Where does the time go?

So… I haven’t been posting much on here lately because I have been preoccupied with what seems like a gazillion other things demanding my attention right now.  This past week has been swallowed up by me working on an artist portfolio.  Ever seen an artist portfolio for a quilter?  Neither have I, but since I have bills to pay and a porch that needs repair, I am trying to sell my turtle quilt.  S.ave O.ur S.eas is the name of my turtle quilt, and here is a picture of it.

This quilt is roughly 7 1/2 feet tall by 8 feet wide, so it’s a bit bigger than this picture.  I love my quilts and have a hard time parting with them, but this one is so big and I really have no place to hang it other than the basement.  The county I live in is building a new community center and in need of art by local artists.  What better place for this to hang than a community center where children from 1-100 years old will get to look at it.  Well… that or a library or museum or…

Anyhow, they are asking for a portfolio with an artist statement, artist bio, artist resume, 3 art career references (I have super references for teaching in the public schools, but nothing for quilting), a CD with 10 images of your item, etc. etc.  I had to think what I’ve accomplished as a quilter and that nasty little voice in my head tells me that I’ve accomplished nothing, that I’m a loser, and that my work sucks.  So, it’s been a rough week as I’ve tried to pull something, anything out to put down as documentation.  This is what I came up with in my portfolio.


All the information is in there, and I added a tri-fold brochure of some of my other work.  I don’t feel like I stand a ghost’s chance in heaven of getting a commission on this, but, like I said… I need the money and I have a 50% chance of them saying yes.  Gotta take the chance!  If I get nothing else out of all the time I put into it this week, I will have learned some marketing skills and now know how to put together a presentation folder.

As for what else has been going on, my quilt guild meeting is Tuesday.  Remember that “Letter Challenge” Quilt I was working on that I didn’t like the colors and didn’t think it would qualify for the challenge and then decided I would quilt our names into it?  Well… I still haven’t gotten it done, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get it done.  I can’t seem to finish it with the colors in the house that I have there, so I need to swap that out before I can quilt it.  I’ll post pictures IF/WHEN I get that done, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it won’t be in time for Tuesday’s meeting.  I still need to finish that charity quilt I’d started.  Hopefully I will have that done by Tuesday, because our quilt show is coming up before the next meeting, and they need all the charity quilts they can get for the show.  I’ve tied up the loose ends for our last speaker (I’m the Programs co-chair for the guild) and still haven’t gotten back to the Opportunity (raffle) Quilt for 2013.  I’m hoping to finish that by mid-November so it will be ready for unveiling on December 4th.  So, my apologies for not getting back to the blob (I mean blog) lately.

Hope you had a great week!

Dyeing to do this!

I have been wanting to learn how to dye for the longest time, now; many years, in fact – it’s on my Bucket List.  I’ve looked in to classes, but they either don’t seem to work out with my schedule or they cost too much.  An acquaintance of mine said she’d arrange for a dyeing class so I could finally learn, but it hasn’t happened yet.   So, I got tired of waiting and decided to do some research and teach myself how to dye.  I found a 6-shade value kit that is reasonably priced at www.handsonhanddyes.com so I bought it and set to work learning how to dye today.  Cindy Lohbeck, the owner of Hands on Hand Dyes, does an excellent job of explaining the process in writing.

Dyeing can be a messy process.  One of the suggestions was to put the cups for dyeing into a large plastic bin.  I am so glad I did, as you can see how the dye spilled over the edges.  You can also use a plastic table cloth and newspapers to soak up the drips, too.  Can you already see that there are 6 shades of the same color?

And, here are the finished products; 6 gradations of the Red Red Wine kit from Hands on Hand Dyes.  I had a hard time choosing just one color/package, because they all looked so yummy.  But, in the end, I chose this color for one reason.  I am making the Opportunity Quilt for one of the quilting guilds I belong to, and I haven’t been able to find the right color.  I thought maybe this would come close.  A few weeks back, when I went to Colorado, I bought fabric at 3 different quilt stores in hopes of finding the right color of rose to match some of the flowers in the main fabric of the Opportunity Quilt.  When I got them home and compared them to the base fabric, only a couple of them would work.  Well, guess what?  These dyed fat quarters will be perfect for the applique I will be adding to the quilt.


