(Stash)BUSTED! – A Keeper!

Today features my first Keeper book:

Material Obsession: Modern Quilts with Traditional Roots by Sarah Fielke

I love books with pretty pictures. I think nearly all quilters are suckers for a pretty book, due to our visual nature. This one is incredibly appealing on that level.

The patterns featured range from the humble one-patch to appliqué, improvisation, and complex piecing. The instructions seem fairly easy to follow, although I would not give this book to a beginner as a how-to guide.

Here is the quilt that I made from the book, long ago, when I first strayed from art quilting into the world of bed quilts:





This is their version:


The concept is simple: choose twelve fat quarters you love, square them up, add sashing, and quilt as desired. The quilt was an excuse to practice my developing free-motion and straight-line machine quilting skills. Each block features a different quilting pattern. Despite its simplicity, or maybe because of it, this remains one of my favorite quilts.

Do you have this book? If you do, I would love to see something you’ve made from it! Or, conversely, you can tell me why you think this one is not one of your Keepers.

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(Stash)BUSTED – Knowing what you have

I decided to start on my book- and stash-busting project by tidying up and getting a handle on what fabric I owned. This may take a while. I shall consider it an ongoing project.

This is what over 100 yards of fabric looks like: about two cubic feet. Think of that next time you look at your bins, people. It’s kind of crazy in there.

One hundred yards of fabric: about two cubic feet.

One hundred yards of fabric: about two cubic feet.

There are a few tools and techniques I’m using to fold my stash so that it fits in its cubbies. My cubbies are 13”x13”x15”deep. This method works best for pieces 2/3 yard and longer.

First, I lay the fabric out as it comes off the bolt.


Lay out on floor as it comes off the bolt, selvages together.

Next, I fold both edges to the center.

Fold edges to center.

Fold edges to center.

Then fold the fabric again, so it is now eight layers, and about 6” wide. All your selvages are hidden.

Step 3 - Fold outside edges together again. All selvages will be hidden in the middle.

Step 3 – Fold outside edges together again. All selvages will be hidden in the middle.

Finally, I wrap it around my 12” ruler (the long way) until it is in one nice, compact bundle. One of the pieces in the stash photo is eight yards long, so I know this works for large pieces.

folding4 folding5

I fold half-yard pieces around the 6” edge of my ruler, so they are only six inches deep.

This sounds like a lot of work, but we pay good money for our fabric! We should treat it with respect, as we would any other possession. Besides, isn’t it pretty?

Keeping track

How am I keeping track of this? I am using a wonderful iPhone app that happens to be free! It’s called Stash Star Fabric.

stashstarIt allows you to take a photo of each fabric, then add as much or as little information about it as you wish. It does not have a category named “Project,” but you can commandeer other categories for that, such as “Location.”

I am afraid that it does not total your fabric amounts, but we’re talking free app, here. Out of curiosity, I purchased a similar app, and it did not perform nearly as well. Sometimes free is better, even if you have to deal with the banner ads.

Posted in Quilting, sewing, StashBUSTED!, studio, tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


I’m back, after a long, long sabbatical from blogging, to start a new project.

As a quilter and an artist, I tend to collect (hoard) things. Most notably, I have an affinity for books.

My library. About three of these bookcases are stuffed with quilting books and magazines.

My library. About three of these bookcases are stuffed with quilting books and magazines.

My fabric stash is at StABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) level, as well.

Art supplies to the right, stash to the left, and in the bins...

Art supplies to the right, stash to the left, and in the bins…

...and on the worktable. Please do not disturb Pauline. He is testing my fabric quality.

…and on the worktable. Please do not disturb Pauline. He is testing my fabric quality.

While quilting is my passion, it is also my occupation. I have a wonderful 23” Nolting Longarm quilting machine, which keeps me busy and gainfully employed,

This is my baby, custom made for me in the USA. I even chose the color. No pets allowed in this room!

This is my baby, custom made for me in the USA. I even chose the color.
No pets allowed in this room!

as well as a part time job at a machine dealership. This part-time employment has allowed me to acquire even more stash and books than before.

So What?

Well, in order to prevent a Hoarders intervention, I have decided that I must make at least one quilt from, or inspired by, each book and pattern I have. If there is nothing in the quilt book that is helpful or inspirational to me, it is going on the FREE table at one of the guilds.

What you will witness, Readers, is my progress (or lack thereof) through this project.

