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 Textile Evolution

Liz Kettle Artist, Author and Creator of the Stitch Meditation process

Stitch Journeys

Exploring life with needle and thread.

Time, Being Enough and Junk Yards

I meant to write this post last week but time has been very wily the last few weeks and it seems to be hard to corral. I have  been reading Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection the last few days. There is a lot of great stuff in her book...simple thoughts to remind me what is important in my life. Like, taking time to just be, hang out with my family, read a book, make some art, take a friend to tea for her birthday. At the end of the day, I tend to focus on what I didn't get done rather than what I did do...which results in a feeling of inadequacy that is always present. You know...the 'if I was better organized I would have gotten it all done' or 'Sheeesh...why can't you manage to keep just one counter clean'. I am my own worse nag and it makes me feel terrible. Why do I beat myself up so much about things that really just aren't important.  So, from here on out my plan is to reflect at the end of each day on the things I did accomplish rather than my failures.

With that in mind I will not nag myself for being an imperfect blogger but will tell you about my great field trip 9 days ago...when the weather was warm!

Sangre de Cristo Arts Center

I have a couple of great textile and mixed media groups that meet in Monument and Colorado Springs. One of these groups, Discovery, decided to go on a field trip to Pueblo (about an hour south) to see a quilt exhibit at the Sangre de Cristo art center. We were treated to two great shows both connected by the topic of 'children's books and art'. The first exhibit, Winter Lights: A Season in Poems and Quilts by Anna Hines was a delightful pairing of children's winter poems and quilts that illustrated them. The quilts were traditional in construction and design but most had a contemporary feel. The construction was simply amazing...meticulous paper piecing of tiny spiraling log cabins...often executed all in black. Incredible workmanship to celebrate winter.

The second exhibit was my favorite. Stephen Johnson has taken the art of letters and numbers to a new level. I had not seen his books previously as I am a bit out of the children's art book temporarilyas my kids are too old and my grands too young but I think these might find a spot on my shelf. Stephen Johnson's art shows a wide range of styles which made me feel a bit better about my own eclectic mix of work. There were works from Alphabet City, City by Numbers and my favorite, A is for Art which features abstract art and the descriptions of the art works were alliterative poetry themselves. The abstract pieces included fake french fries, lime ladders and red rubber bands in a big pile. They were fun and not quite so serious.  Stephen Johnson's work in Alphabet City and City by Numbers is totally different, watercolor, pencil and pastels worked in a photo-realistic style. It was so much fun looking to find the letters or numbers in the paintings, some were obvious, some were in the negative space and some you had to really look for. Unfortunately, both these shows are done but you can get the books!

After the shows we grabbed a quick lunch at the little cafe on the premises, Francos...what a treat that was. Francos' had a great selection of gluten free offerings that were really tasty! Cross contamination is a big concern for me when eating out but the chef assured me that he completely understood because his daughter was very sensitive as well. YAY! I had a great messy sandwich...what a treat. Those not eating gf were all delighted in their meals so if you go to Pueblo check it out!

We tacked on a little side trip that was the polar opposite of the art center experience. The junk yard! Oh my gosh we must have looked so funny...two cars pull up and 8 ladies get out exclaiming with delight over the piles of rusty junk. I am sure the owners are still shaking their heads. We had a great time looking for tool boxes to repurpose for art supplies and intriguing rusty shapes to use for rusting fabrics. I also found a great non-rusty aluminum 'thing' for soy wax batik. This place had everything from rusty screws and things that were too disintegrated to fathom their original purpose to street signs and doctor's forceps. Don't think I would use the old forceps for doctoring but they would be great for assemblage work and other arty things. I was positively drooling over this antique cash register! It wasn't for sale but I must say I got a great pile of rusty stuff for $20.

unfortunately this 'found' rusty fabic was too fragile to use but isn't it beautiful?

We made one last stop at the quilt shop in Pueblo and headed home...Oh, almost was about 64degrees in Pueblo that day! We soaked up the sun and that helped get us through this last especially frigid week! I am so happy that I made time for this field trip with friends. We all agreed that we 'need' to put more of this into our lives.

Stay tuned for an announcement of two free on-line book studies!! I know a few of you have been waiting patiently for us to....ummmm...get organized! Ruth Chandler and I plan to start Fabric Embellishing on Feb 21st and I will begin Threads the week after that. Details very soon! Thanks for waiting while we get our ducks in a row.
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Who says you're an artist?

I had a great weekend…started with my Visual Journaling class on Sat morning where I had them take a baby step toward drawing and they were brave! Then I took my students on a field trip to Denver…well technically, one of my students drove so I guess she took us. We went to hear a talk given by Laurie M Hawley of Aha Life Designs. Laurie’s topic was the Road to Authenticity – Embracing Imperfection and Feeling Worthy. The talk was inspired by Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.I am a big fan of Brene Brown. She has a couple of talks available on TED that are really great. Laurie shared her experiences on her journey to discovering joy in her life as well as facing the painful parts of embracing imperfection.

A lot of what Laurie talked about really resonated with me…my own journey...especially  being a perfectionist as it is something that I have and still do struggle with. Perfectionists continually seek external validation. Laurie talked about her creativity and life coaching business and how she strives to be the best coach she can be and to that end is continually participating in further training. Which is great for her clients but when is enough, enough? When do ‘they’ see fit declare that you an expert…or in my case, an artist?

