Stitch Journeys

Exploring life with needle and thread.

Biospheres and Babies

biosphere

Last week was a busy week. I was in Tucson for a mini family reunion with my mom and two aunts. We had a great time exploring the flora and fauna of Tucson and visited Biosphere 2. You may remember the experiments in the early 1990s where scientists were sealed inside as an experiment in sustainability. Biosphere 2 is an amazing giant greenhouse and it covers over 3 acres but I can’t imagine living in there for a year or more with no outside air or food. The structure is full of incredible grids which I took about a zillion photos of and houses a rainforest, ocean, desert, savannah and wetlands. Biosphere 2 is now operated by the University of Arizona and is used for numerous experiments. The variety of plants is amazing and of course I took a bunch of photos but the cattails one is my favorite. It is worth the visit but be sure to wear your walking shoes. Biosphere 2 makes one pause and wonder at the incredible diversity and beauty of Biosphere 1 which we inhabit.

biosphere grid_edited-1

biosphere cattails

On our Friday morning hike I got the phone call that my grandson Baby Z had arrived…I could hear him crying all they way across the country! Gotta love technology! Within an hour I had a photo of the precious package to share with Great Grandma and Great Aunts. He is healthy but his big brother said he is noisy! Look at how proud K-Man is of his Baby Z. I won't get to see them for a month...one very long month! I had to restrain myself from asking the moms of the newborns on my flight home if I could smell their sweet babies. They probably wouldn't have understood.

k-man and baby z_edited-1
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What is your keystone?

architecture atcs

I have a fantastic ATC (Artist Trading Cards) group that meets monthly. It is so much fun to gather and share our little pieces of art, talk about techniques and tell our stories of why we made what we did. We have a theme every other month and this month the theme was Architecture. It is always so interesting to see everyone’s take on the theme. We had everything from women’s architecture and the elements of architecture to pyramids and obelisks. These women are so creative. I highly recommend starting an ATC group if there isn’t one near you. ATCs are a great way to try new techniques and ideas.

My architecture of choice was the keystone. I have always been amazed at how one stone could be the element that kept all the other stones in place. I like to do a little research about the topic I am working with so my research led me to thinking about the keystone in a different way. There were lots of links about Keystone Colorado and the Keystone Kops but the more interesting links referred to things such as a keystone species of an environment…a species critical to the health of the environment or the keystone idea of a philosophy. That got me thinking about personal keystones. Particularly what is my keystone? What is the thing that keeps every other bit of my life in balance? Is the current keystone the always and forever keystone? Personally, my current keystone is my health. Without my health I don’t have the energy I need to care for my family and friends or the energy to fuel my passion for my art and teaching. My health has been crumbling slowly over the last two decades and I fear that I am close to a tipping point where I will never be able to regain a solid keystone. I have been taking steps to mend my keystone but the patches haven’t been quite strong enough. One autoimmune disorder has led to another and another.

keystone atcs

I am in the process of carving a new keystone, a strong one that will enable me to be and do all that I am passionate about. It is difficult for me to focus solely on my self, my health, my needs as that isn’t my natural inclination. But, as I so often and readily tell others, you have to take care of your body and soul before you can take care of others. I am taking my own advice and approaching this task with a sense of discovery instead of dread and frustration. I am slowing down to see what is around me. I am taking time to care for myself body and soul. This new keystone will be strong and beautiful.

What is your keystone?
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Seeing Eggs

eggs

I have always loved spring and Easter. When I lived in VA they generally arrived at the same time. Here in Colorado, spring has barely opened one eye. As my friends tell me about their green grass, daffodils and lilacs I try not to be jealous. I am more likely to see a sea white snow from my window as any grass. This year we do have a beautiful day for Easter though the wind may sweep away any small child hunting for eggs outdoors.

What I love about this season is the sense of rebirth and renewal. We often forget that we need winter to slow down and rest in our busy lives. I know that I usually find those 'winter' times frustrating and full of unease because I feel that time is too short and I must get to creating something fabulous. How silly is that? I need to embrace the 'winter' and let my mind and body heal after putting forth such great effort to produce a luscious harvest. I need to restore my energy and fill my heart with joy. Why do I fight it? Why do I think that I should be able to grow and harvest, grow and harvest on and on with no rest?

