My fabric stash comes from a lot of different places. And I guess it’s not just fabrics. It’s yarn and beads and knitting and painting and sewing tools. I get a lot of things from what I respectfully and affectionately call my ‘Dead Mother Resources.’ Sounds kind of gruesome, doesn’t it? I’m going to start calling it my ‘Dear Grandmother’s Resources.’

Here’s the deal…we all know someone who has a mother/aunt/grandmother/sister/neighbor who dies. And they sewed or knitted or quilted or painted……and nobody in the family wants their ‘stuff.’ They know you do something like that, so they ask if you want the stuff. Do you ever say no? I don’t!

A gift of fabric

I gratefully accept whatever goodies they would like to share with me. I take it all and worry about sorting it later. People are so happy to feel that their things are going to a good home–and they are! A friend could not bear to throw away things that she knew were no longer useable, because they were her mother’s. She had no problem giving it all to me and letting me throw out dried paints and stiff brushes and ripped, yellowed paper.

Same with fabrics…you can’t always tell what the content is and depending on how you work, it may not matter. But you know for sure what you like and what you don’t, what is really garbage and what you can pass on to someone else. I’ve never had a gift of ‘stuff’ where I could use everything, but I’ve had lots of gifts where I could use something.

Spend a little time sorting through things. You might be surprised at the treasures you find! After I sorted through the pile of fabric above, I found several fabrics I liked. Only little bits and pieces, not big chunks, but these are the ones I think I’ll use first.


I’m happy that I get to use the choices made by others. It challenges me. It makes the givers happy to bestow such bounty. I like to think that all the ‘dear grandmothers’ are smiling down on me and I thank them!

Decisions…not easy for me

But when I finally make a decision, I go for it! My magenta background that I talked about here is now married to the fabric with magenta leaves.

I’m not sure where else I’m going with it, but I’m committed now! I have that yarn I showed you that has all these same colors. And, of course, I have lots of beads. Over the top and extravagant are never hard for me. It’s showing restraint that is difficult.

Detail shot here:

The orange and green really make this piece a zinger. All the colors are very intense and I just don’t think there is anything that will cool it down. I plan on making curvy edges, probably couched with the silk yarn. I know this will surprise you, but I also have some other skeins of variegated yarn that would work as well!

Committed—I don’t think that’s the same as certifiable! But sometimes after I make a decision and act on it, I start to question myself. I am committed…I will press on!

Archeological Quilting

And by that, I don’t mean studying the history of quilting. I mean finding the top of my work table is like an archeological dig!

Lynn Krawczyk decided to show her messy work space and invited us all to show and tell with her. I’m not looking at anyone else’s space before I show you mine because I’m playing a game with myself to guess who’s might be piled the highest.

Just to give you a little perspective, I have a 6 foot long work table plus a small shelving unit at the end that adds another foot.

Today's mess is concentrating on finding the right combination of fabric and beads.

Every inch of that 7 foot length is covered with stuff! But I have discovered something with this little exercise. I guess I knew it, but it can help me find stuff later…I am left-handed and on those rare occasions when I start with a clean table, I start on the left edge. As I work, I don’t always put stuff away, but start piling up leftovers on my left…until I work my way down to the right edge, run out of room and am forced to clean and start over!

Check out the bottom right corner...baskets under the table are great for just throwing scraps into. Sort scraps??? Surely you jest!

Right after I took this photo, I thought I should try to show you a bit of cleaning up and organizing. There really is a method to my madness. I almost always know what pile I have something in…that’s the visual learner part of my brain. And the previous mess was cleared away as soon as I found what I needed for the workshop I’ll be attending. This is the right side of the table, all set to go.

Project 1, Project 2, supplies...organized and ready!

And here’s the left side of the table…still a lot of clutter but so much better than it was!!!

Archeological digging done for the day…there are only remnants of my current projects. Phew…

I’m sure you will enjoy looking at everyone’s creativity corners…does the mess contribute to our creativity? I like to see it around me. Some people like a clean slate and calmness. Let’s see some other messes…should be fun!

Lynn Krawczyk

Holly McLean

Mary Cottingham

Joy Manoleros 

Judi Hurwitt

Deb Harowitz

Linda Marcille

Jacqueline Bryant Campbell

Jill Eudaly 

Jenice Jones

Ronni Hunter

Cheryl Sleboda

Carol Swallowcliffs

Ann Brauer

Anything Goes Class

Taught one of my most fun classes this weekend…major fun for me, but the students had lots of work to do! The class title is Anything Goes With UFO’s and it’s truly an easy way to learn and play with improvisational piecing. We discussed the thought processes in different approaches to creating improvisationally…is it really improv if you have a design all sketched out? Aaaah…is the design process the same as the free-form techniques?

Mary-starting with these UFO's...

To me, they are separate processes. I prefer to make free-form elements and then combine them using a design wall after I have a goodly amount of pieces with which to work. Some people do sketch out or pre-plan what they want to have and use their freely cut shapes to get to that plan. There are those who create ‘chunks’ of color and pick and choose as though they were adding paints from their palette.