I wanted to be an interior designer when I was young but that wasn’t ‘practical’ so I got my degree in business management. Years later when I decided that I really wanted to be an artist my first roadblock was how to go to art school? I didn’t have the time or money to go to art school and everybody said you really had to have an MFA to be an artist. I longingly perused the UK’s City and Guild’s program…even on-line it was still too expensive. How would I get the certificate that declared, YES, I was an artist?? I decided that formal education would just have to wait until the kids were launched even though that meant I wouldn’t get that validation until I was at least 56 and maybe even 60.

In the mean time I took whatever workshops I could, read every book I could get my hand on, joined art groups and I took baby steps. I changed the name of my sewing room to ‘studio’. That was incredibly difficult! It took me at least 3 years to feel comfortable calling it a ‘studio’. I mean really…how pretentious!! I certainly couldn’t bring myself to utter the words ‘I am an artist’. When friends called me an artist I rolled my eyes and dismissed their comments…after all, I hadn’t earned that degree yet!

A funny thing happened while I was busy raising my family, homeschooling, taking creative technique classes, and making stuff. I became an artist. I still didn’t have the diploma that officially declared it but the more confident I became in my skills and the more I talked to ‘real artists’ it slowly dawned on me that being an artist isn’t like being a lawyer. There isn’t a test to pass, a degree required or any hoops to jump through. Being an artist is a state of mind. The only person, entity or even country that can truly declare someone an artist is one’s self.

Go ahead…declare yourself an artist! Hey, want to make today Declare Yourself an Artist Day? We could start a movement!

The photos in this post are from my very first soy wax batik experiments done last Thursday at my Discovery group. This group explores art techniques...not always related to cloth. If you are in the Colorado Springs area let me know and I will send you the meeting details. We always have fun and I am now in love with soy!
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Introducing Self Care Whenever

Dream Collage by Liz Kettle

One thing I want to do on my blog this year is talk about something that has become very important to me...self care and nurturing your heart. I thought about calling it Self Care Sunday and post every Sunday because Sunday is generally a great day to slow down a tiny bit and do a little self care..Right! BUT, all of you who know me well, know that doing something on a set schedule is just not part of my genetic make up! So we will call it Self Care Whenever! Which may actually be better because so many of us need to fit self care in whenever we possibly can.

papers waiting for an artist's hands

This last weekend I attended KC Willis' Collage Conference. I really waffled back and forth about should I go...could I justify spending the money on myself and my January no less...right after Christmas spending! I would have to get a hotel, meals out, be away from my family...etc! All those reasons we can easily come up with when we aren't sure we 'deserve' to take care of ourselves. Now isn't that a stupid thought? Who else deserves our love and care more than ourselves?  So, after much dithering about I finally decided to go. KC has a lot to share about art marketing in addition to her unique style of collage. I thought maybe  starting the new year with a conference would be a good kick in the pants to get focused on my business and art goals. The weekend ended up being a great investment self care!

We were so in sync we even color coordinated!

I was delighted to find a classroom full of great artists and new friends. The speakers, Sarah Fishburn, Jenny Doh and KC were inspirational and heartfelt. There is something magical that happens in art workshops and retreats...magic beyond learning techniques and making art. That of course is why I started Textile Evolution, why Jacki Hefty started Whispering Woodlands, Jenny Doh is starting Crescendo workshops and why KC started her series of retreats.

Creating Collage Magic

This magic is hard to describe to someone who has never participated in an art retreat but produces knowing smiles from those who have and creates retreat addicts. I love retreats and wish I could attend one a month. I love teaching at retreats for that reason too. Connecting with others who share the same passions as you do, have the same fears as you do and have similar struggles and successes as you creates a magical environment. An room full of creative swirling energy, love, sharing, support and fairy dust. There is so much joy! Retreats fill my creative well whether I am student or teacher.

I have heard discussions from those who don't like to work in class settings. I think this is because they may think they are supposed to be creating big...real...serious art in class. Classes are not for serious art creation. That has to happen in quiet...alone in the studio. Don't get me can make meaningful art at a retreat but classes are to remind us that art is first and foremost a conversation...a connection between the artist and viewer. Oh, yes, classes are also to help us stretch, learn, try new things, see a different point of view and as KC so elequently said...get out of our tiny tent so we can count the stars. Connecting with others allows us to connect with our own hearts.

Sarah Fishburn and me...gads I need a hair cut!

Have you gifted yourself with a class, workshop or retreat lately...ever? There are so many retreat options from the energetic Art and Soul, the more intimate Textile Evolution, the focused Whispering Woodlands, KC's and many more. Workshops are taught in quilt and art stores as well as private studios. If money is tight...don't use that as an excuse for lack of self care! Create your own retreat. Invite some friends over and have everyone teach a technique or simply make spontaneous art out of a pile of the good stuff while you laugh and play.

I want to share some photos of our weekend...there were smiles and a few tears, laughter and joy, snorting water, chocolate adoration and an adorable dog named Fiona. I hope you will consider the self care loving gift of connecting with other artists sometime this year.

Diana shares her incredibly fun circus collage book

Jackie working on her Dream Big Collage

Rachel's beautiful book of Angels

Laura discussing her western book

Julia and Jenny working on Dream Big Collages

Jory and Sarah Fishburn during the daily art show

Betty and her awesome Western Girls book

Sarah Fishburn in a burning moment

Jenny Doh sharing her Dream Big Collage

Julia and Sarah exploring ideas

Our final day...lots of hugs as we friends

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Lint Mountains

Last week I had the pleasure of give two thread lectures at High Prairie Quilts in Parker CO. I love talking about thread and sewing so giving these talks is always a lot of fun. One topic that always comes up at these lectures is linty thread.  When exactly did lint in the bobbin case become a terrible plague on stitching humanity?  Have we made a mountain out of a molehill?