To start, I shall state the rules:

  1. All books must start in the library. This part has been accomplished, I believe.
  2. Any book can be saved by either virtue of technique or by pattern use. Since I have never completed a pattern as written, this will have to be a loose interpretation.
  3. Each quilt must use *something* from my stash, even if it is batting or the fabric for the quilt label. Hopefully, it will be much more than that in most cases.
  4. Completed means Completed. Bound, labeled, and ready for action.
  5. There will be off-topic posts. Love them, or skip them.
  6. I made the rules, and I can break them. I am Supreme Ruler of my own blog posts. MUAHAHAHA!!!

Join me, if you wish, and share your progress! There will soon be a facebook page and flickr group dedicated to the project. Considering where I am starting, I will never run out of blogging material again!

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“Round & Round” WSGAS Print Exchange: Taijitu du Manège, State


This is the First State of my woodcut from my previous post.  It’s printed on Masa with Akua Intaglio ink.  I’m used to traditional ink that I make myself using dry pigment and plate oil.  The viscosity of the Akua is not as stiff as I’m used to working with and I’m struggling to get a print that doesn’t have a translucent, spreading halo of oiliness around each line.  To remedy this I’m going to try adding some dry pigment to the Akua as well as using a lot less ink rolled on the block.  When I searched the internet for tips from artists using this method of printing–rolling up the image as opposed to brushing it on–I wasn’t able to find anyone doing this.  Crazy-making but the Akua inks are supposed to be a lot friendlier for the environment and for artists’ health so I’m going to keep trying.

Posted in Animals, Art, creativity, Eco-friendly Printmaking, Horses, Printmaking, Relief Print, technique, Uncategorized, Woodcut, Work in Progress | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Round and Round”: WSGAS Print Exchange, Work in Progress


Yay!  I’m working (not-so-gainfully) as an artist again.  Art every day!…

This woodcut-in-progress is for the West Shore Graphic Art Society’s invitational  print exchange.  WSGAS commissions a printmaker to create and edition a print every year.  I was commissioned in 2002.  This year they are doing a print exchange and have invited all past printmakers to participate.  Twelve printmakers have agreed to participate.  The theme for the exchange is “Round and Round.”  I’ll get eleven lovely prints in exchange for my work and one of my prints will be put into the WSGAS print collection.

Posted in Animals, Art, creativity, Eco-friendly Printmaking, Horses, Printmaking, Relief Print, technique, Uncategorized, Woodcut, Work in Progress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The French-Canadian Fur-Trapper Wizard Coat

First-CoatWeb3 This is my first attempt at creating a coat out of felted, reconstructed wool sweaters.  It was also one of my first serger creations.  Who but me would go from scarves directly to the challenge of a giant, sweater coat?  It turned out pretty well.  I nicked a spot in the hood with the serger knife and learned a lot about cutting open seam mistakes and a lot about the minutia of serger settings.  This was my self-inflicted crash-course in serging.  Lisa is also a huge help.  She gets an almost-daily sewing question from me.  I’ve been wearing it everywhere–even Nordic skiing and snowshoeing–and my seams show no evidence of wear.  The best compliment I’ve gotten so far was from the proprietor at our local yarn shop, “You’ve done a very professional job and I know.  I’m a seamstress and fiber person.”  Yay!

I was inspired primarily by Katwise’s creations.  As a dancer, I’d taught myself years ago how to make gored skirts and dresses for dancing so I had a pretty good idea how to construct the coat but had some questions.  I purchased Katwise’s “Upcycled Sweater Tutorial” hoping that it would help with details.  The tutorial is creatively put together, but if you already have some experience with felted fibers and serging, it probably isn’t going to answer the detailed questions that you have.  Images of her creations were probably the most helpful hints.   Her tutorial wasn’t that expensive though so I’d say it was worth it.

I’ve made two coats since this one and sort of have a method down now.  One of my primary challenges is finding enough sweaters that go together to complete a coat.  Finding wool sweaters of substance has been a real challenge.  By the time I get to the finishing touches, I’m scrounging for scraps.  For instance, I’m not that happy about the color or the material the belt is made of but, alas, it was my only choice.  The fringe along the bottom also came about because all I had left were scraps and the skirt of the coat needed to be longer.

The way the materials dictate the design is also one of the things I like about the construction method.  I hadn’t intended to create a garment that somewhat replicated the Native American capote (or Mackinac) worn in Canada and the Northern US but the materials combined with my cultural background produced a happy surprise.

This is my basic method for constructing the bodice.  I’ll continue to give tips in subsequent posts.  Find a felted sweater that fits the torso of the person who will be wearing the garment.  This becomes the bodice.  Now find about seven other sweaters that will go with this sweater.  Set these aside for now.  Cut the sleeves of the bodice sweater off about two inches above the elbows (The sleeve remnants will eventually get used in the lower part of the sleeves, hood and pockets.).  Cut the bottom of the sweater off just above the natural waist (This will most likely get used in the hood.).  Cut the neck binding off (These are hard to find uses for.).  Cut the bodice up the center front.

