite places was the Art Museum. Check out the slate roof:

There are also tons of restaurants and many little shopping districts. As we were driving in the cobblestoned area, I spotted Claire Murray's storefront. Stop! Find a parking space! I almost broke my ankle on the cobblestones as I rushed to the store. Claire Murray is famous for these gorgeous hooked rugs, many depicting seashore life. The shop was closed, but I was still able to snap a photo, while I was drooling over all these rugs.

And of course, when you are checking out the mansions, you have to check out some of the For Sale signs. Anyone have an extra $10-15 million?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fabric Dyeing For Quilters

I have returned from my 5 whirlwind days in Fall River at Pro Chem and have tried to debrief my brain. The amount of information that Carol Soderlund has in her brain and has accumulated over the years is mind boggling, and she is willing to share it all. I’m not sure where to start, so I will just begin.

I will try and recap the remainder of the 5 days to give you a feeling for the overall experience . At the outset, I want to say that this is THE BEST workshop I have ever taken and Carol Soderlund is the most organized, generous and knowledgeable teacher. That being said:


A bird’s eye view of the classroom which is also the dyeing room for us.


Including a washer and dryer, along with many sinks.

Every day, Carol would lecture at least part of the morning and usually again in the afternoon, and then demo what we were to do. Her explanations covered making up dye solutions, preparation of the fiber, dye setting, mottled, solid, low immersion dyeing, depth of shade, dyeing by calculations as well as dyeing using her charts and the most fascinating of all was the 3D Color Theory. We learned about dyeing to get the exact color we wanted as well as dyeing to achieve various effects and to explore.

The ultimate goal for most was to assemble the bible of fabric swatches.


This notebook contains over 1000 1inch color swatches. This can be used to precisely dye fabric to the desired color.prochem25

We would begin our day between 8:30 and 9AM. Before you knew it, it was lunch time. Lunch was included in the workshop fee. It turned out to be a wonderful cross-section of the ethnicity of the area, which has a very big Portuguese population. Lunch ranged from pizzas, subs, wraps,lasagna and pockets along with salads and chips and cookies. It was well needed energy and a respite. We often continued our explorations at least until 6PM when we were all told to GO HOME!. One night we did stay for dinner and another night we worked in the conference room at the hotel working on our books.

Oh the books. It would have been an insurmountable task to dye all of that fabric, cut it and create the book by your self. We were put into 3 teams to do the dyeing and cutting. prochem29 Carol’s instructions for keeping the swatches in an ordered manner with labels and envelopes and pre-printed sheets was instrumental in compiling this compendium.

Carol is demonstrating how to prepare the dye solutions for gradation dyeing,

prochem10and the resulting fabric strips.


Here are some fabrics that were dyed during the week by various class members. Below are pieces dyed by my deskmate Angela. She’s a weaver and wasn’t as impressed with her exercise of 2 different shades of the same color as we were! She was showered with ideas of what to do with that beautiful fabric.


Anne, another non-quilter, produced a beautiful piece of cloth using low immersion dyeing. You may know Anne from her company that produces hand-dyed threads, only available through retail needlepoint stores. If you go to her website you can see the various threads and where you can buy them.

Gloriana Threads


Susan wanted to share with us what happens when you dye a shirt without soaking the dye in fixative! Oops!


And just in case you didn’t think we had any fun during the week – our fearless leader:


Thank you to ProChem for their hospitality. Thank you to Carol for sharing her knowledge and techniques in a format that all could learn. My recommendation is if you have an interest in dyeing cloth or threads, this is the place to learn and Carol is the teacher to learn from. Go to Pro Chem’s website and get on their mailing list. Once the class is open for registration, it does not take long before it fills up. I am planning on attending Part 2 next Spring.

And here are some snippets of other gorgeous fabrics:

prochem18 Carol’s samples.

My rick rack and thread experiment:


A pile of dyed T-shirts.


And here is a piece of Brilliance dyed by Liz on the right. It’s a blend of cotton and silk. One side is shiney and the other side is dull. Look at the difference in color between the 2 sides. So rich! Jackquie has the other beautious purple cotton fabric.

prochem69 prochem35

And here’s a piece by Sally – a prof at Rhode Island School of Design.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pure Eye Candy

For today, just some pure eye candy!

In the dye bath!

Oh the colors!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ten Things I Learned In Dyeing Class Today

1. Pro Chem & Dye is the mecca for fabric dyeing. (It is housed in an old typical New England textile factory.)

2. Carol Soderlund presents the most organized workshop based on her 14 years of teaching dyeing and is extremely generous and knowledgeable.

3. Her handouts are amazingly detailed and informative.

4. The class is full with many students who have been dyeing with happy accidents and now ant an organized and systematic method. (Including me!)

5. Pro Chem offers about 140 different color MX dyes.

6. Of all those dyes, there are 16 pure dyes.

7. From 9 of these pure dyes, we will end up with 1042 color swatches. Along with the swatches, we will all go home with a notebook with the formulas, that everyone is lusting after.

8. It's deja vu all over again, back to college chemistry lab with the graduated cylinders.

9. Tyvek is great to use for labeling. It is inert to the dye.

10. Stirring the dye bucket for 15 minutes seems like forever.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fall River Here We Come

We are going on a road trip. The dog, the husband and me!
We're heading to Fall River, Massachusetts to take a fabric dyeing workshop at
Pro Chemical & Dye with Carol Soderlund.
The class is full. It always is, so I registered on the first available day. The description says you go home with a binder of 1000 dyed fabric swatches and how to formulate them.
Sounds like fun to me.
I'm also bringing 5 yards of cotton, cotton threads and some dupioni silk to dye.

Yes, it is a family adventure - including Bailey.
A 6 hour drive for 5 days of fabric dyeing heaven.

The supply list included lots of office supplies and lots of empty bottles.
I also packed lots of black clothes.

I'm bringing my computer and will try to post as often as I can. Let me know if you have any questions that I can ask them for you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Today was the sewing day for the reusable shopping bags for the upcoming baby shower. I had cut them all and they were ready for construction. My DIL arrived with my old sewing machine, a delicious mango cake and my son, ready for a marathon sewing session. She was determined to make these bags and become comfortable threading the sewing machine. (Remember those days when you dreaded that your thread would break or you would run out of bobbin thread?) My personal chef provided the Easter dinner.

We sewed and ate and sewed and ate.
She was a quick study as she sewed away. I included this photo as proof to her
family that O can sew.

And she finished her first bag. Yippeee!
(Please ignore my design wall, which is really my visual filing cabinet.)

14 down, 16 to go!

Now she's on her own. I know she can do it. You go girl!