Working towards this...

Every single one of these approaches is right! There is no one way that’s better than another, or more correct.

Kathy-thought she knew which direction she wanted to go...

Left with elements done, but planning on much more design wall time.

You need to enjoy the process and use the method that leads to the results you desire. What is so valuable to me as a teacher is that I can see students using all of these processes in a class and point them out to the other students. You never know what will strike a spark with someone, what you might see someone doing that might inspire you to try something different.

Barb1 had an idea of what she wanted when she came. She did blocks to learn methods, but then stuck with her original plan of blues and greens and more linear strips.

Barb2 had a lot of fabrics from many projects that really ended up working well extended color palette. Lots of small pieces that added complexity to her final(?) design plan of strip assembly.

No one finished a piece in class…they all spent as much time thinking as they did sewing. I could see the design wheels turning as the day moved along and I feel that everyone is headed for a wonderful piece when they do finish…and I think they all will finish! It was a class to use up UFO’s after all, not to create more!

I love teaching!

Choosing Color…Maybe

Sometimes people ask me how I choose fabrics for a project and I would like to share some thoughts on that process with you.

It’s almost always a particular piece of fabric or a hunk of color that catches my attention. I can walk into a quilt store and just let my gaze roam over the shelves and all of a sudden something will stop my eyes. It’s not always the brightest, boldest piece on the shelf, either. But that’s when I’m out in the world, looking at fabrics!

More often than not, I’m thinking about new projects early in the morning or late at night and picking from some of those eye-catchers that I have already collected. You saw a couple of stacks that I straightened up here and I would typically reach for one of those stacks and pick a piece that I liked at oh-dark-thirty in the morning.

Then I would start going through stacks and selecting lights and darks and mediums that went along with it, not really making decisions until I figured out what I was making. That’s one way I choose.

Other times I work on something, maybe change my mind, set things aside and discover them later…you work like that, don’t you?

I had this piece that I constructed for a background and did not use. I pinned it up to the design wall and started throwing fabrics up with it. THIS is how I usually start a project.

I really want to use this background. I don’t want to cut it up into something smaller. I think just some shapes on top of it would be a good starting point. So are any of these combinations good?


And what shapes do I want? Circles might be good, or combinations of geometric shapes. Fantasy flowers? No, don’t think so. Tree shapes…again? Not. I have these hexagons that Mary showed us how to make, and I could make various sizes of them…

But maybe this fabric goes better with this background…

Wow! Look what I found lurking in the yarn bins…

Surely that will have a place in any piece using these colors…

Clearly choosing colors for me is not a quick process. I rarely decide anything the first time I throw fabric up on the design wall. That’s the beauty and the curse of working improvisationally. I’m never quite sure where my fabric will lead me!

Of course, there is the rare day or two when I have a clear design pictured in my head and just have to pick fabrics that fit into that design. Doesn’t happen to me often. Maybe if I made realistic looking things it would be easier, but that’s just not me!

At the end of this day, I really hadn’t made many firm decisions. I may try going with a whole different set of fabrics on that background tomorrow–or late tonight!!!

Maybe something I select will set off a new train of ideas that doesn’t even include that background and it will go back on the shelf again for a while. Maybe…maybe…maybe…it’s not the decisions but the possibilities that make quilting so exciting. Never a chance at boredom as long as you can say ‘what if’ ‘how about’ ‘maybe’ and try it!

It’s only fabric, after all and it just sits there waiting for you, waiting for the next ‘what if’ session!

Magenta–lots of it!

I spent most of my time Wednesday working on quilting the lime, terra cotta and magenta quilt. I finally gave it a name, too. The other one I made from this fabric was called Walk In The Park and this one is going to be Walk In The Garden.

The quilting was done with the various shades of magenta with which I did the couching of the yarns. I kept most of it very plain, just repetitive straight lines. That makes those few spots where I put leaves or pebbles stand out a bit more.

And for those of who are not confident in your free motion quilting…take a look at mine. NOT perfectly straight, NOT perfectly even stitches, NOT totally smooth curves…and it’s FINE! I regard free motion quilting as just like the artist’s handwriting and so it should be very individualistic. Some people have more beautiful handwriting than others, but I’m just happy when it’s legible!

I still find it hard to believe that this is coming out just the way I envisioned it! That never happens!

There were decisions that needed to be made before I started the quilting…thanks for all the input and suggestions. I was pretty sure before I put the top together and then decided-definitely no border. If I wanted to do an envelope turn, I’d have to do that before quilting and I’m not always happy with the way the quilting turns out when I do that–so, not that. I don’t like facings…I should clarify–I don’t like making facings. I considered turning the front edge over the back. To do that I would have had to leave a margin unquilted around the top edge…do-able, but I decided against it.

I held up fabrics next to the piece and finally decided that yes, I do want a binding and yes, it will be from the original terra cotta fabric. It’s just too green without that little bit of color around the edge and the terra cotta was so lost in the magenta that I needed to restore it to the overall color scheme.

I don’t have the binding on yet. Probably tomorrow, because when I spray baste a piece I like to try and wash those chemicals out before my final square up. And with the heavy quilting on this one, it will definitely need to be squared up!

Your comments always help me organize my thoughts, even if I don’t do exactly what you would do! I appreciate it when you take the time to look and advise me and you gave me lots to think about this time!

Lime, terra cotta and magenta!

I fell in love with this fabric because it was a wonderful orange color with shots of turquoise and magenta and lime…loved it! I already made one piece

Walk In The Park

using it and have shown you some of what I was thinking on a second piece. Well….my favorite orange has kind of taken a back seat on the new look at a second piece. I kept looking for an orange or magenta or turquoise background that would make me happy and had no success. The wise advice to make visual decisions visually is what finally clicked for me. Green background fabric almost jumped off the shelf and screamed at me!

I hadn’t considered green because most of my ‘blocks’ were very green.

Sometimes the obvious is just not that obvious to me…green was only a starting point and the blocks could easily be bordered with that wonderful orange.

Mmmmm….not so much. Orange did not work…at least, not any orange I had. Turquoise–nope. Magenta! In several shades, very subtle color differences.

Couched shades of magenta yarn around each block and then I wanted the feeling of a grid of roads or walkways so I couched more yarn between the blocks.

I’m quite pleased with what I have so far and hung it back on the design wall to see about a border. First, I’ll try out a couple of fabrics and see if anything speaks to me. I may end up deciding no border…do either of these speak to you for a border?


Guess what? I am NOT planning on any beading on this piece! I want to do lots of quilting in the areas enclosed by the ‘roads’ with all the different shades of magenta thread I have. The bright lime, turquoise and orange have pretty much been relegated to little accents now and I’m okay with that!

We’ll see what decisions tomorrow brings.

Faultlines Finally Finished!

How’s that for alliteration? But the statement is true and I’m very happy to be done. I really like the way it turned out and I’m moving on to the next one.

Faultlines 16 x 20

More info and details are here, and here, and here.

I took this next picture just because it was the last sewing step on this project and I was so happy to finally get to this point! Doesn’t the close up make the pins look like nails? I know it was heavy, but it really was not two ton boulders that I had to lift with a crane.

There is always a little let down when one piece is finished, but I have so many other ideas, my let downs only last a few moments! Now, let’s see what’s next…I don’t believe it will be the hand dyed fabric I showed you the other day. That needs some more contemplation, and your suggestions sure gave me a lot to contemplate!

Mondays seem to be good days for me to either start or finish a project. This week it’s start and I’m excited…

Enough or Not Enough?

My early mornings are often given to contemplation of design and project ideas. Coffee helps in this process, of course, and sometimes it goes off the rails into procrastination but today I started wondering about some fabric I have.

You’ve seen it before. It’s some fabric that I dyed and I really love it.

My ‘contemplation’ comes in the form of a simple question. Is the fabric enough to base a project on? (Special note to my “liberian” friends–the grammar may be incorrect, but that’s how my thoughts roll!) Can I add quilting and other embellishments, particularly the beads I love, without piecing this fabric with something else? I see a lot of interesting nooks and crannies in the color flow, and I’m just not sure if that’s enough.

I’d love to hear your opinions…here’s a closer look at the fabric. What do you think?

Click for larger image

And then the next part of the question becomes ‘how big’? I have at least a yard of this, which would be the width. Shall I use it all or make a smaller piece? Shall I make several small pieces?

Oops…the coffee is gone. Time to go do something! But I’m still thinking about this and will pin the piece of fabric to the design wall and look at it for a while. I would really welcome your thoughts, too.

Good Intentions…HA!

The week started out with very good intentions and Monday saw quite a bit of progress. Tuesday was mostly staring at the wall and trying to decide which project needed doing next. And then, of course, Tuesday afternoons are grandson time, so……..there went Tuesday!

Wednesday–not much to take pictures of. Some business things done, mostly on the computer and a visit to a friend. The studio activity consisted of starting to get organized for several upcoming classes and NOT being organized enough to find what I needed!

Stacks–that’s what I did.

The first one with possibilities for the Quick Start Quilting class.

Yes, large print florals work best!

Then I knew I had some unfinished quilt blocks for Anything Goes UFO’s, but I just could not find them. I started going through piles of fabric that were just stuffed any which way on the shelves. Found them! And then spent an hour or so neatly folding and stacking fabrics so that for a little while I’ll be better able to find what I need.

I have a LOT of fabric…much more than I will ever be able to use in my lifetime. And for several years now I have been consciously trying hard to buy only quarter yards and not buy every single thing that I love. I dye my own, too and need to use those. But those tricky manufacturers–they keep making new fabric that is just beautiful! How is a girl supposed to resist? Sigh…