You would think I would learn easily but this is something my first born, A-type personality continues to struggle with. My Grandfather always admonished us kids to ‘pace yourself’ and ‘stop and smell the roses’. As a society we seem to forget these wise words. We are always in a rush to accomplish the next big thing, buy the newest gadget, often standing in line for days to be the ‘first’ to have the latest and greatest. But does that make us any more fulfilled as a human? Does it make us more successful, more efficient? I think after almost 50 years I have started to embrace the reality that it doesn’t. Taking time to see the beautiful colors in a basket of fresh farm eggs, to see the light of the afternoon sun on the prairie grass, to see the hawk struggle against the wind…these are the things that fill our soul so that we may experience spring.

So, that is what I have been doing the last couple weeks…enjoying ‘winter’! Fortunately for me Mother Nature has given me a few big snow storms so I could really get into it. And you know what? It worked! All of a sudden I have fresh ideas, I am seeing things with ‘spring’ eyes and I am approaching my work with joy instead of listlessly crossing the next item off my to-do list. I also realized that I didn’t have to spend time dyeing eggs because Mother Nature did it for me.
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A Joyful Process



I have been thinking about two different conversations I had with some fellow stitch artists the last few months. The first was an artist who was lamenting that she really wanted to create a crazy quilt with her treasure trove of collected fabrics and embellishments but she didn’t know the correct techniques and was afraid she couldn’t do it properly. The second was another artist (very accomplished and well known) who stated emphatically that she thought her work was terrible…actually I believe she used the word ‘sucked’. I encouraged these artists to go easy on themselves but felt that my words may have fallen on deaf ears.

Back when I was still mainly doing traditional quilting, I had a bee mate who had terrible technique skills, her points never matched, her stitching was erratic and everything turned out wonky and lumpy. She didn’t care, she was proud of every creation. She was the most joyful quilter I have ever met! There is a point in our lives as creative beings when we must embrace what we love to do even if we can’t do it to some standard of perfection the world has devised.  Why do we strive so hard to achieve some silly standard or idea of perfect? Art is not a competition! And yet, we have been taught to compare our work to others instead of enjoying the pleasure of mutual admiration for each others creations.

lutradur flowers sm web

The fact is that someone will always be better than me and my work can always improve. If I am spending my time worrying that my art is not as good as my neighbor’s art then I can no longer do my art because I will be trying to emulate their art. When that happens, my heart is gone from my work. In the meantime someone else is thinking that my art is better than their art and they are then stuck trying to emulate my art which I am not even doing any longer because I have embraced the fear that I am not good enough. It becomes a cycle of feeling inferior and mediocre that is difficult to escape.

Art should be created from the heart and soul, telling your story and expressing your view of the world. Art needs to please you and only you. Relish the ‘mistakes’ because they are a sign that you are stretching and growing. Create what makes your heart sing. Tell the story you feel compelled to tell. Only follow the rules if they serve you. Nurture your creative spirit and it will grow strong.  Experience the joy of creating what you love. Each piece you create is a step on the art journey…relish every step of the way.

rod flowers sm web
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Poor Nameless Piece



This is the final piece for the technique I demonstrated for Quilting Arts TV at my taping earlier this month. The show will air this summer. I am not sure when but i will be sure to let everyone know. This technique is also in Threads: the Basics and Beyond which will be available in May. I love this technique which combines free motion machine embroidery and hand stitching.

I struggled with how to present this piece because it was overwhelmed by quilted background, which is one of my standard methods of showcasing these embroidery pieces. A painted canvas was too stark. I finally hit upon this idea. The canvas is loosly wrapped with a sheer fabric. I tried wrapping it tightly but that didn't 'fit' either. This piece wanted to have a soft resting piece. I used Misty Fuse to fuse the sheer fabric to the back of the canvas. The Misty Fuse worked perfectly. I like how it turned out and may try it again on future pieces.

I don't have a name for this piece yet. Usually names come to me as I work on a piece and I worked on this one a long time with all the hand stitching but the 'just right' name hasn't come forward. Let me know if you have any ideas!
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The Party's Over

threads book threads small

The Olympic Games have just begun but at this stitcher’s house the party is over! Threads: The Basics and Beyond is done! There is one last round of edits but the stitching game is over. It was a blast from start to finish and a game well played with thread from just about every manufacturer and every fiber we could find working their hearts out to create beautiful stitches for this great book. But the final whistle has blown and now I must face the horrendous task of putting away!