Now to fit the bodice, I put the it on my dress form or the person who will be wearing the coat.  The dress form is easier since you can stick pins in it without it squealing in pain.  I find I often have to add a gusset in the armpit area of the bodice to make the shoulder area and sleeve opening large enough.  I want to make practical coats that have enough ease to accommodate another sweater underneath.

Now, for the closure.  I find that closure design is one of my biggest quandries.  I haven’t yet thought of an efficient way to do this that doesn’t involve purchasing un-recycled materials.  But…hopefully one or two of those sweaters you set aside has a button placket with big buttons or a well-functioning zipper that will be long enough to close the coat from your throat to about halfway between your knees and your crotch.  People seem to want zippers but I, personally, think the buttons are more fail-proof.  You just have to be more patient and so do all your friends who wear conventional clothing as they wait for you to get your fabulous coat on.  Seriously, it takes less than a minute.  Just be patient…all of you.  Now, you’ll want to cut the chosen closure out of the sweater and pin it to the bodice in such a way that it conforms to the shape of the body.  Now it’s time for the waistband.

Posted in Clothing, Crafts, creativity, Green Living, Recycled fabric, sewing, technique, Uncategorized, Work in Progress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sweetheart Sweater


Remember the post about laundry on the line in winter?  This is the sweater I reconstructed for my sweetheart as a Valentine’s Day gift using recycled wool sweaters.  He’s been gifting me wool sweaters whenever he finds them.  He’d given me the grey, ribbed, Henley sweater then mentioned that he liked it and should have kept it.  Sadly I’d already felted it and it had become far too small even for me.  The patterned sweater was a dated but love-worn sweater of his that had become too worn out to wear.  So the challenge was on for me to construct a masculine sweater out of the two sweaters.  And…he liked it.  Yay!  Sewing success for my first reconstructed man’s garment.


Posted in Clothing, Recycled fabric, sewing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jewelry display frame tutorial


Whether you want to display a collection of vintage jewelry or you just hate to hide your favorite pieces while you’re not wearing them, this jewelry frame may be your answer! Made from an old picture frame and a few other supplies, it’s a project that will have you sorting through your treasures to choose just the right pieces to liven your walls.


Open-backed picture frame
Two layers of batting, or an old towel (padding)
Foam core board or corrugated cardboard (backing)
Painter’s tape
Hot glue gun

  1. Find an open-backed picture frame. This one was of the highest quality, purchased at great expense… Nah, I’m just messing with you.   I bought this one for a dollar at an estate sale. You can use one meant to hold photos if it has a hefty ridge where the back and the glass would go.
  2. Measure the back of the frame to determine what size your backing should be. If you are using a photo frame, you can measure the glass that you will be discarding.
  3. Cut your backing 1/8″ smaller than the size you measured.
  4. Cut your padding and fabric at least two inches larger than your backing.
    A note on choosing fabric – avoid high-contrast prints; these can camouflage your jewelry instead of showcasing it. Also avoid directional prints, or anything that may be difficult to align inside the frame. Audition any possible fabric by laying your jewelry on top of it, then taking a photo of it. You will be able to see in the photo whether the jewelry will stand out, or whether it will blend in.
  5. Place your fabric face down on the table, then layer your padding and your backing on top. Wrap the padding and fabric around to the back of the board, tacking it in place with painter’s tape. (This photo shows the exact opposite of what you should do.)
  6. Press your assembly into the frame. It should be snug. Remove the painter’s tape.
  7. Gently tug at the batting from the back to remove any wrinkles or lumps from the front of your assembly. Once it is smooth, do the same with your fabric until you are satisfied with the way your frame looks.
  8. Trim the batting close to the board edge, being careful not to cut your fabric.
  9. Hot glue the fabric edges onto your backing.

Congratulations! You’re finished!

When attaching brooches to your frame, try not to stick them into the backing board. Brooches (especially vintage ones) can be fragile, and this can sometimes be too much for them.

Stick a sewing pin into the board from which to hang necklaces, if you wish.


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Thread Love

Today I’m showing some love for the incredible artist, Christophe Thockler, who created the beautiful stop-motion animation video for the Black Books song, “Favorite Place”.

The video, which features hundreds of spools of thread, hundreds of needles and pins, and the ripping of thousands of embroidery stitches, has quickly been making the rounds on Facebook and various Internet sewing lists, enticing an audience that the Black Books probably never thought to court.

