Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ Category

Mad Science and Art Part 2

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

blue flowerw

One of the great things about being an artist is that  you get to redefine how people use all kinds of artistic toys.

There’s a mad kind of creativity that ends up reaching for the oddest tools at the strangest moments. It’s how we grow.  In the main, it’s embarrassingly awkward, thrashing around with with the pile of things that might work.

This week I was shaping leaves and flowers with Innovative Crafts  Heat and Shape. We’ll have a full article in the Winter Issue of Crazy Quilt Magazine, and you can read it there. 

ironing toolsw

I spent yesterday trying out different curling irons on this stuff. This is from a woman whose worn a pixie hair cut at least 40 years of her life.  We even tried out the one with balls. It didn’t exactly  work the way I expected but it did curve petals.

None of it happens if you can’t try and fail with abandon. I lack any rational linear ability to reason in straight lines. That’s ok. I can thrash through one weird idea after another with abandon. The only times I really get into trouble is when someone sets up a system that will only work one way. I’m not very good at systems that only work one way.

And after I’ve dyed fabric in the crock pot and quilted my quilt upside down with a Sweet Sixteen, what did you expect?

Once More with Feeling: Salamanders

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
755 Mooning 2 g


Lizards aren’t every day creatures for me. I don’t find them in my garden. In my wood walking days, I would find them occasionally in the woods.

But I’m still compelled by them, especially Salamanders. I love their colors. And I love their S shaped bodies. They live in both water and on land. I love things that transform and adapt.



Courtship Rituals

Courtship Rituals

I’m also aware of the lizard brain. It’s the part of us that does really primal things. Some of them are stupid and some of them are vital, but either way, it reminds me that being in a body demands certain things. I also consider it a major part of we deal with others of the opposite sex. I was mad enough at the end of a particular relationship to quilt us both as lizards, upside down and not dealing well with each other. Better to get those things out

 Sometimes they are information. Fall Stream was done at a time when a friend of mine had told some amazing ( and untrue) things about me at my church. In retrospect, when I looked at the quilt, I had the information. I just hadn’t processed it.

fired elementalsBut they’re also considered messengers from the unconscious. They travel from the world of dreams, to our ” real world” to the unconscious, bringing information we need, hiding things we cannot face at that point. Fired Elementals was quilted in the middle of my therapy years. I had no idea what it was about but was a strongly compelling idea that I had to address. Later it occurred to me that these were messengers bringing fire and light, pain and comprehension from where it had been tucked away inside.




ReunionReunion was done for my 31st high school reunion. I did not enjoy my high school years. It was a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Lord of the Flies. So when the chief bully who had sent people to taunt and beat me up asked me to come to the reunion, this was my response. More Lizard brain, I’m afraid. But something useful happens when you face your fears through your art. It transforms, sometimes into something lovely. Sometimes into something you’re simply less frightened of. That is it’s own trans substantiation emotionally. You are different, the fear is different and the thing you are afraid of is either less scary, somehow part of you, or at least smaller. It’s a worthy trip, from the unconscious and back again.

506 reunion detail

Once More with Feeling: The Bad Bugs

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
646 Floral Arrangement 25 - Copy (1)

Floral Arrangement 25

You know the feeling. You find it in the sink or the bathroom and you have to run  and get the bug identification book because you can’t imagine what that beetle is.

Well, none of us look our best sitting in the tub. I have a  Egyptian sort of attitude about beetles because of my father. He loved archaeology and regularly read me Gods, Graves and Scholars as my bedtime book. He read what pleased him. My mother kept trying to insist on things like the Little Grey Squirrel. I may have been only 3 but I knew full well the plot line on the Little Grey Squirrel just couldn’t keep up with the discovering of lost cities and tombs.  And beetles.

This did not extend to The Beatles. That’s a taste I acquired much later. If they’d come in iridescent purple and green, that might have been different. And if the Egyptians had drawn them with wings…..