An added surprise that I found in one of the fat quarters I had dyed was that the scrunching I had done to produce the mottled effect made 2 hearts right in the middle of the fabric.

Cool, huh?


Eye see it now… I think.

For those of you who do or do not know me personally, here is the latest update on my left eye.  This may well be the most boring of my posts yet!  😉  I basically only have one eye that I use to quilt with.  Right now I almost cannot see at all out of my left eye.  It’s like looking through a cloud.  But, I just had a tube shunt put into my left eye on Monday to help control the pressure in that eye (my bad eye).  I think good eye pressure numbers are between 15 and 20.  Mine has been as high as 46.

But, I’ve had several surgeries on that eye, so it’s been a little pissed off and rightfully so.   Hopefully, as my eye heals from this latest surgery, the “cloud” will clear up to wax paper vision, so I’ve got better peripheral vision in that left eye when I drive.  Yes, I can drive.  I am legally blind in that left eye, but so far my right eye is playing nice so that I can continue to drive.  I don’t yet feel comfortable being the driver with passengers (other than my dogs).

Cataracts tend to develop over several years before the eye doctors will do surgery… something about not being able to correct your vision with 20/50 lenses or better.  So, by the time you get your cataracts removed and a new lens put in, you have difficulty reading huge letters and numbers (like the price of gas on those big signs at gas stations – that huge).  I had cataract surgery on my left eye February, 2011 and on my right eye in April, 2011.  By the end of September, 2011 I started having serious problems with my left eye.  Apparently, the retina had detached several months before with no symptoms in my vision.  Because it had been detached for so long, there were now rips and tears, holes, and LOTS of scar tissue building up in there.

My first retinal surgery was the end of September, 2011.  They removed what scar tissue they could and repaired what damage they could.  They also put oil in my eye instead of a gas bubble.  That meant that I’d have to get the oil removed later with another surgery.  I think the decision for the oil instead of the gas bubble was to help hold things in place longer and with less restrictions.   By the time they were ready to do my next surgery to remove the oil and put a gas bubble in its place, my eye pressure was up to 46.  Drops helped the pressure, but it liked to hover in the 30s.

So, my second retinal surgery was the mid/late January, 2012 when they put a gas bubble in my eye which was dissipating quickly.  My retina detached a little over a week later.  My third retina surgery was February 6, 2012.  This time they put a scleral buckle around my eyeball, hopefully to hold the retina in place better.  That surgery was very painful with painful lingering effects.

My spirits were soooo down during this time.  After retina surgery, you have to lay flat in some way.  I had to lay face-down for 24 hours after my first surgery and then on my sides for the next week or more.  After each retinal surgery, the restrictions increased with the surgeries in 2012 resulting in me not being allowed to do anything at all other than lay on my left side – it made for a painful cauliflower ear.  I wasn’t allowed to read or use the computer for weeks and not allowed to sew either.  Nor was I allowed to get up and move around or do any chores.

With nothing but time on your hand, the thoughts that go through your mind are very depressing and “trying” to your spirits.  I really did want to die, especially if I would have to have another retinal surgery.  I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to just sit or lay and do nothing.  It was quite a mental struggle for me – I had reached rock bottom.  During this time I tried to figure out “why.”  Why had this happened to me and why was I required to lay there in solitude and emptiness and do nothing?  I believe things happen for a reason, so I figured the lesson I was supposed to learn was to stop over-doing and always doing stuff.  Slow down and smell the coffee.  Life is short – we shouldn’t be in such a rush as to take it and the people in our lives for granted.  Through this I learned that people’s feelings play such a bigger role in their being than I’d ever imagined.  We tend to get so crazy busy with our lives that we forget how our actions and words will affect others.

So, for now, my goal is to bring beauty to the world of others through my quilting, through providing knowledge for others about the different aspects of quilting, and through acceptance of the differing personalities in the world, but also through trying to make all feel accepted, vital and special in their part and gifts to our world.