In the last 5 or so years there have been quite a few thread manufacturers telling us their brand of thread is the best we can buy because it is lint free or as close to lint free as possible. We ooohh and aaahh over this marvelous product and believe that lint free is the way to be. I admit to buying into the lint is bad story myself. But, if you stop a moment to really think about lint and its origins you just might have to accept an alternate reality. We tend to forget one little detail…the fabric we are stitching on supplies our machines with its own bit of lint. If we are stitching on homespun or loose weave fabrics we are rewarded with copious amounts of the evil lint.

I will let you in on a secret…if you take all the lint off of a thread you will cause un-spooling problems because the thread is so slick it just falls off of the spool. The little hairs you see on thread are actually beneficial. Yes, I admit that excess lint in the bobbin case might cause all sorts of problems from skipped stitches to the dreaded bobbin rats nest of tangled thread but how much can we blame the thread and how much our sewing machine hygiene regimen?

It may seem unlikely that my thread lectures include a firm admonishment about appropriate sewing machine hygiene but it is actually one of the more important parts of my lecture. Every time I ask how many attendees clean their machine regularly I am met with embarrassed and yes, even shame filled faces! We are so quick to blame poor defenseless lint for our stitching woes when the hard reality is that we have simply neglected the task of cleaning and oiling our precious machines.

How often should we clean and oil? That depends on how much you sew, the type of machine you have and even the environment you live in. Always refer to your machine’s instruction manual to learn how to clean and oil your particular machine. When I am sewing for most of the day I will clean and oil my machine before I stop for the night. It seriously only takes about 2 minutes. A good guideline is to clean and oil after every 8 hours of sewing. I live in a dry and dusty environment so I try to clean my machine more often. Remember that cleaning out the lint is only one goal. Oiling your machine properly will add years to its life and your machine will thank you.

The bottom line is that there are very few threads on the market today that cause so much lint that it can be problematic. Clean your machine (often), don’t take everything a manufacturer tells us as gospel and let’s let lint dissolve back into the molehill that it really is.

If you have thread questions leave a comment. I am working on some thread FAQs for our forum here since most of my awesome blog readers can’t get to one of my lectures. If you have a photo of a very linty machine send it to me to help illustrate this post…my machine is clean. ;-)
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More Quilt Market and Festival Fun.

Art Gallery Fabrics always has great displays

I apologize that I didn't get these photos up sooner...a nasty cold took hold and laid me out for a couple days. Working on these photos is good medicine becuase they are full of delightful things. Art Gallery fabrics always has great booth displays and this year was even better than last! Their fabrics are luscious as well as beautiful.

This Art Gallery display is so yummy!

Fresh looks from Kate Spain

More designers are branching out into housewares as well as showing their fabrics used in home dec, craft projects and clothing.

owls were a very popular motif

These little owls are just too cute.Of course I stopped at the thread vendors to see what is new. YLI's silk thread isn't new but who could resist such a yummy display of color? I am very excited about their new organic cotton line. Cotton production uses a large amount of pesticides. I have a spool to give away...stay tuned for that. Aren't these YLI silk threads delicious?

YLI organic cotton thread! Look at these great colors

If you are looking for unusual threads especially in metallic look for Kreinik. They even have iron on metallic braid.

Chatting with Doug and Dana from Kreinik Threads

Ruth and Deb checking out Havel's scissor line up.

I was first introduced to Havel's scissors at spring market. I am really impressed with their quality, weight and sharpness. These scissors give a beautiful cut. Some of the styles have a micro serration that makes cutting slippery fabrics so easy. Plus the handles are a little larger than most so they are more comfortable...not to mention that they are pink so they are fun and easy to find amid the sewing clutter. I am excited to announce that I will be creating a few projects for Havel's blog and they are a new sponsor for Textile Evolution Retreats.

I had a half a day to rest between Market and Festival so what to do...why go fabric and bead shopping of course! We stopped at Universal Fabrics...such a great store full of treasures.I found a beautiful silk and linen nubby fabric that will dye beautifully.  Two bead stores are located within a block of Universal Fabrics so of course we had to check them both out! Finally Ruth, Deb and I went to the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. This small center always has an amazing show to inspire us.

Festival was a whirlwind and the Artist Artifacts booth was hopping...I completely forgot to take photos...I didn't even have time to shop!  Fortunately, a friend took photos of my MIU class. These classes sponsored by Cloth Paper Scissors are always a blast. I had students from Italy and Denmark as well as across the US. My project was called Silk in the Meadow: a mixed media necklace. We used silk cocoons, image transfer and sari ribbon to make these necklaces. I love seeing how every piece turns out different even when we start with the same supplies.

MIU students choosing silk cocoons and fibers

Me modeling the MIU project: Silk in the Meadow Necklace.

Internation Quilt Market and Festival are always fun and inspiring. I hope you liked my little tour. Maybe next year I will have more time to spend looking at the quilts. Now, I do have some give aways for you from Market but I have to finish unpacking first so I can find them. I will have the give away up in the next couple of days. It is a cold snowy day here in Colorado...a perfect day to make some chicken soup...might help with this pesky cold too!
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Fall Quilt Market

Fall quilt market was great. The atmosphere was upbeat and some of the stressful faces from previous markets were replaced with cheerful smiles. Business in the quilt world is thriving.  I didn't have as much time to talk to fabric designers and see the whole quilt show but I do have some photos to share.