163 Growing between the CracksLady  bugs are, of course, beetles, but if you dress up in black and red you[‘re already a buggy fashion statement that even Margaret would have considered stylish.






I’m talking about the beetles that are almost ornaments. They were often done as art deco pins.

They’re elegance is undeniable.

beetle bookSo I’ve gone in search of beetles. There’s a book called An Inordinant  Fondness for Beetles. It will give you the most amazing bug images you’ll ever see.

Here are some of my favorite beetles and bugs.

Sapsuckers. How could you not? They’re pink! And they look exactly like the blooms on the  branch. They are just too much fun.

382 Fallen Petals Rise - Copy (1)

Fallen Petals Rise


Brave Little Bugs

758 Bugs in Bloom (1)

Bugs in Bloom

And the Beetles that attend the garden. I so love these. Their shiny crunchy carapaces just please me.





Then there are the beetles that are too wild for words.

Beetles in Blossoms

Beetles in Blossoms


Light Japanese Lunch

Light Japanese Lunch

I have a love hate thing with Japanese Beetles. The hate thing is completely understandable. They eat everything in sight, but they specialize in roses.

The love thing… They’re iridescent purple green brown. How do you beat that? I’m completely torn. Usually I let them alone.

And how can you be sillier than rhinoceros beetles?

Stag party

Stag party


You’ll find An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles at

You’ll find fabulous beetles all over your garden. Look for them there.





Once again with Feeling: Squirrels and Other Fuzzy Things

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

703 springing (1)This is in honor of my new co-tenants. I have a happy family of squirrels living in the downstairs studio ceiling. They’re a quiet bunch. I wouldn’t have known they were there until they chewed the drain pipe for the furnace. Twice. Now the pipe flushes around a half cup of water every hour onto the studio table. Yes, I have a bucket. Yes the plumber will come again. Yes the squirrel trapping guy is coming this morning. No, I’m not happy, particularly about the flooded fabric. Two bolts of cotton are going to need some special dyeing.

I’ve often been asked why I don’t do fuzzy creatures. It’s simpler than you would think. Almost everything I do is a portrait in some way and I rarely see myself as fuzzy. If you’re 5 foot tall, just about that wide and have a pug nose, you fight an anti-cute campaign constantly. At my mother’s funeral, I had grown people grab me by the cheek pinch and pat my head. Where I come from, that’s legal cause to bite someone. I used to cuss like a some people paint in oil. “The undertext is “I am not a child. I am not a child I am not a child. REALLY!” Of course if you need to say it, you can’t ever ever prove it.  So portraying myself as something fuzzy, just doesn’t happen often. 



I’d never done fuzzy creatures until I did this commission. It was an education! Fur actually does have a nap and its not all that hard to create that. These were my first fuzzy babies. They were fun and they were a reason to try it again. They just weren’t as personally connective.


When Birdy had her bunny experience, it was necessary to do some bunny quilts. Bird found a bunny in the garden and sat down with it in a companionable way for around a half hour. Bird has really no prey instinct. It’s one of her nicer qualities. She found the bunny fascinating, but she just sat with it. It hopped into a bush and she looked at me, with her very short attention span as if to say “What was that?” Too funny. Had to quilt it.

Mice are companionable too. I only object when they want to move inside. Of course when they moved into the studio and started to poop crayola colors, it needed in some way to be documented.

So the cute thing keeps me from doing a lot of fur. Although now that my hair is a lovely silvery grey, I don’t worry about it so much. A cute 30 year old gets treated like a 3 year old. A cute almost 60 year old can do pretty much whatever she wants.  Just because they can’t figure out whether she’s old or young. I do like that,

You’ll find information about Frank Hayes, the writer of Little Fuzzy Animals, on Wickipedia. He’s a filker ( A science fiction folk musician) of great renown. He and I played in a contra band four thousand years ago. His hysterical music can be found at   Firebird Music.

You’ll find Birdy’s comments about mice at Studio Dogs, Studio Mice in an earlier blog on the subject.


New Apron Class!

