Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adios, 2011!!

Not that I have any particularly bad memories of the year, it's been ok.  I think it will go down in my memory as the Year I Learned to Control the Dyes, thanks to a week with Carol Soderlund.  Worth all the other fabric related classes I've taken, and then some.  I'll be taking Part Two with her in July.

I've work short hours since Christmas, and have been BUSY!  Shannon and I made scrubs to give as gifts:

Pumpkin spice brown sugar scrub (smells yummy!)

Sweet orange salt scrub- another heavenly smell.

All nicely packaged and ready to gift- Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub, Sweet Orange Salt Scrub, Lavender Salt Scrub.

We made kolache, a scrumptious, highly caloric cookie I only make at Christmas.  Butter, cream cheese, flour, and apricot filling- that's it.  But they are to die for.

I decided it was time to get the mis-dyed color swatches done for my Dye Bible.  These are the last of the dozen or so I did, ready for the washout.

And I decided it was time to clean up the studio, I have a Tangled Textile piece I need to get started on this week.  And, what better way to usher in the new creative year?  Wow, I can see the floor of my fabric closet!  I managed to get rid of one plastic storage bin that was taking up valuable storage space, and get other stuff better organized.  And yes, I threw out stuff too!!

Woohoo, Utah just pulled off a win in overtime against Georgia Tech!!  (Sorry, Judy!!)  What a game- BYU won their bowl game yesterday, which meant I really wanted Utah to win theirs.  College football and New Year's- what better combination!

I'm wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year, with blessings and creativity.  That's my prayer for the year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's All About the Food

Because that's pretty much all I did this weekend, play in the kitchen!  We had our family party with DH's sisters and their families today.  We supplied scalloped potatoes and salad, one sister supplied a ham.  Another brought pies- and I had to make cupcakes!!

And, just for the heck of it, I also made cookies and bread, although it wasn't out for consumption at the party.

The bread is a Christmas stollen I make every year.  It's a yummy sweet yeast bread full of almonds, dried cherries, apicots, and blueberries.  Not the traditional fruit, but it's what I like.  I got an early Christmas present of an electric cookie press, so I had to try it out making lemon butter cookies.

I ended up making three kinds of cupcakes.  Gingerbread, because Jaden specifically requested them (and he doesn't request my food very often!).  I also made tiramisu cupcakes, and lemon blackberry cupcakes.  The last ones were the biggest hit.

They all tasted fantastic, but I definitely need practice with the decorating tips.  Fortunately drizzled blackberry puree and cocoa powder can cover a multitude of sins.

We did an inexpensive gift exchange- I ended up with kitchen towels and a fabric bread bowl.  Seems fitting, somehow, doesn't it?

We drank, ate,  played games and just enjoyed the time together.  A lovely way to end the weekend!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Therapy Sewing

Rayna is right, it's the best prescription for the creative doldrums.  Or just the doldrums, in this social worker's opinion!

It started with a Christmas project with Shannon, but I now have a small stash of freeform strips started.  What fun to just grab fabric and start stitching.  Since I started with Christmas, I'm still doing a lot of green and red and gold.  But I have a stash of Easy Pieces blocks that are every shade of purple on my radar.

So the studio is in disarray, with piles of fabric sorted by value.  

My pile of strips is growing.  And think what I can do with those blocks!  Not all the Easy Pieces blocks are purple, I did have some with green so I took those out to play with now.
I am loving how my hand dyed and printed cloth is playing with my commercial fabric stash.  I have enough smaller pieces to keep doing this for quite awhile!!

My first two free form blocks, started with squares that I just kept dividing and adding to.  

 I have no idea how I will end up using these blocks and stirps.  I just know that it is relaxing and fun, and it is something I can do even after ten hours at work.  I am way to tired at night to even think about quilting, which is why 'Grace' is coming along so slowly.  A couple of strip sets or blocks?  No problem!

So thank you, Rayna, I feel like I've gotten two early Christmas presents!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

An Early Christmas Present

I haven't been blogging much lately- I haven't had much interesting to say.  Not a lot of quilty work going on- I did do some more on 'Grace', but it is far from done.  Maybe I'll get to it this weekend, I can only hope.