I am not a putting away kind of girl…not laundry, not groceries, maybe fabric, not thread! I just didn’t get the proper genes I guess. Putting away is a tedious chore…I would rather scrub the toilet. That is how I ended up with this huge table full of thread. Well, it was easier to find the right threads when they were spread out instead of in drawers or so my reasoning went. Sigh…I will just have to do it bit by bit.

thread storage small

Students always ask how I store my thread which is a great question because as you may imagine, I have a lot of thread and I also live in a very dry and dusty climate. We can’t leave thread out on racks in Colorado. I have found these 12”x12” storage drawers to be the best for me since they fit on the shelves directly behind my machine.  I know a lot of stitchers sort their thread by color but I seem to be a bit backward that way. I sort by a three tier system: weight, then fiber content then color. I tend to think about thread weight first then fiber and color is last. I use my fabulous label maker to mark the drawer contents and keep my bobbins in keepers also sorted by weight.  I would love to find a drawer system that fits the taller spools upright so I could fit more spools in a smaller space…if you know of one let me know! Maybe I should invite some friends over for a thread putting away party! Wanna come? I'll make snacks!
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Studios!

su1003-165

I just got my advance issue of Cloth Paper Scissors Studios Spring 2010 and I am so excited! This is an incredible issue and I would say that even if my studio and office chair makeover weren't to be found inside the fabulous black and white cover. There are so many studios for inspiration...from simple to sublime! I am so intrigued by the unique ways artists find to store their art fodder. I love the outdoor studio space that Josie Rodriguez has...hmmm there is that big space under the deck just outside my studio door. I am totally lusting after Leo Sewell's plethora of vintage cabinets...all those tiny drawers to sort my stuff.  They would probably not work well for me because I am forever leaving cupboard doors and drawers open but they look so cool! I could blather on but you will want to pick up this issue for yourself.

I am happy to report that my big mama computer just got back from the hospital. I have been using an old school curved front monitor and really missing my the flat screen. Baby computer is tired of all these extra cables plugged in and wants a nap. Thanks for all the wishes for a speedy recovery!
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Not Pink Peek

free form emb small

It took me a while to decide just which not pink piece I should share today. I had another one in mind but the photo didn't get transferred over from my other computer...she is in the hospital for a new mother board. Please send wishes for a quick recovery. This is a free form embroidery piece from Threads that I really love. It was one of those pieces that I just can't help but show to everyone I can because I think it is so awesome...of course afterward I hope I didn't seem like an obnoxious show off. It just makes me happy to look at it. It is sort of like when you finally get your desk completely cleared off, everything filed and put in its place and have even polished the wood. You keep walking back in the room to just see how nice it looks all clean and shiny.
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Sew Expo Peeks

terry white and me small

I spent yesterday at the Denver Sew Expo. It is a fairly small show but has a nice mix of vendors and more focus on garments than quilting. I am not sure why the show charges $10 to get in the door. That seems a bit steep but they didn't consult me! I got some great trims at bargain prices and checked out Laura Murray's new book Star Builder on using paint sticks and her star builder stamps. The book is really nicely laid out with good instructions...a must have for paint stick aficionados. I got my own personal sneak peak at some images of her new stamp line. They are more organic in design so naturally I think they will be a hit. They are still in production so we have to wait a bit longer on those.

I got a very brief vist in with Mark Lipinski, he was keeping his students hopping and they were doing some great work. I spent most of my time distracting my talanted friend and fellow thread junkie Terry Whitefrom her booth duties. Terry has a new line of threads coming out in the spring with Coats and Clark. I can't wait to see them at Spring Market. They are going to be luscious. Terry has been a busy girl and has a new line of fabrics coming soon. It is called Run Rabbit Run from ClothWorks. I got a sneak peek and it is so fun and showcases Terry's unique style and sense of humor! I hope I can get some early for that grand baby quilt I need to make (hint, hint Terry). See that quilt behind Terry's happy face in the photo above? That is a sneak peek at a piece from the Embellishing book she is working on.

tassel small

My sneak peek for you today is this fun tassel. Fringe and Tassels were a late addition to the Threads book and so much fun to make. Tassels can be made big or small and boy do they they offer lots of opportunity for embellishing with beads, trims and found object tops! Tassels are a great take along project too since you don't need a lot of equipment.
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Sizzling Journal Peek

threads silk paper journal

I began visual journaling in earnest a little over two years ago. I love the process and I love to teach journal classes but more than either of those...I love making delicious covers for my journals. I started this one last fall at a Cloth Paper Scissors open studio event in Houston at the International Quilt Festival. The base is silk paper made with one of Artistic Artifacts awesome silk paper packs. I added machine stitching, hand stitching, couching and some beading of course. The journal is about 4"x6", a great carry around size. I love all the wispy edges of the silk paper and the great textures of the stitching.