Sunday, October 7th, 2012


It’s  no secret I love aprons! It was one of my mother’s few kitchen sensibilities. She would have died rather than sew on a button, but she found a woman who made new aprons for us twice a year. None of those silly half aprons either. If you’re short, you know that the top half of you is the target area whether you’re eating a salad or mixing a cake. They were full length and had huge pockets. When I learned to sew I made them for us. But the first fabric I remember picking out was for aprons.

But what about the rest? Since  I have a garden, a studio and a house I’ve noticed messes are a 360 degree situations. They just don’t happen in front. I’ve sat in my fair number of mud puddles and dye muddles. What you need is a full coverage apron.


Enter my favorite apron pattern! This came out around ten years ago. It’s so much nicer that they keep the good patterns available nowadays. This dolly covers the full fundament. I still make them several times a year and wear them into the ground.

But I have a secret! I use  two special tricks to make this apron really slick and easy to make. First off, I use a rotary cutter, mat and bias tube to whip out miles of bias tape in a flash. Bias is always the most beautiful finish for aprons and quilts, but hand cut bias takes forever. Commercial bias doesn’t match, and is made of miserable poly cotton prints. And it’s expensive. Your own bias can be specially chosen for your project, and with this method is very fast and easy.

Secondly, I use a serger and an edging foot to apply it. There’s not a hand stitch in it. Hand is a four letter word. I don’t do hand sewing.

This class is not just about aprons. You’ll learn the quickest method for making bias and the slickest method applying it.  And a new use for sergers that will turn your head around. And f you’re new to sergers, here’s a way to try them out that’s quick, easy and has instant help for you. 

I consider sergers the safest machines in my studio.  I often start kids out sewing with them because of that. The needles are safely tucked where little fingers don’t go, and they have instant success with them. So will you. Once you start serging, you won’t want  to stop.

So with great pride I’m offering this project as a class at
Gingers Spyceware Sewing Center,
116 North Main Street in Crown Point, Indiana,

Saturday, October 27th. 219-663-6973
From 10-5 

Don’t have a serger? Don’t want to have to pack up your machine for class?  Spyceware has Bernina’s in the classroom, both sergers and sewing machines so you don’t need to pack up your machine and carry it around. Or worry about knowing sergers. We’ll help you through.  It’s a stress free class. 

Spyceware Sewing Center is located at  116 North Main Street in Crown Point, Indiana, just over the Illinois border. 

Come and join us! Call today to reserve your place.  You’ll have a new apron for the holidays and two great new skills in making and applying bias.

Check out my earlier blog on aprons, In Praise of Pockets, and more information about Spyceware Sewing Center in a blog called Little Store Miracles.



Odd Neighbors

Monday, October 1st, 2012


I’ve just discovered I have new neighbors. Like most neighbors nowadays, they really didn’t exactly come up and introduce themselves. It’s just too busy a world for that. But they did come to visit and they did leave little gifts.

First we had a night where the neighbor dog Diesel wouldn’t stop barking. Diesel announces everything. It’s good or bad, however you look at it. But  it’s never like you weren’t told. We were unsure why, but it was his definition of a real invasion.

Secondly, I found a little gift on my porch. Just sitting there. It was there one night when I came home late and I spent some time trying to tell myself it was an odd leaf that just looked bone like. No, I didn’t touch it.  But it was clearly a bone. The speculation about who would bring me a bone of my own was quite strange. The neighbor boys? Really really odd friends? Someone into natural history? It was too high up for the dogs.

Finally I was sitting at night with my neighbor kids and something rustled through the bushes. I’ve watched way too much Criminal Minds and CSI. They looked at me like I’d dropped all my marbles on the floor when I whisked us all inside and locked the door. In truth it was stupid. Any house with a window is about as safe as an open brown box on the sidewalk.  They humored me over cookies.

The next morning, I walked out, and looked up the tree. All was revealed.

My new neighbor works nights. I doubt we’ll see each other much.  I’m  just hoping she doesn’t corrupt my dogs with new hobbies.