I, for one, am enchanted. You can see the video here: http://vimeo.com/m/58893010


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How to Kick The Big Stink Out…

…Hang laundry on the line in a February blizzard.


Really there is a purpose to clothes on the line in February: I’m on a mission to remove The Big Stink.

(If you want to skip the back-story and find out the best method for removing The Big Stink, skip to paragraph five.)

I had to quit my job a year ago because the office I worked in was moved to an unhealthy building.  Believing that my employer would help me (duh) and well…you know…job,  I didn’t quit soon enough and now have a chronic illness that makes it impossible to be out in a world full of synthetic chemicals and poorly maintained and designed HVAC systems without becoming ill.  A word of advice: If your work environment is causing health issues for you and your employer doesn’t jump on top of helping you right away, they’re not going to help you.  Save yourself.  Don’t go to work.  Call in sick.  Get out now.

What you see here is the first steps in an effort to create an income for myself by deconstructing used clothing and reconstructing it into original designs so that I can work from home.  Yard sale season is over so this clothing came from Goodwill.  Goodwill and most of the big, charitable resale shops spray their clothing with the synthetic chemical concoction that causes so many people health issues: Febreze.

It “works” by encapsulating odors.  It doesn’t actually remove them so whatever is causing the odor is still there.  Plus it doesn’t really work.  Whatever it’s sprayed with just smells like heinous, chemical fragrance AND stench.  Does anyone even believe in this stuff?  Mention the name anywhere and it seems the response is always, “It gives me a headache,” or “It makes me cough.”  SIGH.  If I leave anything sprayed with it in my home for any period of time, it lays me up for a month (I learned this the hard way.).  I’ll spare you the entire list of symptoms, but one involves a burning rash on my face and the skin on my lips peeling off.  Yes, it literally burns the skin off of my face.

I’ve tried every canary-safe method imaginable to remove this stench from clothing.  It’s particularly difficult to get out of wool.  Do a Web-search on the topic, and you will find entire threads dedicated to the effort of removing this…er, “stuff” from clothing.  The most-touted recommendation is to dispose of the contaminated item entirely.

I’ve washed the clothing three times in the washing machine: still stinks to high-Heaven.  Washed with Sal Suds, Murphy’s Oil, vinegar:  Still stinks.  Soak in vinegar, Citrasolv, Murphy’s Oil, dish soap: Still stinks.  Dry on high: Still stinks.  Wash and hang on the clothesline for a week: Still stinks.  Worse yet, it still makes me sick!  Once I manage to start to break through the The Big Stink, there’s still the perfume and laundry detergent that the previous owner coated it with to deal with.  I’m sure Proctor & Gamble is very pleased that their product is so pervasive…but…for the LOVE OF PETE, please have mercy on the canaries of the world.

Hanging the clothing on the line for a week combined with washing in the machine with Sal Suds or Murphy’s Oil (if you can tolerate the pervasive smell of this) is the best method for foiling this evil, stinking beast.  I speculated that sunshine and wind might be the key.  However, I find the freezing temperatures and precipitation of winter are the best method.  I’m now speculating whether or not putting the clothing in the household freezer might work but am not brave enough to try it.  After all, one shirt sprayed with this evil stinking beast can contaminate an entire house.  I’d hate to have the place I store my food invaded by this, er…product.

Here is a list of odor removal methods that are cheaper and actually take the odor away instead of just covering it up with toxic, synthetic chemicals.


  • Fresh air and sunshine
  • White vinegar in a spray bottle (smells like a salad at first but the vinegar smell will go away)
  • Essential oils in water (and/or vinegar) in a spray bottle.  My favorite smell is lavender, but tea tree, lemon, orange and Thieves are also good choices.  You  can blend these to make your own fragrance.  If you’re trying to decontaminate something, I think Thieves would be the best choice.  Note: Some sensitive people are made sick by the VOCs in essential oils so don’t get crazy with spreading smells all over the place.
  • Smells Begone.  An enzymatic odor eliminator with no added fragrance.
  • Wash it with water and a safer soap like Sal Suds.  Water is the most powerful solvent on Earth!  Go water!!

To learn more about what common products are safe (or unsafe), visit the EWG website.  Unfortunately they only analyze the individual chemicals.  They don’t analyze the toxicity of the chemicals combined.  Many products have over a hundred synthetic chemicals in them.  Regulations are slim or non-existent and the manufacturers don’t have to tell you what is in their products.

Posted in Canary, Clothing, Environmental Sensitivities, Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments