Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I did not go near the studio this past weekend.  I had to work part of Friday, and Saturday Shannon and I had Plans.  Yes, Plans with a Capital P.  The times they are changing in Utah!

The western states, with a few notable exceptions, have never been much for public transportation other than maybe woefully slow bus systems, and Utah was no exception.  The Olympics in 2002 helped start the change- they did rebuild a lot of I-15 through Salt Lake, but they also started Trax, the electric train that ran from downtown Salt Lake to the southernmost suburb in the Salt Lake valley, Sandy.  I remember all the nay-sayers and their belief that we were throwing tax money down a rat hole. Trax now has a spur that runs up to the University of Utah, one that goes into West Valley City, and another into the southwest suburbs.  In April, a spur out to the airport will open.  It has made Salt Lake an easier place to move around without a car.

Then five years ago, a commuter rail line named FrontRunner opened between Ogden, the large city about an hour north of Salt Lake.  It made a commute between the two metro areas much easier than driving I-15.  When I heard they were planning to extend FrontRunner south, I was ecstatic.  I have very vivid memories of traveling all over Europe by rail when I was younger.  It was a lesson to me- it was possible to live somewhere without a car, something that was pretty much impossible in Southern California where I grew up.

I have been watching the construction for the past three years, and all that anticipation came to fruition this weekend.  FrontRunner to Provo officially opened on December 10, two years ahead of schedule.  And to get people to try it out, they ran trains to Salt Lake from 10 am to 10 pm on Saturday, December 8, free of charge.  Shannon and I were there by 10:30 am!!

We had to wait about 45 minutes to get onto a train- the line was long, and they only allowed about 100 people on each train in Provo, to allow for passengers boarding in the three stops north of Provo.  This is what the line looked like from inside the train.  Yes, it was a cold and snowy day!!

The inside of the trains is very nicely appointed, with free wifi and some seats with tables where you can set a laptop.  They are quiet and smooth.  I got this picture of the winter scenery, somewhere in north Utah county.

But riding the rails was not the only reason we waited in the cold to get the train.  One of the things I have most missed about California is Trader Joe's- a unique "grocery" that is a foodie's idea of heaven.  I never thought we would get one in Utah, because of our insane liquor laws.  Every Trader Joe's I've ever been in has a large liquor and wine selection, so I just didn't think they'd open a store without it.  Well, apparently they do- because our Trader Joe's opened in Salt Lake on November 30.  To say I was happy about this is an understatement of vast proportions!!

Shannon and I got to Salt Lake about 12:30, with both of us hungry.  We had lunch at Jason's Deli at the Gateway, a large shopping center (also developed for the Olympics) close to the train station.  Then we hopped on Trax to downtown, changed trains to go the U, and hopped off right by Trader Joe's.  Best of all, the Trax ride is all in the downtown free ride zone!!  

Yes, the parking lot was packed- one more reason to go here on the train!  And yes, it was snowing.  Who cares??

The store was packed, even a week after opening.  Everyone was in good humor, patient, and talking about how happy we are to have this piece of foodie bliss in our midst.

I walked out with dark chocolate sea salt caramels, dried Montmorency cherries, sweet and spicy pecans, candied pecans, Jojo's (TJ's version of Oreos, only mint), cookie butter, peanut butter, sparkling Chardonnay grape juice, and a vial of saffron at a ridiculously low price .  Shannon got a panetone in addition to a lot of the same stuff I did.  She was happy to find grade B maple syrup- again, at a ridiculously low price.  I'll be getting some of that when I return.

I'm going to have to figure out how I can get some of their frozen food items home on the train- wondering how I can turn a suitcase into a rolling freezer container without rendering it otherwise useless.  All in all, it was a totally satisfying day- with free transportation to boot!

Sunday, December 02, 2012


I finished the quilting on the background matte for Walk in the Woods 2 this weekend, and got the quilt sew to the matte.  All I have left to do is the label and sleeve- and, since I am planning to enter this in a show in Salt Lake in January, I won't be slow about those!

The quilting on the matte that bothered me when I started grew on me as I did it.  I may do it a little differently for the next in the series, but I'm happy with this one.  And if you are wondering, the matte is intentionally longer on the bottom.  I quilted a combination of leaf outlines and straight lines on the matte.

Last weekend we went to a couple of craft fairs.  Most of it was stuff that held no interest for me, but one vendor grabbed my attention immediately.  She had an entire booth of hand-sewn small quilts and pillows.  After a lot of deliberation, I chose this one- I couldn't resist that shot of chartreuse!

The quilt is entirely made by hand- as far as I can tell, using reverse applique and no or a very thin batt.  As for where it comes from,I'll just quote the information I received with the quilt:

The amazing story of Lila Handicrafts began perhaps thousands of years ago when women in the desert area of Pakistan started making beautiful textiles and quilts.  Patterns and colors in the cotton were passed down from mother to daughter produced time honored practical and beautiful quilts called rallis.

In 2004, men and women in the small village of Tehsil Diploh, Sindh in the far southern part of the Thar Desert formed a cooperative to make and sell their rallis.  They are from the Hindu untouchable group  and had very few opportunities to make money in a rural area.  Through the internet, they reached Patricia Stoddard who had written the first book about rallis.  The rallis from Lila Handicrafts were first sold at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in 2006.  Since then, they have been sold every year.  They were even featured in "O" Magazine in 2010!

Originally, the money from the rallis was used to provide a primary school for their children.  In August 2011, a terrible flood hit the entire region affecting about 6 million people.  Selling their Lila rallis provided the families with some funds to rebuild their lives and continue in their good efforts.  Special thanks to SHINEhumanity.org for their help in sustaining and rebuilding the community!  For more information see www.ralliquilt.com or www.ralliquilt.com.uk.

I love being able to buy a beautiful piece of fiber art, and helping a community in a poor part of the globe at the same time.  Once I get a sleeve sewn on the back, it will be a wonderful shot of color in my home- and a reminder of how women throughout the world find both joy in creating beauty with fabric, needle and thread.  

I'm linking this post up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays.  Go look at all the other creative spirits linked up there!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quilting the Frame

We had a very low-key, relaxed Thanksgiving weekend.  We didn't even cook, but went out for dinner.  I've managed to find some time in the studio, working on the frame for the Walk in the Woods piece, and starting the next Tangled Textiles challenge.

I am liking doing these small pieces.  I have no excuse not to finish them, and hopefully make all the mistakes on the small rather than a larger piece.  Here's where I'm at with the frame so far--

I thought I'd continue the lines of the trees at the top, using a variegated thread that looked like it would blend it with the fabric.  Instead, it has a pale part that really stands out, at least to my eye.  I'm not sure I'm in love with the effect, but no way I'm ripping it all out.

I've done some free motion leaves on the rest of the frame, and in order to balance the other three sides with the top, I'll have to quilt the closely spaced lines between the leaves, also.  

Not a lot of work left on it, but enough that I won't finish it this weekend.  And I'm making mental notes of the parts I want to change when I do this in a larger size.  I think I'll limit the quilting on the frame to leaves, in a solid color thread that just blends in with the background.

I'm still considering how I will finish the edge of the frame.  I may do an envelope finish, I'm kind of leaning in that direction.  But I haven't eliminated the idea of finishing that edge like the central piece, with the rattail cord.

In the meantime, I'm also working on another small piece in an entirely different palette.  But that one will have to wait.  Have a creative week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin White Bean Chili

I haven't done a foodie post in awhile, and this chili I made earlier this week was one of the best cold weather dishes I've made in a long time.  It was absolutely scrumptious!

I have been following a number of food bloggers for awhile, and have been surprised at the number from Utah.  This Pumpkin, White Bean and Pork Chili came from Foodie Crush- and the recipe is here.  Add a dollop of sour cream in your bowl of chili, and you will be in foodie heaven.

I used a small sugar pumpkin, but it would also be good with butternut squash instead.  And I used spinach instead of kale, knowing that my family would prefer the less chewy green.  It only takes a couple of minutes of cooking after you add the spinach, and it is ready to serve.

If you don't want to use pork, shredded chicken or turkey would probably be just as good.  The seasoning is simple- salt, pepper, and cumin, which gives it a nice smoky flavor.  Add a loaf of crusty bread, and you have a simple, quick cold weather meal.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Walk in the Woods, Again

I spent a lot of time in the studio over the long weekend.  I got this small study completely quilted, and then spent time doing hand and machine embroidery.  I am really happy with how it turned out!

I quilted heavily in the green pieced areas- all straight line, with a variegated King Tut thread.  I'd planned to do some free motion on the tree trunks, but when I saw how my straight-line quilting made the trunks stand out and look almost dimensional, I changed my mind.  Then I did some machine embroidery, and topped that with hand embroidery in colors to give some pop.  I loved the effect it created.

The quilt is bound with a zigzag stitch and rattail cord.  I like this much better than yarn, it gives a cleaner and sleeker look.  I think the piece needs to be bordered some how, so I started auditioning fabric for a 'matte', something I learned from Jean Wells' books.  I found the perfect piece (in the top photo), which I plan to quilt before sewing Walk in the Woods 2 on it.  I'll be thinking about how to quilt the matte to best show this off.

So many things about this piece work for me.  I love how the heavy quilting softens the piecing lines, and makes the tree trunks stand out.  I love the effect I got with the machine embroidery, and will be experimenting with this a lot more.  And, I love the pops of color from the hand embroidery.

One more note: I have FINALLY mastered French knots!  I have tried to do them many times over the years, never successfully.  Today, after watching two video tutorials and one book, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong.  The French knots on the bottom of this piece were the final design element I wanted- crunchy texture to remind me of the crunchy leaves underfoot in the woods.

I'm really glad I did this small study, I'm already thinking about how I can take what I learned from it and make something similar in a larger size for a show next year. 

I am linking up this post with Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  Make sure you go take a look at what the other artists have posted!

Monday, November 12, 2012

This and That---

I've had a lovely extra-long weekend, despite the weather.  I managed to get most of the grocery shopping done Friday morning, braving the storm that left our back patio looking like this when I woke up:

By afternoon, our street looked like this--

It snowed fairly steadily all day Friday and most of Saturday; we finally got a break Sunday, then today was sunny and cold.

All that white stuff made it the perfect weekend to spend time in the studio.  I got my second small Walk in the Woods piece quilted, embroidered (machine and hand), and bound.  I am really happy with how it turned out!  I learned a number of lessons- or, better yet, had some things that I'd 'known' before from all my reading reinforced with this 'doing.'  

While working on the last bits of embroidery, I started thinking about the next Tangled Textiles piece, due in January.  The theme is 'Blue'- a word that I chose because it can be interpreted as a simple color study, or by referencing one of the many expressions or meanings the word has.  I'm leaning towards one of the expressions, but who knows, that could change.  As I sorted my embroidery floss after finishing Walk in the Woods 2, what color am I most lacking in?

The color is lousy in the photo, and I can't seem to get it right with PSE- but it was pretty obvious to me that I need lots more blues in this stash!

I will have photos of this latest piece posted later in the week.  In the meantime, I will be trying to stay warm!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Walking in the Woods

I managed two walks on the river trail this weekend.  The weather has been glorious here, in the low sixties with gorgeous blue skies.  The best of the colors are behind us, but there is still plenty to see.

The first day, I noticed this wasp's nest in a tree- previously hidden by the tree's leaves!

Today I saw this bird's nest, safe and secure in a couple of large limbs.

Isn't that blue sky gorgeous against the white tree bark?

I've also been in the studio.  I am determined to find a way to interpret this photo I took in Michigan in a way that makes me happy. 

I am going for the restful tones of green against the vertical lines of the trees.  The leaves were just starting to turn when I was there in September, so I chose fabric that would reflect the colors I thought I would see at the height.  Here's what I have pieced--

I am going to try some wonky machine embroidery, and add hand embroidery at the end.  I'm hoping that will help tone down some of those yellow areas that just jump out at me. The quilting will be simple and linear.

I'm already thinking about the next one.  I'm thinking I will limit the number of green fabrics, and bring it accents with thread- embroidery and quilting.  That will help take care of some of the issues I had with all those piecing seams!  In the meantime, I am having fun with these. They are small enough to do quickly, and I'm hoping one of them will be good enough to develop into a larger quilt.  It does feel good to be working this way!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tangled Textiles Challenge: Beginnings

Multiple Beginnings, 2012
16 X 16
Hand dyed and commercial cottons, machine pieced and quilted

This is my latest challenge piece with the Tangled Textiles online group.  The theme was Beginnings.  This one has two meanings for me: my love of beginning the day with a walk outside among the trees and farmlands in my area, and walking through the woods in Michigan on a camping trip with my son Ian and his fiance.  My inspiration came from these photos that I took on that camping trip.

I wanted to capture the myriad of greens, the sense of light and shadow coming through the trees, and the vertical lines of the tree trunks. The trees were just starting to show signs of fall color, and I wanted to capture that also. I think I did.

I fell victim, however, to what Jane Sassaman calls the 'tragedy of the literal', mainly in my quilting choices.  I'm just not happy with the quilting in the upper and very lower sections of the quilt- too literal.  And, I've about decided that the more modern quilts that use strip piecing and odd geometrics don't always lend themselves to the hyper-quilting that is so prevalent today.  I think I'd be happier with simple vertical and horizontal lines.  That would also have lent itself to some hand embroidery, which I'd wanted to do but decided against once the quilting was done.  In the detail shots, you can see how closely the top portion is quilted.

 I used a variegated thread in this, and I was surprised at how light it looks compared to when I puddled it on the quilt.  It's all shades of green, but a lot of it reads almost like white.  It tends to minimize the piecing lines much more than I was anticipating.

I'm determined to make this freeform piecing my own, which I figure is going to take some doing since so many artists have utilized this way of working.  Right now I'm thinking the biggest struggle I'll have is finding a quilting style that complements the simplicity of the piecing.  The literal-ness of this quilting just isn't working for me, so my next iteration of this will try something different.  I am certainly open to suggestions and input!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday group.  There are plenty of other artists with interesting posts over there!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


After a week in Florida, I flew to Chicago to spend a week with my younger son Ian and his fiance Corey.  On the last day of my week with them, we took the train downtown and spent the day walking Chicago.  I lived outside of Chicago (not far from where Ian is living now) in the late 70's and early 80's, but I haven't been back in years.  Maybe 1990?  I can't remember.

Obviously, a lot has changed since I was there.  We decided we were going to visit the Shedd Aquarium, and walked there from the train station.  At times, I felt like I was walking through an urban slot canyon!

We walked over the river more than once on our journey through the city.

I'm sure I embarrassed Ian multiple times looking like a tourist with my camera!

I loved the view of the city from the aquarium.  I could never live in this huge city, but the waterfront there is beautiful.

A nice gentleman offered to take a picture of all three of us at Buckingham Fountain.

Just across Lake Shore Drive from this park, we stumbled into an urban garden.  I found it fascinating.

And, I loved stumbling onto urban art as we walked around.  At first I thought this was the plaza in the last scenes of the Blues Brothers, but Ian informed me otherwise.  The building is a post office, not the Chicago city offices.  Oh well, I like the sculpture anyway!!

My favorite urban sculpture, however, was the Bean.

The 'views' of the city in the Bean were fascinating.  I now have quite a collection of city pictures, which I'm sure will provide plenty of inspiration for future quilts.

We were exhausted after walking the city the entire day.  It was nice to be able to sit back on the train, and let someone else worry about driving back to the suburbs!

Monday, October 15, 2012

St. Augustine

I'd told my son I wanted to go there this trip, since they probably won't be living in Florida that much longer.  He's done with school in March 2014, and he's anticipating relocating for a new job when he's done. 

So we left for St. Augustine on Sunday.  I have now traveled almost the entire length of Florida, and I can say it is all pretty much the same- lots of trees, lots of green.  If I didn't have signs, I doubt I could tell the difference between Daytona Beach or Naples.

St. Augustine is an interesting mix of history and tourist schlock.  We got a hotel within walking distance of everything we wanted to see- the old town and the castillo. We walked the old town streets, browsing in some of the more interesting shops.  I was disappointed that a fiber/cloth store I found was closed on both Sunday and Monday.

I loved the sense of history that was evident throughout the old part of town.  The European roots of this city were clear, from some of the cobbled streets to the Place de la Constitucion, the oldest public square in North America.

But the best part was the Castilo de San Marco.  We walked the outside on the first day, but waited until Monday to pay to go inside so we wouldn't be rushed.  It was worth the wait.

This was inside the castilo, in the soldier's bunk area.  This is a bed for four- two up, two down.  They weren't much bigger than a twin bed.
 The park rangers give talks throughout the day.  I got to see their costumes- they are wool.  I can't imagine wearing that in Florida in July.  The one I spoke with said the one concession to the weather was forgoing the big overcoat everyone would have worn in the seventeenth century.

The view of the city from the top part of the castilo was stunning.
 I'll end this with a picture of my beautiful Michelle, taken on the castilo grounds.

Add in a little bit of shopping, good food- it was a wonderful two days.