We’re going to put the cool bone she dropped out of her nest in Cara’s grave, as a little love gift. I’m sure it was how it was meant.

I do love a mystery well ended. I hope all your mysteries end with understanding.  I hope all your neighbors mean well, whether they live differently than you do. And I celebrate the nature around me, though at the same time, I hope it doesn’t come too close.

Roberta Hoovery Ranney: Wild Things Come in Hand Dyed Packages

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

 One of the things about teaching quilting that is always true is that students don’t stay students. You turn around and they’re wildly accomplished quilters doing work that makes your heart flutter. Sometimes that happens right in class. Sometimes they’re already there when they arrive. Quilting isn’t exactly hierarchical. We quickly learn just how much other people know.

I met Roberta in a class in Missouri, years ago. She was a student there, but well onto the mastery of her own work.She also produces some of the loveliest images of  the Missouri Ozarks in thread.


“Coon” is one of her pieces I chose for my Beautiful Beast lecture. We fight wars with raccoons where I live, and I’ve had to evict them from the studio several times. But her thread work makes this little thief appealing enough to want him in my garden.

“Return to Eden ” features lovely caladiums and hostas.

She’s also a hand dyed fabric addict.Here’s what she has to to say about “Bright Eyes” her stunning owl piece.

“After searching for a good background, I came upon my last piece of fabric that I bought from Ellen Anne Eddy six years ago.  And it was perfect.  Then I looked back through my gallery of quilts and realized my favorite work had been done with her fabrics as background.  So I am now watching daily for a new box containing many yards of her fabric.  I feel like a kid waiting for her first bicycle!”

  I just sent Roberta a huge box of handdyed fabric for her collection. Who knows what she’ll make next. If we’re lucky she’ll show us. She’s a quiet lunatic on the fringe for sure.

Roberta lives in Springfield, MO. On her blog she says this about herself.

“I live in southwest Missouri, work and play with fabric and thread, read lots of books, laugh a lot, cry a little,  and raise my blood pressure by reading the opinion section of the newspaper.”

Her work is available for sale at the Waverly House Gallery

in Springfield. Her blog is at

 My mother always knew I’d come to no good. Here  I am feeding people’s addictions.  Who knew we’d grow up to be fabric junkies? 

Do you want a stash of hand-dyed Ellen Anne Eddy fabric? Ask Ellen to send you a box of fabric to pick through.

Got Books? Join me on Goodreads!

Monday, May 28th, 2012

“Some men, some men, cannot pass a book shop.( Lady make your mind up, and wait your time away). ” Dorothy Parker Chant for Small Hours

How many toes does the frog have?

I’m a book junkie. I come from a long line of book junkies.  On the day I was born, my father gave me a red rose and the library who knew everything about my family gave me a library card. I’ve lived most of my life in the company of books.

So it’s common for me to talk to anyone and everyone about what I’m reading. In this new electronic world, I mean that in every sense. Much of what I read now is on Audible, books on mp3, my best book love, although I’ve got a kindle that belies the 4-6 books I used to regularly travel with for a week long tour. Sounds extreme? It was infinitely better than stopping at a book store.  So now I travel with my mp3 player in my bra ( yes, that too!) and my Kindle in my bag.

But those are my tales library. They’re company, entertainment, comfort and light and I can’t be without. 

I have another library that I use for research. It’s not all research books. It’s largely children’s books but it includes nature books, art books and all kinds of odd and wonderful visual stimulation.

In the days when I made students draw  I always brought a collection of those books. Not to be copied  but as research.



I have no interest or desire to debate copyright issues. That’s a lawyer’s place. I’m not a lawyer because I don’t want to be one. But all art is in some way derivative. If you want to make something recognisable, you’ll need to look at it at some point. For those people who are also fabulous photographers, it’s great to take pictures. I often search for visual stimulation, not to copy but to research. How many toes does that frog have? I don’t know without asking.

I used to give out a handout of a list of some of my favorite books for research. I brought them to class. I took students off to book shops.  All that stopped when I started giving people patterns. It also was impossible to keep up with books in and out of print. And way to expensive to ship them back and forth

 But I miss sharing books. I miss sharing books as if I couldn’t share cookies and tea.

Two things have changed.  Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and Alibris make it possible to find very out of print books, easily.  And services like Goodreads makes it possible to list and rate them for people. So I’ve decided to use Goodreads not only as my list of reading books I’m in love with. But also my research books I’ve loved.

This is just a beginning. If I’ve talked about a book you might want to read, this is a good place to look. If you’re looking for  some of the source books I used to bring into class, here’s the hand out on this.

Book handout

You’ll also find some of my listed books on a shelf that says design. That means that’s a book I turn to for it’s imagery. So you can find it for yourself. 

I’ll also add more books in and tell you which ones I love for their beauty, their information and their illustrations. Not so you  can copy. But so you and I can all feed our eyes. I’d also love knowing what books you’re turning to as eye candy.

You’ll find my account on Goodreads. You’ll also find my blog posted there as well.

You can find many unfindable books at Amazon, Alibris and Barnes and Nobles, as well as many other book stores. I would say, go to them all! I intend to.

The Best Neighbors: The Best Tomatoes

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012


Vegies from Sherrill's Greenhouse

I really have some of the best neighbors. I have Liam and Mary who watch my dogs and come visit me. I have the Pat Winter, the Dye Cup Fairy.

And I have Sherrill Newman, perhaps the best horticulturist I know.

Sherrill has a small greenhouse. It’s small but it’s mighty. This winter she decided that she was going to grow the most amazing heirloom tomatoes ever.

If you don’t know about heirloom tomatoes, you should. Someone once said that a cello winter tomato is a vegetable, but a garden summer tomato is a fruit. Mulitiply that by 10 and you’ve got  heirloom tomatoes. You don’t  generally find them in the store. If you do you might well be asking “What is that?” If you get a taste you might well be asking “What was that?” for the rest of your life and just plain go in search of. They are a sacrament! To the most  part, if you want them, you must grow them. 

Sherril’s having a garden sale at her green house on May  26 and   27 Saturday and Sunday

You’ll find some of these tomatoes there. At least until I get there.

You haven’t heard of these? Don’t let that stop you. You won’t find them at the garden center.They’re a special garden treat. Do  you want them all? Don’t be silly. Of course you do! These are the best.

Cabernet Hybrid Tomato Red Brandywine Tomato
Chocolate Cherry Tomato Limmony Tomato
Black Sea Man Tomato Jaune Flammee Tomato
Grapette Hybrid Tomato Abe Lincoln Original Tomato
Rainbow Tomato Amana Orange Tomato
Snowberry Tomato Moonglow Tomato
Costoluto Genovese Tomato Brown Berry Tomato
Watermelon Beefsteak Tomato Ananas Noire Tomato
Aunt Rubys German Green Tomato Red Currant Tomato
Black From Tula Tomato Georgia Streak Tomato
Black Tomato Micro Tom Hybrid Tomato
Rose Tomato Tye Dye Hybrid Tomato
Vintage Wine Tomato Japanese Black Trifele Tomato
Torbay Hybrid Tomato Porter Tomato
Christmas Grapes Tomato

Sherrill’s plant sale is on 

May  26 and   27 Saturday and Sunday

at her green house at

300 Franklin Street

Porter, IN 46304

From 8:30 AM to 3:30PM


Or email

for more information

Sherrill also does landscaping and plantings for people. She’s got an astonishing eye. And great plants!

Cara Speaks from the Dog House: Gardening Projects:The Big Hole

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012


Cara Candis Canis

Every dog wants a special sitting spot this time of year in the garden. With a little stealth and effort you can dig a lovely hole that will cool and soothe you all summer long.


  • Look for a place where the ground is soft.
  • Watch closely to see that your mom isn’t looking. She’s not broad minded, and she probably won’t approve.

  • Dig a large luxurious hole that fits you even when you stretch out.


Refuse to sit in it in front of mom. No need to let her know for a certainty you dug it. There are other dogs in the house. It could have been someone else, right?


  • Don’t let her fill it with plants or chips. Training people takes years. You need them to understand you are in charge and that, in the end, you’ll get your way.

Ellen’s not over bright, but we all take care of her. I regularly garden with her, digging holes that are lovely structures and making sure that they stay perfectly fresh, for the perfectly fresh dog.





Bird Speaks from the Dog House: Studio Miracles

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

As always, it’s my job to care for the social well being of all people who come to the studio. I think they lack proper dogs who kiss them enough. I always help with that.

But I also get to see the miracles that happen when you have a creative space. A creative space doesn’t just make objects. It makes people creative. And bless them, we know they need help.

Liams machine

Several years ago, a lady left a sewing machine for my mom. It was an  awfully old Pfaff, before the walking foot mechanism. She said at the time, she’d find it a home. It’s home seemed to be under the counter.




Then her neighbor Liam, who is 11 told her he wanted a sewing machine. Liam is a great neighbor. He comes over, tells great stories, rubs dog tummies, watches Mom sew and has helped make a great new garden bed for Mom. He even helps her find camera and glasses.

There’s a readiness to learning to sew, just like there is for reading. When a kid wants to, that’s the time. Thank God we had that machine ready and waiting. It’s perfect. It’s all metal, tough, strong and solid. And Liam loves to oil and maintain it. To make him feel better I stuck my nose right up his back while he was stitching. You know, I think he needs that kind of support. But it was good his foot was off the pedal.

But that’s what a good studio does. There’s a lady who needed a place to give her machine to. There’s a little boy sewing his heart out. There’s Mom with great and lovely people around her. A studio is a place to create things. But it also creates happy people.

Can you come to our studio? Well, of course. Call Mom first so she knows or you may find her upside down in a dye sink. If you wish to see a clean studio you can make an appointment for 3 years from now. If you to come play, well just come over.

Where are the Guerilla Girls When You Need Them?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

I didn’t start out a feminist. I wasn’t even a tom boy. I read a lot and sewed a lot. Now I write a lot and sew a lot. My life isn’t really much different.

But as a girl I was kept waiting for it to be ok for me to be myself. Being a traditional girl only works if the people around you are willing to be traditionally supportive and kindly. If they make it open season on girls who are socially awkward or not pretty or just a bit over educated, then it really doesn’t pay that little girl much good to cling to traditional roles. I think I had that mostly figured out by the time some guy threw me into the bleachers at a high school dance as a joke. He thought it was funny. Imagine that. I didn’t quite get the joke.

But I have learned that when folk really would like you not to think, have opinions, or God help you, a brain, you’re about to see someone try to throw you to the mat. It doesn’t do any good to say, “I’m just a girl. Why are you doing this to me?” The why’s are impenetrable.  And yet, if you get up and toss them back, you’re a monstrous angry woman. Imagine that.

I like to think that fiber art which is largely women’s art has come into it’s own. Imagine my surprise. The person organizing a show for me advertised my lecture by saying, “And she’ll talk about needlepoint.” When I explained that it wasn’t needlepoint, he said” Needlepoint, fiber art, all the same thing. It’s all thread.” He thought that was funny. Again, I missed the joke.

It doesn’t really matter that I’m an established artist with a 3o year career behind me. It doesn’t matter that work of mine hangs in galleries and museums. It doesn’t matter that over the years I’ve taught thousands of women to follow their own art or that I’ve written over 50 published articles. I could be doing my first book signing, and I would deserve not to have someone diminish my work by saying it’s all the same as all women’s work.  With no disrespect to needlepoint, when men allow that attitude to go passed and unquestioned, do you wonder why women ask what men are for? Once you’ve been consistently dismissed by a group, you lose the ability to care about what they think.