I did get two lovely presents in the mail this week.  I have three quilts published in two books!!

First came Charlotte Warr Andersen's second book on geometric quilting designs.

  I've used several of the designs from her first book in quilts, including one of the first I did for the Interpret This! online challenge group.  That's the quilt that found its way into this book:

I know I want to use a geometric design in parts of 'Grace', so I have been thumbing my way through both books trying to decide.  The jury is still out on that.

Then a few days later this showed up in my mailbox!

I read the book cover to cover the day I got it.  If you don't have a copy, run get one!  Rayna is fun to read, and I love her approach to design.  This may be just the jump-start I need this winter to get the juices going again.  Heaven knows I have enough stash to sew strips and play with them!! 

'Green' and 'Pinks on Parade' are the two in Rayna's book.

'Pinks on Parade' was gifted to a friend in Grand Junction; the other two are hanging in my studio.

Although I haven't done a lot of dyeing since I took Carol Soderlund's workshop last summer, I played with a scarf last weekend.  I wanted to dye it to coordinate with a sweater I got. The dye bible is worth its weight in gold- I picked the color I wanted, and got just that.  Even the fact that I was dyeing silk instead of cotton didn't seem to make much difference.  Today I got two dye colors from Pro Chem, so I have every color I need to dye from the book.

Winter has definitely rolled into Utah- we missed out on the high winds that blasted a lot of people in Salt Lake northward, but temperatures have dropped and snow is in the forecast.  A good reason to keep warm in the studio!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm still here. . . .

but not a lot to talk about.  I haven't spent much time in the studio- I did spend several days horizontal, going through Kleenex at a very rapid rate.  I hate colds.

I do have a new toy.  I love my SLR, and have learned a lot about photography with it.  But I decided I wanted a smaller camera that I could carry with me all the time.  I did some research, picked several models that I thought would work for me, and started haunting the two used camera websites to see what they had.  I ended up with a Nikon S8000- a point and shoot that got decent reviews.

I've had it ten days.  I haven't played with it as much as I'd hoped, but I have done some.  So far, so good.  I've deleted a bunch of photos I wasn't happy with.  I do like this one of a sunrise- the sky colors were just amazing.

It has been slow or no going on the creative front.  I'm hoping to change that this long weekend.  I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with family and gratitude.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Good Eats- In Person!!

Although I don't blog about it often, I think I would qualify as a bonafide foodie.  I love to cook, and raised three children who also love to cook.  Food TV didn't exist when I was growing up, but Shannon got addicted to it early on and turned me on to it.  One of the first Food TV personalities I watched was Alton Brown on Good Eats.  So when Sean told me that we were going to a book signing he was doing in nearby Branden, I did not argue!

Ignore my fisted hand, I have not a clue what I was doing or thinking!  

Unaware that the bookstore had been handing out numbered tickets for the event starting the evening before, we showed up at Books a Million at 5:30, and hour and a half before the signing started- and were handed number 287.  Oh joy!!  When Marly realized how many people were in line, and how long we would be there, her only comment was "Too many foodies in one place!!"

Staff arranged us in lines snaking around the store.  I had plenty of time to read several quilting magazines, and find a copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" for Michelle.  We talked to the people around us in line, and the three of us took turns staying in line while another walked Michelle around.  A two year old has limited patience for slowly moving lines!

At nine pm, the store closed the doors to the mall.  We were able to see Alton by this point.  A few minutes later, he strode away from his table and into the crowd, saying, "Where are the little kids?"  Next thing we knew, staff we going down the line, telling anyone with small children to move to the front of the line.  We didn't argue!!

I asked him to sign a book for a Christmas present, Sean made a special request for his.  Although it was brief, I can say that Alton Brown is pretty much the same in person as he is on TV- real, and funny!  It was a fun way to spend my last night in Florida, and to leave with a one-of-a-kind Christmas present.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My Dolphin Tale

Well, I may not have made it to St. Augustine, but I did get to meet a couple of celebrities while I was in Florida.  Sean has lived in Tampa for ten years, and tells me he never heard of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium until I asked him about it after seeing the movie.

