Tag Archives: design

The Barn

Having this quilt on my wall for a while meant a couple of poor color transitions had time to prick at me. When I decided to give the piece to my brother for Christmas, I decided to tackle those spots before shipping it off. It’s not always advisable to attempt “improvements” of this kind.

First, I added some yellow in the foreground to pull the eye foreword and interrupt the blockiness of the patchwork.Stitched a few dark patterned strips on either side to lend depth and to interrupt what had been a distracting light area to the barn’s left.

And finally, I applied more hand quilting here and there and added some red bits to adjust the perspective lines on the cupola and far right eave (not terribly successfully).

The tweaks are okay. Maybe not what I hoped for. With additions like this, you always risk of either disrupting the spontaneity of the original design or of creating new problems while fixing existing ones.

This piece ran the additional risk of spoiling the (possibly impressive) fact that it’s almost entirely pieced.

Anyway. The upshot is that my remediation, successful or not, has whet my appetite for learning. How come I never learned perspective? Really? And, maybe it’s time to learn how to manage transitions more skillfully by attending to color values.

teach what you want to learn


simplest components from African mask (see last picture, below)

We’ve all heard that right?  We teach what we most want to learn.

On the eve of teaching another class at The Boston Center for the Arts, I ought to be asking, then, “What is it that I want to learn right now?”

Hmmmmm. How to take a motif, maybe, and ‘go deeper’ with it (whatever that means). But I know what that means.


making faces

Or here’s a corollary: we give the advice we need to follow. This is extremely useful for me personally, because two of the people I routinely give advice to are Oppositional, with a capital “O”. Sometimes all I can do, is turn it around.

What advice have you given recently? Don’t fudge it by scanning memory for advice you WANT to hear. I recommend just thinking of the last three things, the most recent things, you have said to someone… in an effort to be helpful.

I’m always telling certain people to be more organized, or more responsible (and yes, yes, that applies here) but here’s the most recent thing offered:  yesterday, I suggested to someone that she partner written memoir passages that are painful with those that are joyful, so that the juxtaposition told a story, on top of those told in the passages and, possibly, to make it bearable to write the really tough stuff.  My idea for her was that a one-two step like that had the potential to turn into a dance, given sufficient air and trust.  So? Trust. Give work air? Partner the ‘uck’ with the ‘yahoo’? That’s probably pretty good advice for me right now.


building from the bottom up

Little changes make big differences

Little changes make big differences

eye lid adjustment

eye lid adjustment

looking askance

looking askance

add patterns!

add patterns!

Tomorrow’s adult class will be ‘more sophisticated’.

two sections (top and bottom) that may or may not belong together

two sections (top and bottom) that may or may not belong together

But, I’m wondering, maybe the more you break a thing down, the more complex it becomes. This I have seen time and time again in the manner of Jude Hill‘s designs and thoughts and cloths… the simpler she makes it, the more avenues spin off in every direction.

So maybe for the adults, I should make it EVEN SIMPLER!

Female kifwebe mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Unknown Songye artist. Democratic Republic of the Congo

Female kifwebe mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Unknown Songye artist. Democratic Republic of the Congo


This fragment surfaced during the flood clean up. I had set it aside to reincorporate into a larger piece, but when I saw it again, it looked complete. Added the background grid, some of the up and down stitching over the black and zig-zagged the edges. The wonderful house in black outline and tree came from a pair of Capris.

Pushing one’s preferences, but not too much

This picture was shot under a sky light that was filtering northern light through a thin veil of snow — hence the blue cast.

Are all epiphanies obvious after the fact?  Here’s my latest, associated with making this little quilt — when taking on something new, don’t change up EVERYTHING else while you’re at it.

While consciously switching scale, palette, or medium is very instructive to an artist, and probably ought to be built into one’s work rhythm on a regular basis, juggling too many projects where everything is new is disorienting.

Case in point — my first script quilts (like the above).  I was busy shifting to a paler palette, sewing more by hand, trying out gel mediums and markers on fabric, weaving strips of fabric — and getting very frustrated because NOTHING was familiar (except the collage aspect).

For the  little spiral piece, I played with some of my most beloved fabrics. . . current fabrics (in use in the Global Warming Quilt that is in progress downstairs).   This is my preferred palette.  I am drawn to very saturated colors — not always this hot, but usually this saturated.  To mix in a few washed out hues was not enough to throw me.  Further, these are patterns I love — polka dots, solar disks, spirals.

So, the teeny scale and hand stitching, which are NOT usual for me, could be dealt with.

I picked a single variegated Sulky thread and stuck with it, so that I could focus on placement of stitches and not thread.  It was so pleasurable to stitch!

PS  I am thrilled to be pushing a needle through soft layers.  In the past, I have needed to use my TEETH, often, to get a needle through because I’ve backed my quilt with an upholstery fabric and layered applique on top of piecing, and sometimes added sections of previous quilts (that would be SIX layers, one of them upholstery-weight!).

Rearranging the pieces

That incredible constellation fabric was the ’tissue paper’ for my Christmas gift from a friend in Maine (Lisa makes bowties).  I needn’t tell you that the silk patterned with stars was gift enough!

Nearly all of these sections were pieced into three long-ish strips and made it up onto the board.

The stars only show up in small rectangles, though, meaning that the nice night atmosphere created by having a horizon line, did not transition off of this work surface.

I have been thinking that all of these sections may need to divide into TWO QUILTS — one depicting night and one depicting day.

about six feet tall

Clip art polar bearing (top right) is going.  Entire top treatment, in fact, to be revised.

Here you can see where some of the fish batik and dusty-blue rayon-shirt-spirals ended up.  I may have to dunk that ‘tavern’ swatch into tea for a couple of hours — it pops a little too much.

Here’s what I rearranged on the floor with remnants:

Workshop — the good, the bad, the ugly?

One of my first Village Quilts

One of my first Village Quilts

This weekend I took a daylong workshop with internationally renowned quilter, Sylvia Einstein.  I have long been a fan.  She has such a good eye and makes wonderfully dynamic, painterly quilts.  This was her “Small Towns” workshop and even though I have been making what I call “Village Quilts” for almost ten years, I decided to take it.

First, the good —

  • Seeing Sylvia’s quilts up close… I had studied them online and they were so much more exquisite in person!
  • Hearing her opening remarks… “I like very active skies” … “don’t try to pick all prints in the same scale — use large leaves, for instance” … “I work slow” ….
  • The invitation to become an avid collector of images. One of the teacher’s favorite sources?  Christmas cards!
  • Getting critiqued by the instructor (plus she gave me a couple of to-die-for scenery fabrics!).
  • Seeing other student’s work.
  • Getting new ideas on how to finish a quilt.  Sylvia uses very bold prints, often, for the edges of her pieces, and then binds them.

Now, the bad —

  • It was crowded.


The ugly —

  • My quilt.  But that just means ‘unfinished’ — right?!

Here’s what I will bring to my next class —

  • 12″ ruler and mini-cutting grid
  • Drawing pad, so that if I’m not in the mood to deal with major space restrictions, I can draw
  • Hand-sewing (for the same reason)

And, here are suggestions that spring to mind from the experience —

  • Experiment with scale.  I am excited, for instance, as someone who’s favored size is 2’x3′ to make a village that is 18″ by 20″.  A lot changes when you do this.
  • Collect images!!  MY challenge will be to put them all in one place.
  • I often use ‘sky’ fabric for buildings and ‘building’ fabrics for sky, so as to really play with what is inside and what is outside… but I’d like to make one quilt where building is building and sky is sky.

Piecing along…




Piecing takes a long time, especially when every seam makes me rethink an entire area.  The two layouts above and the one to the right are earlier versions, from last week.  Today, I decided my polar bears will not be wandering around on ice, but swimming.

jan-30-bottom jan-30-mid

Already, large and completed sections have flown off the table into two other separate quilts.  The last large Global Warming Quilt that I made started out about this size and ended up as three smaller quilts.  I am still hoping to integrate the bottom section with the polar section and to create a large-ish piece (3′ x 4′), although it is not yet clear that I’ll be able to make the hot and cool sections work together.


Today was a good sewing day, with only one call to go out.  I took Jack to Wellesley for errands.  We shopped for apples, bird seed, and sand and salt.  The walkways have thawed a little in the last day or so, but it is still pretty treacherous out there.

In spite of much effort, though, I did not progress very far on the quilt.  This business of making the pieces, which become larger pieces, all work together, is not as easy as one might imagine.  I have never done this process on the kitchen table before. As much as having my work upstairs (instead of down in the cellar/studio) gets aggravating on account of the mess, it is useful to be glancing at the design at different points of the day.  A different part of the brain can get engaged.  Also, I am happy to report that I woke from a nap today with a novel idea for how to attach the bears. Yet another part of the brain!

Changing viewing orientation or scale can be useful in design.  If the colors and patterns are well laid out, they will work in any direction.