Sunday, December 20, 2009

Postcards With An Edge

"Garden Party I"
In the spring of 2006, I challenged my self to make one small art quilt each week. My goal for each piece was to try a new technique or to experiment with new design elements. I named the collection "The Notebook Series," both for the size of each piece (8" by 10") and the idea that each one told a story of my inspiration for that week. You can see some of these pieces on this page of my web site.

The project lasted about 6 months, and I concluded recently that one of the reasons for its demise was that I had chosen a relatively large size within which to work (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it . . .). So, I've decided to revisit the idea of weekly art quilts, but to limit the size of each one to 4" by 6". This smaller format should be more conducive to starting a design, knowing that I'm more likely to complete it in a few hours. Also, I'll have a finished piece that I can use in several ways -- to give as a gift, to trade with another artist, or to sell at quilt shows in which my art group, ARTAA, participates (sounds good on paper . . .).
Here is the first of what I hope will be many Postcards With An Edge. The elements are fused, the piece is machine quilted and embellished with French knots, and I printed a fabric address label for the back (do not adjust your computer -- the printing is a little wavy, but I plan to get better at this).

So, in addition to my resolution to Live Outside The Box, I also plan to Make More Art in 2010.
Here's to a New Year filled with creativity, happiness, and good health for all of us.


Monday, December 14, 2009

"It's That Time of Year . . .

. . . when the world falls in love . . .", sings Frank Sinatra from my radio, except I can't seem to get into a very loving mood right about now. The Annual December Stress Level has reached amber, and I'm getting a little crabby. A good friend of mine told me to let some things go, so I tried to eliminate eating, but I became even crabbier.
I do want to thank all of you who wrote such lovely comments on my last post; I did not thank you through individual emails, as I would have liked to do, so I guess I did let something go last week. I just don't like the way I feel when I can't do everything that I feel I should. I don't bake Christmas cookies anymore, and somehow the time that I think I'm saving has been filled up with something else -- I haven't figured out what that is, though.
Okay, enough grousing. Let me tell you instead of how grateful I am for family, friends, and health, and for the wonderful connections that I've been fortunate to build with all of you. Your kind words of support and encouragement lift my spirits constantly, and I look forward to reading your comments, as well as your blogs, each day. Bless you.
And if anyone has any tips on Surviving The Next Twelve Days, please let me know.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Outside The Comfort Zone: The Holiday Version

In looking through Mary Nordeng's book, Extreme Makeover: Feather Edition, I came upon a page of sketches with a lattice design that reminded me of holiday ornaments nestled against each other. I thought it might be fun to make a Christmas card featuring one of these ornament shapes, and I started playing again (this "play" thing is addictive, isn't it?).
After drawing the design and tracing it onto green background fabric, I sandwiched a layer of batting between the green fabric, a piece of Pellon Craft Décor (a stiff fusible interfacing), and the backing fabric. I then stitched the design, using Sulky rayon and Madeira metallic threads. I attached a hanging loop to the back, and since the piece is 5" by 7", it could also be displayed on a tabletop plate holder.
I hope to try making these in different color combinations -- a goal for Christmas, 2010, if I want to keep my sanity this month . . .
As I was writing these last two posts, I remembered a student in one of my math classes from many years ago. "Phoebe" was every teacher's dream student: She was hard-working, polite, and intelligent, and she loved participating in class discussions. She also happened to dress in a style that could best be described as Emo: dark clothing, dye-streaked hair, black boots. One day, she volunteered a wonderfully innovative solution to a difficult problem on the board. I became really excited (we math teachers live for such moments) and I said, "Wow, Phoebe -- you're really thinking outside the box!" And she said, "Mrs. Evans, I live outside the box."
So one of my goals for 2010 is to do more living outside the box, and I'll remember Phoebe every time I do.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone

Feather Play I
(16" x 16")
Inspiration for this little art quilt came from several terrific sources. During a workshop in May, quilt artist Sharon Schamber encouraged me to include more texture in my quilting by adding small scale stitches to the larger motifs. And quilt artist and fellow blogger Jill Buckley posted a lovely piece of work to her site that helped push me in the right direction. I asked Jill's permission to adopt her idea and blog about it.
I then referenced Mary Nordeng's Extreme Makeover: Feather Edition, a gem of a book which I purchased from Kim Brunner's web site, and I adapted one of Mary's sketches for my design. I auditioned a number of different micro-stippling patterns inside the feathers; in the end, I decided to use just one pattern repeated in each feather.