In the 1980’s the Guerilla Girls made a huge statement about how women’s art is viewed. and more important, respected.  What made me a feminist is years of men who have decided to dismiss me and what I do because it’s not useful to them or supportive of their egos. The heart is not a stone. But it can become like one.

The joke here is that as women have money, and jobs, they get to have their own say about what is art. That joke I get.

You’ll find more information on the Guerilla Girls at They’re doing a current show of their many posters. As far as I can tell, we truly need them still.

The Counterpoint to the Melody.

Monday, April 2nd, 2012


There are times I’m convinced I’m simply living wrong.

For the second time in less than a year I’m having the discussion with a church choir over singing in unison. I left the first church on account of that. If my owl looks a bit peeved, you’ve got the point.

It sounds so simple. Let’s just all sing the melody! The congregation will follow you better. It will sound more strong. It will be more simple.

Unfortunately, it is simple. It doesn’t take into account just what it sounds like if you can’t sing the melody.There are people who can’t sing in a key outside their voice without singing in the key of off. So what it really is, is a way of telling people who are different to be silent. I hate to be told to be silent.

It used to enrage me. Now it makes me breathtakingly sad.

So much of life is about finding a way to bridge our differences. For some the gap is wider than others. I do believe it’s counterproductive to see ourselves as terminally unique. The word special has had connotations that make my teeth hurt. Sometimes ordinary is an amazing accomplishment. And what is worse is that once you get around to that kind of thinking, nothing about yourself is ordinary enough to pass. It’s a counterpart to the melody. It’s the artist’s theme song, sung Allie McBeal style in your head.

For those of us without homelife, we sing the counterpoint of independance, interdependance and constructive work to the constrains of people who have people who need them.

For those of us without children, we sing the aunt or uncle’s lullaby. Odd but endearing, a counterpoint to the parent’s world.

For those of us who write, dance, draw, sculpt, sew and struggle, we sing the counterpart of creation past the security of a regular job.

It would be so simple to sing the melody. But simple isn’t always possible. It’s completely out of my reach. So the counterpart is what I have to offer. I try to tune it to the mass of music around it. My hope is that it’s place and purpose is to enrich the melody I cannot really sing. And to believe it all to  be a single whole sound.

Daring Not to Judge

Friday, March 30th, 2012

We live in such a cynical  society. Part of the urge to judge I think comes from the endless waves of stimulation our internet world affords us. Too many songs, stories, images, ideas. Perhaps we have to sort them out to decide what to focus on. Our sorting process gets a bit jaded too. I’m unlikely to watch any kind of reality or game show, just because I find the headset nauseating. That was my error. I missed this one first time around.

I can’t imagine how  Jonthan Antoine got an audition. Thank God someone had the sense to listen to him instead of making the judgments that the world is prone to make. I watched this with tears running down my face, for him and his courage, for every person of size I know, for myself. There’s a wonderful thing in simply being heard. There’s a grace in really listening.

Bug Jambalya almost ended up in the trash can. It came from very humble beginings. I made a bug quilt I really didn’t like. I wadded it up, put in a corner and found it 3 months later. I was mad enough at it that I cut it up and put it back together. Over a period of 6 months it developed red flowers and a number of dragonflies. And then some folk came through, saw it hanging and suggested I put on the extra dragonfly body and wings I had from another quilt. The quilt I almost threw out is one of my favorite Resurrection stories.

I feel that way about myself too. That I’m working on self satisfaction, but it’s probably going to take red flowers, a really odd addition and some dragonfly bits to make it work. I’m still hunting the pieces.

So I challenge you. I challenge me too. I challenge us to listen to an idea from someone we see as flaky.To look twice at someone who either frightens or disgusts us by who they are, because largely when that happens we are seeing our own reflection. To love and care for a duckling that may grow in to a swan or a pterydacytle, but it is about to be something unexpected and fabulous. To reach past what things look like and see what is about to become.

I hope Jonathan cuts a record fairly soon, because even not liking opera, I can’t wait to hear what this amazing young man will do. And so for us all.