Monday afternoon we packed up the Michelle and my camera and headed over the bridge to Clearwater.  We found it easily, it was behind a fancy seafood restaurant where Sean took Shannon and me to dinner on our first trip to Florida in 2002.

If you've seen the movie, the aquarium is easily recognizable.  There's now a ticket tent in the parking lot, and there has been some remodeling inside, but it felt familiar.

Photographic proof of my presence there!  What I wouldn't give to be in 85 degree weather again. . . 

We wandered around the pools, wondering what we were looking at.  This is a rescue and rehab operation, not a place where the dolphins put on shows.  I finally asked  one of the staff where Winter was, and she pointed to a dolphin in the tank I was looking at.  

I learned that they would have a session with her later on, so we wandered around.  I watched a training session with a young rescue dolphin, saw some river otters, and stood entranced by a tank of sting rays.  I had no idea those creatures were so graceful when they swam.  Finally, we decided to snag our seats for Winter.

I thought she wore the prosthetic tail most of the time, but that is not the case.  Staff put it on her 3-4 times a day for about fifteen minutes, and run her through a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles that don't get used with her side-to-side swim motion.  It was fascinating to watch.

This is one of the exercises they did with her after the tail was attached.

It was so interesting watching the staff interact with the dolphins.

For those with deeper pockets than we had, you could meet Winter up close and personal.  I don't think this little boy knew quite what to think or do!!

I bought some tee shirts to help support the aquarium programs, and took tons of pictures.  It was a fascinating afternoon, one I'd gladly do again.

Monday, October 31, 2011


We did make it to Orlando on Sunday- Michelle was feeling much better.  We met my sister at her timeshare, then decided to head out to some outlet malls.  I won't bore you with the details, other than I scored some shoes and a few clothing items at Coldwater Creek.  I now know that Orlando is a place I don't need to visit again- it is definitely for the tourists.

After eating a late lunch, we took Carol back to her digs.  The rest of us decided to hit Disney Main Street before heading home to Tampa.  That's about the only time I took photos during the day!!

I saw amazing creations with Legos--

We walked and enjoyed the music and the lights--

We posed in front of the Irish pub--

Sean tried to get Michelle to sit on top of the pumpkin, but she would have no part of that.

Marly and Michelle had fun with this mime artist- he moved around depending on what the people in front of him did.

And that was our day ih Orlando.  Fun, but don't know that I have any great yen to return there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jet Lag

That pretty much described me yesterday.  I got back Friday night from a week in Florida with my son and his family.  After spending all day in airports and planes, I got to Salt Lake to be greeted by a horrendous Friday night traffic jam.  A trip home that normally takes about an hour took over three.  The joys of freeway reconstruction!!

Our original plan had been to drive to Orlando on Saturday to connect with my sister, then drive Sunday with her to St. Augustine.  Michelle got sick Friday, however, so all plans were off. We spent Saturday at home, pumping her full of medication in the hopes she'd be well enough for a trip to Orlando on Sunday.

Saturday was also my son's birthday.  So, stuck at home, what else is there to do but cook?  (Especially true when a couple of foodies get together!!)  First I made Sean's birthday cupcakes-

Yum- pound cake chocolate chunk cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  That isn't just chocolate drizzle decorating them.  At Sean's request, I made this to go on the cupcakes-- dark chocolate covered bacon!!

I was not sure about that one, but tried it- and liked it!  Why not, I think bacon and peanut butter are perfect together.  So what's not to like about luscious dark chocolate??

Before we got to the cupcakes, however, was dinner.  Sean made some special burgers- on a ciabatta roll, with garlic aioli, grilled pears, and brie cheese.  They were yummy!

It's accompanied by a Latin slaw, one of the few ways Marly will eat cabbage.

After dinner, Michelle helped her daddy blow out his birthday candle.  Clearly the medications were helping!!