M&S Textile from Australia

I didn't take a lot of photos during the Schoolhouse sessions...just plain forgot! But I did get this photo during the M&S Textile session. Their Aboriginal fabrics are wonderful and wow do they create an intricate quilt. This quilt is actually a very simple pattern...the fabric does all the work. That is my kind of quilt!  Artistic Artifacts carries an extensive line of these fabrics...I want them all!!

1/2 of sample spree

Sample spree is a shopping experience not to be missed. Store owners, teachers and designers have a chance to pick up some of the hottest new products and fabrics so they can get their samples and classes prepared before the products are shipped. It is a bit of a mad house as everyone rushes to their favorite vendor table...quantities are usually limited. This photo shows just half the ballroom where it is held.

Ruth Chandler and I in Landauer booth

Ruth Chandler and I had demos for Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond every day and I had demos for Threads: The Basics and Beyond as well. We love talking about the books and getting store owners and teachers excited about giving classes based on them. Our demo table is always a pile of samples! Other quilt authors bring nice neat stacks of quilts and we bring all this little stuff! LOL! It is sort of a treasure hunt as we try to show cool techniques amid the jumble of book samples. No one seems to mind though. We were very excited to learn that Fabric Embellishing will be translated into French! Hope I can get a copy.

I had two big book signings at distributor's booths. Unfortunately, my co-author Debbie Bates couldn't attend. These signings are a lot of fun and I get to talk about thread! They had to listen very intently in the E.E. Schenck booth because I was losing my voice.

Book signing at E.E. Schenck

Threads signing in the Checker booth

I also taught a Take and Teach class designed for shop owners to give them ideas for teaching from Threads: The Basics and Beyond. We made this cute little quiltlet with a flower power theme. The students had a great time and almost everyone finished their mini quilt. Those classes are hard on the store owners because we start at 8am! Then they hit the show floor at is pedal to the metal stitching! Fortunately I had my dear friends Ruth Chandler and Deb Prewitt manning the heat guns so we could get their thread lace flowers dry enough to stitch on to the quilt. Friends who will get up at 5:30am to help are priceless.

Take and Teach students hard at work.

Susie's finished Flower Power quiltlet.

Tomorrow I will post some photos from the market floor and then more from Quilt Festival...stay tuned because you know I brought home some goodies for a giveaway!
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Weird, Wild and Wonderful

bison grazing near a thermal pool

I kept asking myself if I had completely lost my mind...planning a vacation just a little over 2 weeks before International Quilt Market and Festival. For those who don't know, IQM and IQF are the biggest events of the year for anyone in the quilt industry.  But sometimes you just have to go we did. Middle son, Scott had to work so it was just hubby and youngest son Mike. Good thing too since the cottage we rented was just barely larger than my kitchen...and I don't have a big kitchen! We listened to Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth on the drive up. Chosen by chance but certainly appropriate subject matter.

the river leading into Yellowstone lake

October is a dicey time of year to visit Yellowstone...they close most stuff down by Oct 11 for good reason. However, the weather was on our side and even the one morning of rain was not enough to keep us inside. Of course being wet was preferable to being in the tiny cottage but it was only a light rain alternating with mist so we hiked through it. Our weather risk taking was rewarded with few other visitors and plenty of wildlife to see. The most amazing animal we saw was a wolf. We have read a lot about wolves in our homeschooling adventures so we knew that a wolf sighting would be pretty rare. But, a couple of wolves had been hunting an old or sick bison for a couple of days and had her cornered not that far off the road. We stopped at the viewing area just after a single wolf had finally killed the bison. It wasn't a bloody battlefield thank goodness. We spent about an hour watching the wolf. We were too far away to get a good photo but I was able to get this one through a spotting scope one of  the rangers had. I was also amazed at the incredible array of cameras everyone was toting. We were definitely outclassed! Evidently the serious wildlife photographers go to Yellowstone in Oct.

wolf and bison through a spotting scope

We saw plenty of elk and bison, fox and coyote, mountain goats, deer, 4 grizzly bears, one black bear and 3 otters. The word for the week was weird!. I really didn't know what to expect in the topography of Yellowstone. It is...well...weird. Weird to know you are walking on top of a that is still active no less. Weird to watch geysers spouting water hundreds of feet into the air. Weird to see boiling water bubbling in a pool. Weird to see steam rising up all over the landscape. Weird  mud pots where the acidic water is dissolving the rock and creating hot bubbling mud pools in a multitude of colors. Weird rock  formations everywhere and stands of dead burnt trees rising above new forest growth.

Norris geyser basin

Yellowstone is incredibly inspiring as well. I took dozen's of photos of interesting textures and color combinations. The waterfalls in the canyon are amazing. Have I used the word amazing too much? If you haven't been it is definitely a destination to put on your travel list. To be told of its wonders and look at photos just isn't the same. It is a wild, weird and wonderful place! Go will be glad you did.

I am headed back to the studio to get packing for IQF but here are some more photos of our trip for you.

amazing pool-hard to imagine it is boiling hot

pool images were difficult because of the steam-this one is very deep

the roots of this tree look like an eagle!

Yellowstone canyon falls

Yellowstone sunset with moon

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Taking responsibility!

Is this a riot or what? Tico took my Bodacious Beading class on line at FAMM. I accept full responsibility for creating yet another bead addict!

The new round of classes are posted on FAMM and there are more teachers this quarter. Head on over to check out the great line up of classes that you can take in your PJs...I love on-line classes! I am not teaching Bodacious Beading this quarter will have to wait until the new year. But, I am teaching my fantastic According to You class! I love this class and it is everything I wish I had known when I first started working with collage. The timing is great too because these mixed media memory books make awesome holiday presents. You don't have to make a book in the class, you can make a wall hanging if you prefer.

Tea Ceremony

I have been catching up with sleep, chores and some fun projects since the retreat. This collage is one of my fun projects. I love this image. There are a variety of mixed media techniques in this piece. I really enjoyed it's creation...especially all the hand work. Hand stitching is so relaxing for me. I never get tired of collage. Isn't that hand dyed paisley fabric great? Another one of my treasures from Artist Artifacts. Judy, the brilliant talent behind Artistic Artifacts, creates the most luscious hand dyed fabrics. I tried my hand at some low water immersion hand dyeing this weekend with some great and some not so great results. I will have some photos later...I am still rinsing out fabric. Judy certainly doesn't have to worry about fewer sales from me stuff isn't any where as good as hers. Practice certainly makes for more beautiful dyed fabric. Plus hand dyeing is a LOT of work. I was exhausted!
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Threads: The Basics and Beyond!

Threads: The Basics and Beyond

Woo Hoo!!! Threads has arrived! I am just a little bit excited...OK so I am bouncing off the wall kind of excited!! I am so incredibly delighted with the entire design and layout of this book. It is hard bound with a SPIRAL binding so it lays flat! The design is clean and contemporary with hundreds of awesome step by step photos and clear directions...176 incredible pages!  Threads is the complete visual guide to thread techniques and creativity and if you do any sewing with thread you are going to treasure this go-to guide.

Tote bag front

tote bag reverse side
Tote bag reverse side

Gotta have a give-away of course!!  Leave a comment below between now and midnight on Sunday Sept 12, 2010 and I will pick one lucky winner. Oh, heck, I am so excited I am going to throw in a great tote bag that didn't make it into the final book because we ran out of room. I had a blast making this tote bag but I am just not a pink kind of girl so one lucky winner will get this bag and a copy of Threads: The Basics and Beyond! What, you want thread too??? Well of course I will throw in some of my favorite threads for you to play with!

Stitch Journeys passport

For any of you who have been hesitating about joining us at Textile Evolution Retreat next week...just think in one short weekend you can gain the confidence to tackle any specialty thread that tickles your fancy and become a certified fearless stitcher! In my Stitch Journeys class we will be working through Threads: The Basics and Beyond and playing with all sorts of luscious threads. Here are just a few of the techniques you will learn...

thread painting made easy

free motion sketched bird

Free Form Embroidery

Good luck on the give-away!   I'm going to go stitch something...

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Taking it Slow

I had a self decreed ‘slow weekend’.  My immune system is on hyper alert again so that means it is time for some self care and relaxation. I have a high tolerance for stress so my body has to take matters into its own hands when I don’t realize that I need a break. It can be frustrating to have my body rebel like that but if I wasn’t so dense and learned how to go a little slower it wouldn’t have to have such a radical defense system. Thank goodness my body is smarter than my brain!

ATCs Travel theme

Saturday was the monthly ATC meeting and this month’s theme was travel. I love my ATC group. Everyone always has a different take on the theme and there is always at least one person who really has the creative juices flowing and blows us away. I think I have told you all before but I will tell you again…having a small group like this is wonderful for a creativity jump start and it is fun to boot! We share techniques and stories, sometimes the stories behind the finished product are more inspiring than the art. It is easy to set up an ATC group. You just need a place to meet, a few guidelines and a few brave playful souls. Our guidelines are simple: we work primarily in fabric but paper is acceptable, we have a theme every other month with the off months being open and we are always kind to each other…no negative remarks. It is an open group so if you are in my area drop by and check us out.

Layers of grids

I did a little stitching on one of my printed fabrics from a week ago...some 'slow cloth'. I love combining hand and machine stitching to get layers of texture. I find both types of stitching to be therapeutic and calming...perfect for those times I am supposed to be relaxing but have the itch to do something with my hands. Anyone else have problems relaxing?  I have this compulsion to work all the time. I love what I do so that is part of the reason but I think the rest is just part of my personality…I have always been one to keep busy and the world if full of wonderful things to do.
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Art and Gardens

From Nature's Studio Textiles by Regina Benson

I can't think of a better way to spend a summer evening than my adventure last night. I attended Regina Benson's opening reception at the Denver Botanical Gardens with some friends! Regina's show is have until Oct. 3rd to see it. The show is in the Gates Garden Court Gallery. The walls of this gallery are cement and Regina’s work shows beautifully against them…a study in contrast and unity.

Regina Benson's art in Gates Garden Court

For you local folks, Regina is giving a gallery talk on Sept 9th and a workshop on Sept 18th. Check the DBG website for details. Her workshop will be about her fascinating technique for embossing fabric with natural materials. August 25th is the next free day at the DBG. After seeing the show we spent a lovely evening strolling in the gardens. There is also an exhibit of Henry Moore’s sculptures on display. They are immense works of art and often best viewed at a distance. I have to say I enjoyed his figurative work more than the abstract pieces which is a reverse viewpoint for me.