threads silk paper journal close up

The photos from last few posts sure have had a lot of pink in them! It just looks so darn great with my favorite yellow green and my second favorite orange! I will have to find something not pink for tomorrow's sneak peek photo!
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Sneak Peek - Fabric Embellishing

fab. emb_edited-1

Today's Sneak Peek photos are from Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond.  I am co-author with 3 other very talanted artists. We worked in a 'sampler' method so you could try lots of techniques without committing to a big project. Each 8"x10" page shows a feature technique and then we embellished the pages to create little pieces of art. The first photo is from our 'hard' embellishment section. It features metal embossing, stitching on metal and image transfers on metal  I totally love this technique for a  vintage tintype look. Transfer Artist Paper works like a dream.

fab. emb_edited-2

We had another glorious day of blue skies and sun so these silk cocoon and silk rod flowers just begged to be seen. Nothing takes color like silk cocoons and rods. They are fun to work with and no one can quite figure out how you made these.  The flower stems were made from ripped strips of fabric very casually free motion stitched down. Any of you like ripping fabric as much as I do? I love that frayed edge. I especially love ripping canvas...it frays so gloriously. I will leave  you with a photo of the pins I taught at Quilt Festival last year in the Cloth Paper Scissors classroom.

miu prototype 2_small-1
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Celebrations!

passport cover small

I have a lot to celebrate as the end of January closes in. I am crossing the t's and dotting the i's on my next book: Threads: The Basics and Beyond.  I am so excited that it is coming togther so well.  When you are in the midst of writing a book you get really focused on what you are doing right here and now.It is easy to forget what you did or wrote 3 months ago. Heck, even on a good week I forget what I wrote yesterday...that is one reason my e-mail file is so stuffed. I constantly have to go back and see what I wrote! I am getting of track here...back to the book...as I go back through my text to polish and edit and put my technique samples together for the final photography I am seeing it all for the first time as a whole rather than unrelated parts. I am very happy with the look and feel of this book as well as the great information it has within its covers.It should be available in stores in April. I can't wait to share it with all of you so I will be posting some sneak preview photos over the next week. I will throw in some photos from Fabric Embellishing for extra fun.

passport top view small

What else is on the celebration list??? More sunshine every day. A printmaking class this weekend just for fun, my college kid asked for a hair cut, a drawing from my grandson,  the web site hackers didn't win, more time to make art, new classes to teach and looking forward to sharing art and creativity with an awesome group at the Spring Textile Evolution Retreat!
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See

See

Garden of the Gods path

See!

The guiding word for 2010.

See the depth of the beauty that surrounds me.

See the love that is all around me.

See the laughter and joy in my world.

See the miracles in my life.

See the path I have taken.

See the possibilities before me.

This is my third year to choose a guiding word. I love how a word can be a positive focus for my life rather than a resolution that nags me all year. Last year my word was 'listen' and before that 'centered'. These words have helped me change the way I am in the world. I have learned to slow down, learned to be present in each moment of my life, learned to listen to my body and my heart, and learned to be quiet and still. Huge changes for the competive, A-type, chaos attracting spirit that ruled my life previously. Don't get me wrong...I still love chaos and action but I am more balanced and whole.

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Natural Wonders

carlsbad 1

It seems that whenever I leave town I get behind in work and the to do list in a way that doesn't seem to correlate with the number of days I was gone. Does that ever happen to you? I even worked in the car on the long drive and missed the wind farm, one of the few visual highlights between my house and my Mom's. We finally made it to Carlsbad Caverns on this trip to NM. It has taken a long time to cross this off our list. Somehow after the 9 hour drive we just can't face getting in the car for another 3+ hours. We set out with determination the day after Thanksgiving and were rewarded with a fabulous experience with hardly any other tourists around. Carlsbad is so huge it defies description. It is amazing. It is hard to imagine that this desert was once a huge sea. I would love to see the bats coming out at dusk but they are already vacationing in Mexico at this time of year. We were also impressed by the huge population of Prickly Pear plants. I bet it is beautiful when they are in bloom. We didn't have time to explore more of the area and would like to go back for a longer visit one day. Desert environments are so beautiful but one needs to spend time immersed in them to really appreciate their beauty.

carlsbad texture

watercolor jar

I am still at those drawing lessons but find taking the time to practice is difficult. I find that when I do get started though I get lost in the work and really love looking at the light and shadow. This is my first attempt at clear objects with watercolor. It actually looks like the jar I was sketching  . It sounds silly to say but I was exhausted after this lesson! Seeing is hard work. I can see progress even with my lack of diligent practicing. I wonder how I would move forward if I actually did practice! Do you have any ideas for getting in that daily practice? Please share!
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Relish this minute

breckenridge in october

Can you imagine being able to spend the weekend with these views and work at the same time? I was heads down in Breckenridge stitching away to meet a deadline for the Threads: the basics and beyond book. Yeah, life is tough! I won't tell you that in addition to breathtaking views I  was also surrounded by great friends who kept me laughing and singing and made me get back to work when I got distracted for too long. They cooked for me too! I am a lucky girl. I did suffer a cut on my finger if that  generates any sympathy.

So often in life we get caught up in working, family responsibilities and the rush of everyday life and forget to take time to take care of ourselves, to take time to enjoy the sweet pleasures of lingering over morning coffee with friends and basking in glorious sunsets. We forget to savor the present, the now. Take time now to breathe and relish this minute. That is my new mantra.

I hope your weekend was just as wonderful as mine.

breckenridge sunset
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Drawing Lessons

It has been 4 years since I decided that I wanted to improve my limited drawing and sketching skills. I bought books on how to draw, perused creative sketch web sites, and purchased a plethora of wonderful sketchbooks, pens, pencils and even a fancy silk pencil bag. I made schedules of when I would draw and told myself over and over that I was going to learn to draw. All of those purchases brought me no closer to sketching even though I would occasionally actually put pen to paper. My one foray into public sketching resulted in a museum employee looking over my shoulder and announcing that I obviously was not an artist!

first drawing

Today I made the big leap into formal lessons. I have a dear friend, Janet Sellers, who in addition to creating fine art and sculpture teaches art to children and adults.  I figure if she could be so successful with children she could teach even me. My lesson today was on how to use the arm not the hand, how to hold the pencil and an introduction to the kneaded eraser, proper posture and seeing shape, light and shadow. That hour flew by.  My drawing doesn’t look any better than the 5 year olds that Janet teaches regularly but my understanding of drawing is vastly improved. I had a lot of fun too! I will keep you all on my drawing progress.
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French Knot Obsession

french knots close up

I have become obsessed with french knots these days. I love them! They seem to be finding their way into a lot of my work these days.This is a sneek peek of one of the projects for the new book on Thread (Spring 2010). Aren't they yummy? These were stitched with a hand dyed silk floss. I love using hand dyed threads and may have gottten a little carried away with the number of french knots on this piece. I just couldn't seem to stop.

Speaking of books...I hear the new Cloth Paper Scissors has a review of Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond. I  hear we got a thumbs up review but I don't have my copy yet and with the snow storm we are currently enjoying I may not get it today either. I am not so good at waiting! Hmmm...maybe some more french knots will keep me occupied!
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What a Blast!

Market and Festival were such a blast! Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Not only are the quilt shows amazing but it is wonderful to be surrounded by so many people who love the same stuff I do...fabric, thread and stuff! Lots of fabulous stuff!

Here are some photos of the fun.

me at open studios_edited-1

Here I am demonstrating needle felting during Open Studios. I love participating in Open Studios because I get to meet people from all over the world. This year I met a woman from Russia who didn't speak any english but loved the silk paper I was working with. We traded a piece of silk paper for a sweet handmade doll. How cool is that?

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susan brubaker knapp

Susan Brubaker Knapp chatting in Open Studios. We shared the same times and it was great to get to know Susan a little.

making art pins in miu

Students working on art pins during my MIU class. Make it University classes are fast and fun. I love the variety of students from kids to adults. They all just jump in to learn and play.

artistic artifacts booth

The Artistic Artifacts booth...look at all that incredible stuff! Those hand dyed fabrics are truly luscious! A few had to come home to live with me. A little paint, some charms, just a few packs of lucite flower beads, a couple packs of hand dyed vintage trim...thats all I will admit to bringing home!
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