Yes, with each eye surgery I will lose a bit more physical vision and I risk another retinal detachment each time they poke or dig around in my eye.  Also, I am dealing with lattice degeneration in my “good” right eye, which means that the retina will most likely detach in my right eye in time.  But, as I deal with the loss of physical vision, I think I’ve learned to see things more clearly in the emotional and sensual realm.   In time I may become legally blind in both eyes, but I will continue to “see” in different ways.  And, I will surely quilt until the day I die regardless of whether or not I can “see” what I’m doing.  Otherwise, my spirit truly will die – my quilting is my lifeline.  I hope that sharing it with you will provide a lifeline for you as well.

Here is a quilt I made with one eye.

And, here is the detail stitching that I put in it  of a fairy smelling the flower (using one eyeball).

By the way, this quilt was juried and made it into the American Quilter’s Society show in Grand Rapids, Michigan August 22-25, 2012.

The point is… things happen to us, but it’s how we choose to react that makes us who we are.

Charity Quilts

One of the things I am doing when I don’t have customer quilts to work on is quilting charity quilts.   This particular quilt was perfect for using a pantograph because it had no borders and no regimented block placement.  I don’t normally like using pantos (pantographs), because it’s not as easy for me to follow a line from a paper and then hope it turns out okay on the quilt itself as it is for me to be able to watch where my next quilting stitch will go (whether it is free hand or drawn on there with a disappearing marker).  At least if I’m watching where I will be going next, I can quickly fix a mistake.  Pantos aren’t as easy as they are cracked up to be, BUT they are great practice for mastering your machine and the pantograph itself.  You will be building muscle memory for when you want to do those swirls and curls and feathers, etc. either on your own or with another pantograph.

I enjoyed this particular design once I got started.

These 2 quilts were very similar, and I was given enough backing for both of them to load as one piece (well, it was pieced but was loaded as one piece), so I put the backing on the frame and then loaded my first quilt, quilted it, and then loaded the 2nd quilt and quilted it with the 1st one already done and rolled up on the frame ahead of it.

This one was harder for me to follow.  I don’t know if it was because the patterns are so “definite” so a mess-up would be more noticeable or what…  Perhaps it is because there is a lot of open space?  Or???

The other thing that was happening while I was quilting this particular pattern was my machine was getting hung up on something.  I never did find out what it was getting caught on.  I would stop each time and check all over, around, and under but with no luck of finding what it was… a loose thread, bumpy seam, cord, etc.  Thank goodness I wasn’t getting paid to do this!


So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted about my quilting progress.  I’ve barely had time to work on the latest due to being at Machine Quilters Showcase the week of My 12-19th.  Last week I had doctors’ appointments and husband appointments to deal with.  So, here I am ready to finish this quilt and get it back to the owner.  Yesterday I finished all the quilting on it, so all I should have to do now is block it and sew the binding on it and get it back to the customer within the next few days.  I say “should” because as I was stitching on it, a nagging thought crept up in the back of my mind telling me that my stitching was WRONG, that it needed to be fixed, which leads to frogging…

If you don’t know what frogging is, it’s an eeeeevil, naaaaasty, dirty word in the quilting world.  The term derives from a frog croaking “Rip it!  Rip it!” meaning to rip out imperfect stitches.  In my mind, my quilting on customers’ quilts should be to enhance the piecing or applique, not to over power it with my stitching.  However, if it is a show quilt, then by all means, there should be lots of embellished quilting and as some people say, “it should be quilted to death!”

So, there I was quilting along and I got to the corners of the outside border.  Now the quilt itself has blocks in the middle with orange sashing separating the blocks.  It also has an inner, pieced border outlined with solid black thin borders framing the inner border.  The outside border, however, is plain white/cream.  My quilting in the blocks is done with cream colored thread, so as to show off the blocks.  The quilting in the sashing is done with an orange, variegated thread that will enhance the sashing just a bit.  But, that outside border just needed something.  I didn’t feel right quilting it with the same color thread as the fabric itself, so I am basically “drawing” with black thread on it.  I don’t yet feel confident enough with my drawing abilities to make my quilting stand out that much, but I doubt I ever will.  I’m plunging in and doing it anyway.  People keep telling me that I’m better at quilting than I think I am, so I am trying to listen to that and plunge away.