Henry Moore at Denver Botanical Gardens

My favorite Henry Moore sculpture

I was delighted to see some great improvements at the Botanic Gardens. I haven’t been to the there in a few years…once the pocket gophers set up their stronghold I lost heart in the battle for rule over the garden. I am a bit heartened this year since we have a red tail hawk that likes to hunt in our neighborhood and the rain has kept the ground moist so they tend to stick to their field rather than my garden. The photos I took at the garden are so inspiring that I am tempted to put on my battle gear, gather my scythe and hack my way through the weeds to wrest control from the little buggers…or maybe I will get a tall glass of ice tea and read a gardening book on the deck.


succulent forms

Who knew watermelon vine was so beautiful?


Rudbeckias always make me smile

rock garden succulents...what great texture

silver ghostly looking

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And now for a little silk screening...

screen printing with blue glue resist

I finally had a chance to try out my new homemade silk screens and am happy to report that they work great! I followed the directions given by Jane Dunnewold in her new book Art Cloth…which is fabulous! It was easy to make my own screens and in a non-scientific head to head test they worked just as well as the purchased screens I have. Here are just a couple of my screen printing treasures.

screen printing with water soluble wax pastels

I have read about this method of coloring on the screen with water soluble wax pastels and using soft gel medium or matte medium to dissolve the pastels in a deconstructive method of printing. I played a bit but don't know that I am in love with this process although I really like this piece. It takes quite a bit of medium to dissolve the pastels and this affects the hand of the fabric quite a bit. It is still stitchable but hand stitching would be tiring.
screen printing with paper resists

Paper resists are some of the easiest silk screen resists and so much end up with great painted scraps of paper as a bonus! These grids were screened on top of a less then attractive mono-print. I love the colors!

Thermofax screen printing

Thermofax screen printing
I have still not had a lot of time to play with my Thermofax very much. I love the details you get with these screens and they are so easy to make too!At Tuesday Tarts (one of my creative fiber arts groups) this week we played with Shiva Paintstiksand had a lot of usual. I used some of my fabric and paper towels from my dye day...aren't these great? I love using my clean up cloths in my fiber work and my journaling.

peach silk shirt dyed with shiva paintstiks embellishment

Paper towels with Shiva paintstik embellishment

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Renegade Dyer

I am not much of a dyer. I don’t measure or take notes, nothing I dye is ever reproducible. I do follow all safety rules but that is where order stops and chaos begins. I do have a lot of fun and try to remember my color mixing theory so I don’t end up with mud…but even when I forget I end up with some nice surprises.

Sunday was a perfect day for dyeing. No afternoon rain or much wind so I set my production table up outside in the shade and started flinging dye. I started using a brush to apply the dye but ended up mostly just pouring the dye on the fabrics…couldn’t find any basters. I only had a few pieces of wool, silk yarn, white silk organza and white silk chiffon so I raided my studio for anything silk. I found a bunch of silk dupioni remnants that a friend had given me and two silk blouses that were perfect for experimenting with. I have to say I didn’t even prewash the silk dupioni and since it was drapery fabric I didn’t think it would take the dye well but I threw it in the mix as any true dye renegade would and I am just delighted with the results!

Dyed silk Dupioni

The two shirts dyed up fabulously free material! One was a sage green sueded silk and the other was a peach shirt. Don’t you love the pockets!

Formerly peach blouse

Formerly sage green blouse

The chiffon turned out fabulous! Unfortunately, it is really hard to photograph well…the patterning is subtle on some and not so subtle on others.

Dyed Silk Chiffon

I love silk organza. I pressed most of this but left a little chunk un-pressed to remind me how cool it is all crinkled up. I used some un-pressed organza in one of the silk rod samples in Fabric Embellishing: the Basics and Beyond. It has such great texture and color play. These also didn’t photograph well but you can believe me they are awesome and actually just what I was aiming for color wise.

dyed silk organza

The wool took a lot of dye because it was already felted but it was the last thing I did so I just poured it on heavy.

hand dyed felted wool

I ended up with an incredible batch of clean-up paper towels too! I’ll show you what I did with some of those tomorrow as well as the silk yarn which has taken longer to dry.
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What's In a Name?

Art~Craft, Studio~Sewing room~Craft room, Artist~Crafter~Dabbler…what do you call yourself? What we name ourselves and our spaces is is one of the ways we tell the world what is important to us. When I decided that I wanted to become more serious about my passion for stitching and art I thought I should change the name of my sewing room to studio. Easy right? NOT! I felt so pretentious calling my messy thread covered room a studio. It actually took me 2 years to make that change. I couldn’t bring myself to accept the title of ‘artist’ for another 2 years.

What is the big deal about the title artist? Why have we elevated the title ‘artist’ to an award we bestow upon a small percentage of our population? Who gets to decide who is eligible to be an ‘artist’? Back in the middle ages many things we consider art today were thought of as craft…painting was no different an occupation than a cobbler. During the Renaissance painters and sculptors got a boost up the ladder to join poets and musicians as ‘artists’. The art academies later elevated these media to the status of ‘fine art’. More recent movements in the art world are bringing art back into the hands of the masses and changing the way we look at and define art. Has the pendulum traced its longest period? I hope so!

Everything in nature seeks balance and I think we will see more acceptance in the art world as we as individuals balance art and technology…even combining our art and technology. The art~craft debate will slowly die off as we allow the creator to define which of their creations are art and which are craft. When I think about the future of art in all the different media and forms I get so excited. One day, we will look back and laugh that we even had such silly arguments over art and craft…sort of the way we laugh at the clothes we wore in high school.