 A luscious end to Sean's birthday!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Tools of the Trade

Yesterday was the reveal day for the Tangled Textiles latest challenge, Tools.  Here's my interpretation of the theme:

This was my first ever attempt at doing mixed media work.  I used my rusted fabric, other hand dyed fabric, pieces of paper torn out of a dictionary, gel medium, paint, and Shiva paintstiks.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to interpret the theme.  When I thought about my work, the tools always came in secondary.  The two elements that I would be helpless without are my hands and my eyes- so that is the direction I took.  The choice was also probably influenced by my increasing awareness of the value of my hands!  Youth takes for granted their abilities and capacities; most youthful hands perform their appointed tasks with minimal awareness on the part of the actor.  But aged hands show the signs of their long use- creaks, pains, and flat-out inability to do tasks easily done before.  Mine are no exception.  So I have come to value my hands much more in recent years than I did as a youth!

My desire to try this was sparked by an article in the August/September Quilting Arts by Jennifer Solon.  I wanted to try the way of working without creating a piece that looked like it was inspired by the article.  I think I succeeded!  Another goal was to find a way to use my rust dyed fabrics without driving me or my sewing machine crazy.  My hope was that coating it with gel medium before I did any stitching would lock those tiny metallic particles into the fabric, preventing them from breaking my thread and making my machine go CLUNK.  That theory seemed to be valid, also- I did lots of stitching, and no thread or other issues.

I layers torn strips of fabric on black felt.  When I was happy with the design, I gave it a couple of coats of gel medium.  I think I mixed matte and gloss.  I layered on the torn pieces of paper, and stitched.  Then I applied Setacolor transparent paints, stamps, more paper- I just kept going until I was happy with the result.  The last element was the large hand, done with a freezer paper stencil and Shiva paintstiks.  And yes, it is my hand.  After I let the painstik color cure for a few days, I gave it a couple more coats of gel medium.  Here's some detail shots--

I had to think long and hard about how to finish the edges.  I didn't want the hard line created by a binding or satin stitched edge.  I finally chose to stitch a piece of blue-green tulle around the edge, and cut it so the edge was choppy rather than straight.  It gave the shadowed effect I wanted- finished, but subtly.

It was a strange experience creating this piece.  At times it literally felt like a out of body experience.  At times I wondered, "Where is this coming from?"  As I have spent more time with it in the studio, however, it has grown on me and I'm happy to claim it as my creation.  It has also sparked a desire to play more with the mixed media.

It was fascinating seeing the myriad of interpretations of the 'Tools' theme.  Jump on over to the Tangled Textiles blog and take a look!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Perfect Fall Weekend

Perfect as in perfect weather- not cold, not hot, just perfect walking weather.  I walked by the river with the dog a couple of times- it sure felt good!

The trees in the valley are finally starting to show some color.  I loved the look on this part of the walk, they form a canopy over the trail.

This thistle doesn't seem to have figured out that the growing season is fast coming to an end!!  The colors really stood out among the dead and dying grasses and plants.

I also got in some studio time.  I started  new piece with  hand dye I did over the summer.  I've had it up on my wall, looking at it for quite awhile.  I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to emphasize with the quilting, but I wanted to try drawing it over the fabric first.

I used my Quilter's Preview Paper (plastic, really!) to try what I had in mind.  It came together so easily it scared me- exactly the effect I wanted, long flowing lines juxtaposed against a structured, geometric motif.  I'm not sure just what the geometric part will end up as, but I started with the flowing lines.  I quilted for about two hours, then realized that I was having puckering issues that were getting worse.  I ended up ripping out ALL the stitching I'd done, and fusing the hand dye to a light-weight stabilizer, which was then fused to the black background.  I'm using black felt instead of batting, so the piece should hang straight with all that.  It will be more of a pain to get through the machine for the flowing part, but worth it in the long run.  I got two lines quilted after I re-did it, then called it a day.  I've learned that I need to quilt in the morning, not late in the day- I'm too prone to accidents then.