The stitching in the outside border is of cats on a fence, jack-o-lanterns, bats and pumpkins.  I used my new micro handles to help me stitch those.  I stitched spider webs and a spider into the corners.  The problem is that I wasn’t satisfied with how perfect the stitches were (or were not), so I did some thread painting to smooth the rough edges.  Thread painting is basically sketching with thread.  Of course, after I was finished I was mortified.  I thread paint on my own quilts all the time, but how could I do that to a customer’s quilt?  I had to rip it out and put a simple one-line stitching for that spider web.

So, here is the dastardly deed in progress…Image

Notice the “weapons” on the right side of the picture that were used in tackling this project.  I had been working for 3+ hours on just this one corner.  You have to be very careful pulling out those stitches because you don’t want to rip the fabric or pull any of the threads of the fabric in the process.

Here is what the stitching should look like with only one layer of stitching and no thread painting.  This is the border next to that corner – white/cream fabric with black stitching.


And, here is what the other 3 corners look like before “frogging.”


It actually doesn’t look that bad (now that I’m 3+ hours into the task every quilter dreads and looking at several more hours of this… and multiply that by 3 more corners, each taking a day to rip out).  And, the extra stitching actually helps to stabilize the corner stones. Soooo… I have decided that I will leave the other 3 spider webs as they are.  I will continue frogging this particular spider web and will re-stitch it to look like it did and/or the other 3 webs.  If the customer is not happy with it (and I’m very much okay with that!) then I will certainly frog all 4 corners.  At this point, though, I just want to get this quilt to the owners.

Lesson learned!  And, I’ve also learned that I am going to try quilting with the same thread on top and in the bobbin.  Most people do that, but I have been trying to match the bobbin thread with the backing fabric (in this case it is a mottled tan/cream).  The cream colored and orange variegated top threads worked fine with the cream colored bobbin thread. But, for whatever reason, that black thread did not cooperate at all, so it shows through on the back anyhow – drives me nuts.  I worked and worked with it to no avail.  I can certainly see now why others use the same color on top and bottom.

She’s “cute as a button” at MQS

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been at Machine Quilters Showcase (MQS) and figured I’d better get something posted before I forget.  I have been attending and volunteering at MQS for the last 3 years and have loved every minute of each show.  I am sad that it will be moving to Wichita, Kansas next year but it’s only about 3 1/2 hours away so I really shouldn’t be too sad.  I just won’t be able to volunteer like I have in the past.

MQS, along with the other big quilt shows, is a chance to take classes from big name quilters as well as the lesser known, but equally talented, quilters.  It’s also a chance to meet friends you have made online such as through Facebook.  For whatever reason, I did not take many pictures at all this year.  I had my camera with me all the time, but only managed to take pictures of the first class I took.  That was with Sue Patten.  She has a lot of energy and is a fabulous teacher as well as a very creative stitcher.  She has variegated threads figured out to a science ~ WAAAY over my head, but I took her class anyway.  I don’t think I will EVER have her talent and knack for figuring out how to get variegated threads to do what I want on both the front and the back of the quilt, but yesterday I did manage to put certain colors of the variegated thread I was using in particular places on the quilt I was working on.  Here’s a shot of Sue with one of her quilts.


I also managed to meet a couple of friends I’d only chatted with online.  Here is Kelly Hanson and me.  Image

Isn’t she cute as a button?

Hello world!

Happy Sunday morning!  We so needed the rain today, a good atmosphere for quilting!  After all the eye surgeries, and working like a cyclops, I am finally finished with my latest quilt.  I was one of 615 participants in the SOTTT (Sisterhood of the Traveling Triangles) exchange.  Edyta Sitar was on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims showing quilts that could be made with fabric exchanges.  That’s when Debbie posted on the forum that she would like to start a Half Square Triangle exchange.  Little did she know the work involved!  Anyhow, it grew into 615 participants from around the world.   I had a lot of fun putting the quilt from this exchange together and then quilting it.   

So, it’s off to get to the rest of  my neglected house and to the quilt guild meeting this week!  Have a super week!