I used my lightbox to transfer the design to the fabric; then I pulled out the 30-weight and 40-weight rayon threads and began stitching.

I had so much fun playing with this technique, but it did take me some time to complete the piece because I work so s-l-o-w-l-y. I wouldn't want you to hear the sound of my machine as I quilt -- a friend who took a class with me told me that she thought I could probably hand-quilt faster than I was machine-quilting. Watching me stitch is as exciting as watching grass grow. But I do find that quilting is meditative for me -- works better than sitting in the lotus position and chanting "ohm."
So, I say "thank you" to Jill for her inspiration and to all of you who follow my blog and send along great words of support -- you lift my spirits.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Little Art Quilter That Could: The Presentation

I am now officially into Phase II of my commission for four art quilts, and I will be documenting my journey for the SAQA Visioning Project. If you're a member of SAQA, you can follow the progress of all the participants here; I'm so excited about this venture that I wanted to share it on my blog, as well.
Since the quilts are to be hung in Shaker-style residences, I submitted five different drawings of Amish-themed quilts, from which the contractors chose the Monkey Wrench design, pictured above. They gave me the color palette, and I put together my presentation board, pictured below, with a Photoshop-designed image of the quilt, fabric swatches, and samples of quilting motifs attached.

The design has been approved, and the fabrics have been ordered. I chose Kaufman's Kona cotton solids because I felt they would coordinate well with the upholstery and carpet patterns already in the homes.
The quilt tops will be pieced, of course, and I'm auditioning different threads to find a strong one that will create the least amount of bulk in the seam allowance. What's your favorite thread for piecing? I'd welcome your input.
Thank you for sharing in this journey with me -- it should be an exciting ride!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Early Holiday Present . . .

. . . from me to me! (And don't I deserve it?!) I found a shop on, called Dye Candy, through a link posted by Jackie at Canton Village Quilt Works. The owner, Chris Daly, sells some amazing hand-dyed fabrics, and I absolutely couldn't resist this gradation called Autumn Colorways. An idea for a quilt has been percolating in my brain for a while now, and these colors should be just perfect in the design.
And what a treat to receive the package! It really was an early Christmas present. Chris sent along a card with this beautiful photograph attached to the front and a hand-written note inside, as well as two lollipops for my sweet tooth (how did she ever know?).
I always wash my hand-dyeds just in case there are any residual dyes left behind, but I needn't have worried with these -- Chris does an amazing job with her rinsing process, and these fabrics were totally colorfast.
Visit her shop when you get the chance -- you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

That Little Voice Inside . . .

On the relatively few days of beautiful summer weather this year, I would pick out a cherished quilting book and retreat to the backyard hammock. One of my all-time favorites is Judy Dales' "Curves in Motion," a superbly written and illustrated collection of techniques and projects accompanied by photos of Judy's amazing quilts (visit her web-site here). I was fortunate to have taken a week-long workshop from this talented artist, and her generous spirit, meticulous attention to detail, and unique wit are alive on every page of her book.
Much of what Judy has written about is inspirational, and several passages resonate with me as I strive to become better at creating art quilts:
"Judging your efforts too early in the design process is inappropriate and counter-productive, but it is something that we all tend to do," she writes. "It is almost as if there is a little judgmental person inside us who is supercritical and constantly ridicules our efforts. This little person has an important function in real life, which is to warn us of danger and help us make decisions that keep us safe. . . However, when you are trying to be creative, it is important to ignore all those annoying warnings. . . Tell your little judgmental person to go sit in the corner while you work. . . Keep him quiet for now so that you can work without inhibitions and worry, and capture a spirit of playfulness and adventure."
Great advice, isn't it? So, off I go to practice what Judy preaches, although it isn't easy for me to refrain from critiquing myself as I create. Please share with me any advice you have about training yourself to work freely -- what techniques work for you?
And may you always capture your sense of play as you continually enter your world of creativity.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

And the Winners Are:

Thank you all so much for participating in my little give-away. It was heartwarming to receive such kind and supportive messages. I printed out all your lovely comments, folded them, and placed them into a bag from which my Top Administrative Assistant chose two names. And the winners are:
Concetta and Geralyn!
Congratulations, ladies! If you'll each send your address to, I'll send out your notecards lickety-split.
A post-script to one of my previous entries: On my post entitled The Creative Process: The Zig and The Zag, Janet wrote:

Diane, do you use a stabilizer on the back when you do your appliqué?
And how do you wash your quilts?
I always use a stabilizer when I appliqué; I prefer Pellon Fusible Shirtailor in either the light or medium weight, and I iron it onto both the appliqué pieces and the background fabric. After the appliqué piece is sewn, I cut away the background behind the appliqué to keep the background color from shadowing through and to reduce bulk. You can read more about this part of the process by clicking here.
Since my quilts are meant to hang on the wall, I never wash them. However, I always pre-wash the hand-dyed fabrics that I use, so that if the iron decides to spit during pressing, there won't be any chance of bleeding colors. Other than that, the only time I go near the washing machine is to wash clothes -- and I'm certain that my husband is taking in laundry from the neighbors, because I can't believe that two people are this dirty . . .
Again, my thanks to all of you for reading my blog -- your support and encouragement mean so much to me.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Creative Process: The Zig and The Zag

It’s appliqué time!

A quilt show judge once commented on one of my entries that my satin stitch wasn’t dense enough. The irony of that critique lies in the fact that I wasn’t trying to create a satin stitch – I prefer the method of appliqué that quilt artists Jane Sassaman and Sue Nickels refer to as an open or flat zigzag stitch. The stitch length is slightly longer than that of a satin stitch (I use a setting of 0.5 on my Bernina artista© 185), and it allows the fabric color to show through the thread. The line of stitching has a softer edge, and the thread and fabric appear to co-exist nicely, regardless of their contrast to each other. It’s simply a matter of preference; satin stitching is lovely and gives a different appearance than what I choose for my work.

So here’s a sample of my flat zigzag appliqué; I vary the stitch width from 3.5 (along the straight-aways) to 2.0 (tapering to the points). I’ve used Madeira and Sulky 40-weight rayon threads in the needle and 50-weight or 60-weight polyester in the bobbin to reduce the bulk on the back side of the work.

I pull the thread ends to the back, tie them off, and weave them into the stitching. I learned the hard way that, if I omit this step, those threads have a nasty way of shadowing through to the front side, as if I’d scattered colored vermicelli all over the quilt – not a pretty sight . . .

A reminder: please check my last post – there’s still time to enter the latest Blog Give-Away! And thank you for following me – I appreciate the support!


Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Give-Away Time!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .”

Yes, retailers are starting to remind us that that special season is almost here, the season when we begin to celebrate, as Dave Barry says, such time-honored traditions as trying to find a parking space at the mall. So, to begin the festivities, I thought I’d offer a Give-Away!

You could win the set of 5 note cards shown above. Pictured on the front of each matte-finish card is a photo of a quilt from my Ornamental series; the inside of the card is blank, and each comes with its own envelope. You can wrap them up and give them to a quilt-lover on your gift list, or you can keep them for your very own (no one needs to know . . .). If you’d like the chance to win all five, just leave a comment on this post or at by Friday, October 30, and my team of assistants (consisting of my husband, Fran) will pick two names in a random drawing. Please be sure to leave an e-mail address so I can contact you if you’re one of the winners.

And, in case your name isn’t chosen and you like these cards enough to purchase them, you can find them for sale on my website OR at the Second Annual Holiday and Gift Extravaganza at the Broadway Art Center in Albany. The details are at right in the Upcoming Shows section.

Good luck, and thanks in advance for joining in!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Entry: Bloggers' Quilt Festival

It’s an oldie, but a goodie: this is “Dizzy,” and some of you may remember seeing this quilt in a previous blog post. This art quilt especially tickles me because it was born out of frustration with a different design that simply was not working for me. I had pieces all cut out and sewn, and no matter what I did with them, they just wouldn’t play well together. So I sent some of them home (to the Orphaned basket) and went back to the drawing board, and “Dizzy” finally emerged.

The quilt is paper-pieced and appliquéd, with free-motion and guided machine quilting; I used 12-weight Aurifil cottons, Sulky 40-weight rayons, and metallic threads in the quilting. At a recent exhibit, a gentleman stopped to tell me that he thought this quilt should be “illegal” because it mesmerized him as he looked at it. I took that as a compliment, although I’m not quite certain if he meant it that way.

Enjoy the Festival, and, thank you, Amy, for providing all of us an opportunity to view each other’s work!


Monday, October 5, 2009

"To Bead or Not To Bead . . ."

. . . that is the question.” When it comes to embellishing an art quilt, I feel that beads are like prunes: Are four enough? Are six too many? I don't seem to know where to begin and when to stop.

Lately, I've been engaging in an audition of the various sizes and colors of beads in my collection, pinning or taping them to the quilt top (as in the photo above) and trying to decide if they enhance the composition or if they're simply a gaudy distraction.

At this point, I am usually reminded of the line from the movie “Sabrina” (do rent the Harrison Ford/Julia Ormond version – it's my favorite), where the title character says to the obscenely wealthy Linus Larrabee, “You know, Linus, more isn't always better; sometimes, it's just more.”

So I ask you, dear readers, for your thoughts and suggestions. How do you bead? How much is too much? And where, if at all, would you add beads to the composition pictured above? I'm ready for your ideas!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Award Most "Fowl" . . .

. . . and an absolute thrill to receive! I have been honored by talented quilt artist and fellow blogger Jill Buckley with the Zombie Chicken Award, which I will explain by quoting directly from Jill:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the Zombie Chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of Zombie Chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the Zombie Chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

I would certainly do battle with a flock of zombie chickens to be able to read Jill's blog (and all you have to do is click here); however, the rules of bestowal state that I must pass the award on to at least 5 other bloggers. So, as difficult as it was to choose, the following blogs (in no particular order) are hereby awarded the Zombie Chicken (drumroll, please):

Quilternity's Place (Terri Cohen)

In My Room (Marilyn Rock)

PMS Designs (Pat Spillane)

Loreen Leedy's Studio

Diane Wright Art Quilts

Joanna Monroe

Fiber Art by Ruth Anne (Ruth Anne Olson)

The Chubby Mummy (Tracey Pereira)

Be sure to check out these great blogs, as well as all the other wonderful sites that are listed under My Favorite Blogs. Isn't it terrific that so many talented artists are sharing their ideas, techniques, and musings with all of us? I feel so fortunate to have connected with these artful spirits who continually inspire and nurture the creativity in me. My thanks to you all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

“Each failure holds a gift, if we can hear the beat of the rhythm that calls us.”

Artist Jeanne Carbonetti believes that the rhythm of creative life is much like that of an oyster as it creates a pearl. In her beautifully illustrated book, “Making Pearls: Living the Creative Life,” she describes the process as having seven stages, each one associated with a color:

1) Waiting: As the oyster cements itself to a stationary object to begin its pearl-making, so do we focus on a beautiful question to inspire us.

2) Opening: We take in new ideas and approaches and then keep or discard them, much as the oyster filters out what it does not need.

3) Closing: A grain of sand lodges in the oyster shell and is protected, so the pearl actually begins as an irritation! We also protect our creation-to-be.

4) Holding: We continue to hold on as the creation proceeds and the “pearl” rolls around to take its final shape.

5) Releasing: The creation leaves its shell, possibly changed somewhat from the original intention; we begin the process of letting go.

6) Emptying: We honor the ending of a creation; the process of letting go is complete.

7) Sitting: This is the final stage of creation, regardless of what the outcome has been. There is no activity; this is the greater pause, the time when we access the larger world by non-doing.

The stages are described in imaginative detail by Ms. Carbonetti and are accompanied by photos of her watercolor paintings, which are almost spiritual in nature. I highly recommend this book to artists of all mediums – it is helping me to better understand my emotions as I struggle through the process of making my own pearls.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Little Art Quilter That Could . . .

"I think I can, I think I can . . ."

You might remember that I wrote about a fantastic challenge offered by Lisa Chipetine, the new president of Studio Art Quilt Associates: Members of SAQA were invited to choose an artistic goal and spend one year, under Lisa's mentorship, working to achieve that goal (click here to revisit my original post). My own vision was to obtain a commission for a major piece of work through my web site.

Would you believe that it's already happened?! And I received the first phone call (I swear that I am not making this up) three days after I posted my vision on the SAQA Wiki site!

I will be designing and creating four wall quilts for a nursing home here in the Capital Region of New York. The facility, billed as "revolutionary," consists of a campus of sixteen "green houses," each of which will be home to a dozen residents. The quilts will hang over the fireplaces in the living rooms of the four Shaker-style homes.

I hope you'll stay tuned for future posts -- I'm excited to share my progress with such a wonderful support group as you, dear readers.

So, much like the premise set forth in the book, "The Secret," I sent my vision out into the universe, and the Law of Attraction brought me this tremendous opportunity.

Lisa Chipetine, you are truly a woman of vision!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thank you, AQS!

A short while ago, I received a phone call from a representative of American Quilter magazine, asking for permission to use a photo of my quilt, "Color My World," in their ads promoting the 2010 AQS Show in Knoxville. You can imagine how excited I was -- I stumbled my way through an expression of gratitude and sheer delight.
And here it is! The ad appears in the September, 2009, issue of the magazine, and I couldn't be more thrilled!
Continued thanks to all of you who read and comment on my blog -- I truly appreciate our connection.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What To Do When You're Too Pooped To Play In The Studio?

Well, I revisited one of my first passions: knitting. Quilt artist and fellow blogger Terri Cohen (click here for her wonderful on-line fabric store) renewed my interest when she posted pictures of the beautiful scarves she had knitted; the combinations of yarns which she had chosen transformed the basic chevron stitch into painted masterpieces (you can see some of them here) -- after reading her post, I was instantly hooked.

I purchased my yarns from a cozy little shop called Purl on Sullivan Street near our son's Manhattan apartment (there's a sister store down the street called Purl Patchwork that sells wonderful fabrics). As I was browsing, my eye kept wandering over to one cubicle in particular; it was stuffed with skeins of Koigu Merino wool in all shades of green -- lime, chartreuse, deep forest, apple -- in luscious variegateds and tone-on-tone solids. I chose two different colorways and discovered, as the knitting progressed, that, yes, indeed, it WAS green, all right.

And it was so much fun -- fast, too. I've started a second one in shades of blue (much calmer -- I need calm right now . . .). The pattern is featured in Joelle Hoverson's book, Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and the rhythmic repetition of the stitch makes it the perfect portable project -- great for when you need something to occupy your fingers while your mind wants to be elsewhere.

So my thanks to Terri for such a great idea -- it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Our House Is A Very, Very, Very Fine House . . ."

" . . . with two cats in the yard.

Life used to be so hard;

Now everything is easy

'Cause of you."

At times it makes me giggle when I realize how often old songs make their way to the forefront of my thoughts as I work on a new piece. Music is one of my muses, and it may be responsible for many of the motifs that emerge in my designs without my being fully aware of its presence. Most of my wall quilts are named after favorite songs of mine.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself humming this endearing little tune from 1970 by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (if you remember this group when there were four of them, you’re a Baby Boomer) as this piece came together in Laura Wasilowski’s class at Quilting By The Lake. Our assignment was to create any form of “scape” we desired (landscape, cityscape, seascape), and Laura showed us numerous examples of whimsical houses, trees, and fields as inspiration. I had the wonderful feeling of a child in kindergarten, having been given total permission to play with colors, shapes, and scissors.

The border is a piece of hand-dyed fabric which had been resist-dyed with a spiral-shaped stamp; I decided to follow the lines of the spirals with free-motion quilting and then fill in the spaces with my own version of “McTavishing” (an alternative to stippling).

There are no cats in the yard, though – I don’t do cats very well . . .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"It's Sum-Sum-Summertime!"

"Summertime, Summertime"

First, a clarification: The beautiful wall quilts featured in my last post were the creations of Laura Wasilowski, not the work of my hands . . . wish I could say they were.

Here, however, is my version of the first assignment given to us by Laura on the opening day of class at QBL. We all started with identical pieces of Laura's stunning hand-dyed fabric, and we were given the following guidelines:
  • Cut 2 pieces out of the fabric: one for an area of sky and the other to represent grass or ground.
  • Add spiky leaves and stems (cut on the bias so they could be curled into shape as they were fused)
  • Scatter flowers of all colors, shapes, and sizes among the stems; Laura demonstrated myriad examples of fantasy blooms to inspire us.
I added French knots, using Perle Cotton #5 and Laura's hand-dyed #8 embroidery thread, and I machine-quilted the piece with Madeira 30-weight rayon thread.

And the finished design sang, "Summertime, Summertime!", so I borrowed the title of the song by the Jamies and gave the little wall quilt its name.

Check back again -- I'll be posting my homework assignment from Day #2 very soon!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In case you’re not old enough to remember (sadly, I am), TW3 was the nickname of an NBC television show from the 1960s titled “That Was The Week That Was.” Looking back, the short-lived series was probably the pre-cursor to “Saturday Night Live” – in other words, it was an idea whose time had not yet arrived. But the title has stayed with me all these years, and it aptly describes my week at Quilting By The Lake.

QBL is an annual two-week convergence of some of the finest quilt artists in the world (visit the QBL web site and you’ll delight at the famous names you’ll see there). There are 2-day, 3-day, and 5-day classes offered, and I was fortunate to have secured a spot in Laura Wasilowski’s weeklong “Fusing Fun/Journal Quilts” workshop.

Her wall quilts are amazing, as you can see from these pictures (click on each one to see the stitching details), and she is an absolute treasure.

She is the self-proclaimed Dean of Corrections at the Chicago School of Fusing, and, after a week of cutting, fusing, embellishing, and learning the school’s fight song, we each received our diplomas (shown above). And we laughed a whole lot.

Be sure to check out Laura’s website; her hand dyed fabrics and threads are a visual treat. And I’ll be posting my finished “assignments” in the next few blogs, so you can decide if I truly earned my diploma.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer SUNsation!

Some wonderful fiber art awaits you at the Broadway Art Center as part of the Colonie Art League's Summer SUNsation Exhibition. Over twenty-five colorful and diverse wall quilts will be on display in the newly constructed BACk Room of the Center, located in the Arcade Building at 488 Broadway in downtown Albany. The show has already opened and extends through October 18th, but be sure to visit early and often, as the pieces in the exhibit may rotate in and out during the ten weeks of the show.

Pictured here are four of my small wall quilts which are included in the exhibit (clockwise from upper left: "Aspenglow," "Deux Danseuses," "Cycles: Harlequin," and "Kodachrome;" click on each image for a closer look). If you can't make it to the Art Center and would like to purchase any of these pieces, please contact me at and I'll send you the details on reserving the quilt of your choice.

I hope you'll be able to see the show in person; in addition to the fiber arts exhibit, dozens of art works in all mediums, including oil paintings, watercolors, and photography, will be on display, and all items may be purchased. And you'll definitely want to visit on August 7th, the evening of Albany's First Friday -- there will be a reception at the Art Center from 5 - 9 PM. Hope to see you there!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...