The Tangled Textiles reveal is Friday, which is also the day I am winging my way to Florida to spend a week with my granddaughter (and her parents!).  I am so looking forward to it, she is growing up so fast and really developing her own personality.  We're going to visit St. Augustine, I'm hoping to get some good architectural photos.  So visit the Tangled Textile blog on Friday, and take a look at all the ways you can interpret the word 'Tools!'

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Long Weekend (in the Dyepots!!)

I have a long weekend, and so far have spent at least one solid day in the studio.  I got my next Tangled Textiles piece totally done- but no looking at that until the reveal day on the 18th.  

I bought a circular rayon scarf from Dharma a few months ago, and finally got around to dyeing it.  Yeah, the red and gray that I've already posted.  Something about the scarf bugged me- not the dye job, but the size.  I decided it was too wide, so I cut it in half- and now I had two almost identical red and gray scarves.  I like the colors and patterning, but I don't need two!

So I cooked one half in a Thiox bath.  All the gray turned to white, and the red areas turned yellow.  At least that's what color it was when I took it out of the Thiox bath.  After I took it out of the washer, it looked like this.  Yuck.

If it had stayed the yellow, I would have had lots of options for overdyeing.  This not-so-lovely color (straight out of  a baby's diaper, I think!) left me with limited choices.  I did manage to find something I thought would work out of the Dye Book, though.

Three hours later I had this.  Better, but still not enought zing for me.

So I went through my stencils and picked out a couple of Paintstik colors I thought would blend, and went to work.  By this afternoon, I had this!

I ended up using three colors instead of two- I highlighted the copper squares with gold on two edges.  I'm happy now, it feels done.

One interesting side note- if you look closely, you can see the thread I used to finish the edge- it's on the left in the photo.  I used cotton thread, figuring it would dye with the fabric.  Apparently it has enough polyester that it won't dye, or at least not much.  It's not obvious, though, so I'll still wear the scarf- with a great deal of pleasure!

I also started another quilt, but Blogger is being a pain and taking forever to download photos.  So I am calling it a night, maybe it will be more cooperative tomorrow.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Shannon and I spent the better part of this weekend in Grand Junction, Colorado.  She is investigating Colorado Christian College's nursing program, and wanted to see what kind of place Grand Junction is.  We stayed with my AQuA friend Susan, who is a wonderful hostess.  It was a lovely relaxing weekend.

We got there early enough on Friday to meet with someone from the college, who answered a lot of our questions and gave both of us a better feel for their program.  That meant we had all of Saturday to go play and see the town!

We visited one of the wineries in Palisade, a picturesque little town just east of Grand Junction.  We both fell in love with the old homes in the town.  I haven't been around so many old hippies since I don't know when.

We also found a peach grower that had some left from the late harvest, and treated ourselves to a small box of Palisade peaches.  We walked around their charming little downtown, and had coffee and a sweet treat.  I found inspiration looking down--

Cool sidewalk, no??

Then we drove back to Grand Junction and walked through the old downtown.  I remembered it as being a nice place to walk, and we had lots of company.  There was a gourd festival going on, and some of the streets were blocked to traffic.  I liked how they have art all along the downtown corridor-

When the weather got a little threatening, we found a brew pub and split an order of fish and chips- yum! I found a lovely skirt in a toney thrift shop, some citric acid to use in my silk dyeing, and a couple of small rollers- one set for the kitchen, the other set for roller stamps.  I also found a bunch more cool cookie cutters to use in batik.

Late in the afternoon, we joined Susan and some of her friends that I'd met on a previous trip for a movie and dinner evening.  We all thoroughly enjoyed 'A Dolphin Tale', and talked and laughed over a Smash Burger and sweet potato fries.  Shannon and I couldn't resist washing ours down with some good beer.  All in all, a lovely trip!  We got home about 2 pm today, just in time to finish up some laundry and get ready for the work week.

I asked Susan for a crit of my Tangled Textiles piece, and was very happy with her feedback.  I should have that one done by the end of the week.  All that's left is to fuse the backing and add the binding.

Now I'm off to do some ironing before relaxing with a book.  Hope your week is a good one!!