Art is nourishment for the human spirit. We are all born to create stuff and we are all better humans when we do just that. Go make the world a better place…go make some art in your studio!
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The Ugly Stage

relocated by the gophers

When I was in Estes Park for my guild lecture 10 days ago I had a lovely dinner with some of the guild board members. Talk meandered around quilting and art of course. One of the board members is involved in creating an arts program for a school in Oklahoma. We had a great discussion about the lack of art in many of our schools, what that means for future generations and what this particular school is doing to make things better for their students and community.

blooming in the middle of the path

It has been my experience that one of the key lessons of making art is learning how to get through the ugly stage. Most art has an ugly stage…that point where you can’t stand it and think it is hopeless and maybe you should simply give up and become an accountant! But, no matter how ugly you think it is if you keep working at it the art develops and becomes a thing of beauty. It is magical when it comes together! So many things in our lives have an ugly stage that just needs to be gotten through; kids, home remodels, marriages and gardens to name just a few.

blooming despite the pocket gopher attacks

My garden has had an extended ugly stage thanks to a plethora of pocket gophers who think my yard is a 5 star gopher resort! But I do have some stalwart bloomers who won’t give up and bloom despite the gophers. Today let’s celebrate perseverance in art, gardens and life. Cheers for the Ugly Stage!
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Roll out the Red Carpet!

Quilting Arts TV Series 600

Ok, so maybe my TV debut doesn't warrent the red carpet but I am terribly excited to be here! I want to thank my mother, my grandparents, my brother....Oh, Sorry! Got a little carried away...

I just received my copy of the Quilting Arts TV Series 600 and am happy to say that I don't sound like an idiot! I still can't get used to my face with make-up and my nails without paint and ink stains but I think my episode (604) turned out great.  Pokey Bolton is an amazing host and so talented too. Being on Quilting Arts with her was such a great experience. She made it so easy to ignore the cameras and just explain the technique I was demonstrating (Free Form Embroidery). I have only had time to watch a couple of the other episodes but I can tell you that this is a great series! I share the series with Jane Dunnewold, Mary Hetmansperger, Susie Monday, Terry Grant, Kathy Mack, Luana Rubin, Lindsay Mason, Andrea Bishop, Karen Fricke and more talented artists! You can order the entire series on DVD from Quilting Arts.

For those of you in the Monument/Colorado Springs area it will air on KRMA and KRSC on Sat Aug. 7 at 8am. Check out the Quilting Arts TV site for shows and times in your area.
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Walk With Me

Red White and Blue
Red, White and Blue Colorado Style

It seems we were about 15 minutes too late to see the bear. Not that I am complaining but it would have been fun to share a photo of a bear with you all! A couple of times a year I take my camera along on my walk and take photos of whatever catches my fancy. These photos become inspiration for art either as images, texture or line. I thought I would share my walk with you so you can see what inspires me and get a feeling for the area I am lucky to live in. Coloradois incredibly beautiful although sometimes you have to look a little more closely to see the beauty…we are a high plains desert after all. Generally our wildflowers are not showy. If you look carefully at the photo above you can see a tiny bit of red wildflower peeking around the penstemon. I thought this was a cheerful July 4th arrangement by mother nature. However, the wind was blowing so it was difficult to get the red flowers. I put the images in the order that I took them so you would feel like you were on my walk with me!

Barbed wire coiled around a fence post.

Wild Geraniums.

Just one of the views on my walk.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon

Scrub Oak skeleton branches. The past couple of winters have been hard on the scrub oak.

Wild sunflowers

Our destination-The Rock.

Wonder what this bush is.

Duke cools down in the pond--this is where the bear was about 15 minutes before we got there.

A closer view of the is big!

Looking up from the base

Mariposa Lily. What a great structure

Interesting for use in collages and journals.

More coiled barbed wire. This is surrounding the Hot Shots Helipad.

Helicopter at the Hot Shots Helipad

tree bark what great texture and lines

Tree rows. This area was once used by the CCC as a tree farm so we have a lot of pines growing in rows. I love the lines.

I have tons of grass photos because I love them. I can be mesmerized watching them blow in the wind. These are about 3' high.

I have a lot of lichen and moss photos also. I love the different colors and textures.

A poppy on the way out...literally on the way out of the trail and almost done with its life. Still beautiful though. I love the seed pods.

Wild Rose in the parking lot.

I started thinking about all the different areas of the world people live in. Sometimes we neglect our immediate surroundings for inspiration and think things like: If only I lived in France or could visit India, then I would have lots of inspiration. Or, If only I lived in the city/country then I would have an inspiring environment. I am sure people in France or who have visited India fill in the sentence with their own versions. It is easy to think that inspiration comes only with exotic locals. Truth is that inspiration surrounds us wherever we live.

All this got me thinking about a cooperative inspiration exercise! Take your camera on a walk and snap photos of anything that catches your fancy. Post them on your blog or flicker acct. Then, e-mail me the link This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will post the links so we can all be inspired.

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Be Brave

Be Brave Journal Cover

I woke up this morning thinking about being brave. I frequently find myself telling my students to Be Brave when I am guiding them down new and sometimes scary paths. This happens most often in my Stitch Journeys class where we bravely adjust our tensions and sew with the most difficult and dangerous threads and my Metal Explorations class where we courageously stitch metal to fabric and paper. I also tell myself daily to Be Brave! My newest journal cover pictured above is a reminder to be brave. Be Brave has become a motto of sorts, a mantra to repeat when I need some extra strength to conquer fear.

There is a lot of fear that comes with the task of making art. Fear that it isn’t good enough, fear that everyone will know that I don’t have formal art training, fear that no one will like my work, fear that I won’t like it, fear that my work won’t convey the feelings, thoughts and ideas that I want it to, fear I will be laughed at…an endless stream of fears! It would be much easier to take on some other daunting task like climbing Pikes Peak, training a rattlesnake to do tricks or start an art retreat business in a recession!

It seems a little silly sometimes to be fearful when making art. After all, there are many things in life that we need to be brave for that are much more life threatening; disease in ourselves or a loved one, war, protecting our family from harm, the loss of a job, or the death of someone special. Our country was founded by brave men and women who wanted to make big changes in our world. I am so thankful that they found the strength to be brave enough to create a new type of society that has become our wonderful country.

When we make art we are sharing part of our heart and soul with the world and that can be a very scary thing…maybe even scarier than creating a new country! When we make art, we lay out our emotions for the world to see and trample upon if they like.

Being Brave doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. I have a lot of help when it comes to being brave. My coach, mentor and friend Laura Cater Woods helps me by asking the questions that reveal the excuses I put in my path so I don’t have to be brave. My closest friends help me to be brave when they tell me what is good and bad about my work and when they cheer me on. My family helps be to be brave with their unquestioning support of everything I do.  My students help me to be brave when they willingly pull on their own brave super stitcher capes and plunge forward onto the tasks I assign them. I also have my groups! I belong to 3 different fiber art groups. These groups, which I co-founded, all focus on exploring fiber art and growing as an artist. How can I possibly fail with so much support?

The reality is I will fail at some things. But, one thing I have learned in this first 50 years of my life is that while failure may sting at the time, in the long run it is not really a bad thing. Failure teaches us valuable lessons and makes us stronger, kinder and more compassionate. Failure helps to make us braver. With each failure we realize that we can survive, we can grow and we can improve. Be Brave~Make Art!

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot." Eleanor Roosevelt
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Weekends and Winners

I used a random number generator to determine the winner of my Spring Market Goodie Bag and it is.....

Janice Novachcoff

Cheers and Confetti for Janice!!! I will get this luscious pack of goodies in a box for you today. Send me a photo of what you create with these treasures to share with everyone!

Breckenridge in the Spring

I just returned home from another fabulous weekend in Breckenridge with my quilt group. I am so fortunate to be friends with this wonderful, diverse group of women. Our art runs from traditional to experimental, our politics, religious views and music tastes are incredibly varied. Our love of great food, wine, laughter, fabric and stitch brings us together. I hope you have a group to share laughter and fabric with….if you don’t then I encourage you to start one.

Breckenridge Foxes

Entertainment over the weekend was provided by a fox family; mom, pop and 4 kits. They were out to frolic mornings and evenings while mom kept a close eye on them. It was hard to get good photos because we were pretty far away and they wouldn't cooperate with cute poses or even stay still for very long. I have lots of photos of reddish grey blurs.

Zakary's new quilt

I used my work time to finish a quilt for my new grandson, Zakary. I hadn’t made a real quilt in a while so it was a huge surprise when it came out the right size and was perfectly squared up. I opted for a simple pattern and quilting design because this quilt is for using not saving. I used a cute jungle animal print as the centers of the blocks and built them up with strips in a modified log cabin style. The brown is some of Susan Brooks luscious hand dyed fabrics.

The next few days will be unpacking from my workshop last week and re-packing and making kits for my classes in VA at Artistic Artifacts next week. The studios are a disaster! (as well as the house but we won’t go there) I could use a couple clean up fairies.
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To Market To Market

threads key fobs

I am headed to Spring Quilt Market in Minneapolis. Wow, has it been a crazy busy month. Two weeks getting ready for market and final edits on Threads: The Basics and Beyond. At market my Fabric Embellishing co-author Ruth Chandler and I will be offering a great Take and Teach class for store owners.  Ruth and I made great little embellished pins as a present for those who take the class. We will be demoing in the Landauer Publishing booth so stop by to see us if you are there.

I am offering a class for Threads also but solo as my co-author Debbie Bates won’t be able to attend. We are really excited to be presenting our new book at market. This book covers everything about thread and is a whopping 176 pages. You all are going to love it! I made these winged heart key fobs for my students who will earn their ‘thread wings’ in the class.

Don’t feel sorry for me because I have been working so hard…after all that prep work we headed east for a real vacation! Of course we hit some great homeschool history sites such as Old Bent’s Fort CO, part of the Santa Fe Trail in OK, Fort Smith AR, Hot Springs AR and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in TN. Our final destination was Charleston SC to see my oldest son graduate with distinction from Nuclear Power School at the Navel Weapons Station. We also got a chance to welcome in the newest Kettle family member in person. We are so proud of him and his family!

We spent 5 days exploring Charleston and hanging out with the family. We saw enough forts and cannons, battleships, airplanes and traffic to fill us up for a while. One of our favorite sites was the Fire Museum. K-Man who is 3 loved their virtual ride in a fire truck. He got to be the driver numerous times. Baby Z is a delight and perfect.

We met up with my friend Carol Sloan and her husband for a kayak adventure in Charleston Harbor. We had never been kayaking and it was so much fun. We will definitely do that again. Carol will be teaching two great classes at Textile Evolution. We will have to find a Colorado style adventure for her when she is there for the retreat.

I will post photos from market this weekend so check back to see what great stuff I find.
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