The Land of Giants

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I’m vertically challenged. This is, at this age, no surprise for me. The tallest person in my family topped out at 5 ft 4. I realized I’d lost a half inch ( they count if you’re short enough) at the doctor’s office. At least I think I lost it at the doctors office. It was there we noticed it was gone.

So much of the time I live in the land of Giants. Most people seem to be so over tall. When  I came out to teach there was a very catchy and unfortunate little song going around called Short People. It was about acceptance but you really had to listen to the lyrics to catch that.  Every room I substitute taught in had a kid who sang it and I developed a tap dance to it I would do as I entered the room.

It’s no surprise that important people have  used short people as fools, buffoons,  jokes and oddities. What is cool about that it alternatively gave them a voice within the power structure. How cool can your king/leader/president/guru be if he can’t listen to what a short person says? They’re little. Are you going to beat up on someone who’s little? It’s really poor pr. And so, we short folk  can speak the unspeakable truth.

Do I speak the unspeakable truth? Not very often. Mostly I stand as the cheering section. Because that, too, is a fool’s place. The part of us that refuses failure as anything but a resting spot, that believes in one more time, that believes that it’s perfect even if and especially it means we do it differently next time, that’s my unspeakable truth. I spend a lot of time shouting it, largely because the people I’m speaking to are actually very high up. I’m also shouting against my own fear.

I went and taped several weeks ago at Quilting Arts. It’s an honor to do that kind of thing. It’s also incredibly humbling. If nothing else, it shot any theory of mine about personal organization in the foot. I tried to find a picture of myself with my mouth shut. There were none.

So when I was in the green room for the Quilting Arts show I was seeing giants. Wonderful Giants!Not just Pokey Bolton, who has opened creative doors for all of the fiber art community in fabulous ways. People with gifts and voices that deserve a cheerleader’s  best. Just don’t ask me to do the splits.



So I snuck in between Judy Coats Perez and Michele  Muska, partially because they were both so tall and it was funny, and partially because its my job to cheer all of us on. Giants all.

You’ll find Judy Coats Perez’s fabulous work and blog at

You’ll find Michele’s amazing felt work on her Facebook page.

You’ll find Quilting Arts at

And you’ll find giants everywhere.


Good Scissors: Great Tools

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

When I was a 13 year old brand new sewer my neighbor lady, Mary Annis, got me a pair of scissors and said” These are your sewing scissors. Don’t let anyone else use them for anything else.”

What a lovely idea. I’ve never known how to make that stick. You know the moment. I need to cut open a box, cut the cat’s claws, cut a wire, and there’s no other pair of scissors you could find. So, they got used. And abused. The only thing that can possibly save them from being used for box cutters is to never bring them into a room with a box in it. My scissors live brief glowing glorified lives that go down in functional burn out.  God help me if they learn to call the tool version of the ASPCA. The only help for that is to carry junk scissors with me at all times  in my apron pocket or to have a box cutter in a designated place in every room of the studio and house.

I’ve also had a down on plastic handled scissors since the orange ones of the seventies. Those were functional but not a long haul. I’ve gone mostly with sharp all metal scissors for a while. But lately I’m noticing that those babes are heavy.

So when Havel sent me a box of scissors I was delighted with the smooth movement and the razor edges. But they had two things that really excited me. They had a nicely curved set of embroidery scissors which I always look for because those are the best for cutting threads.



But they also had aTeflon coated scissors for cutting fusible web. YES! They don’t gum and they are made for the purposes. There is just nothing like a good tool designed for the right reason.




I’m going to pin a pair of junk scissors in my apron pocket so nothing bad happens to these.

You’ll find a bevy of Havel Scissors in many good stores, but also on their site at  Havel Sewing. They’re smart innovative tools that really make a difference.

In Praise of Speed

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Quilting with the Sweet

Quilting with the Sweet

I never cared about fast cars. A little bit about fast guys.  Never about fast bicycles, or the many drugs under that heading. Speed has always just been trouble in a  box.  But fast sewing machines……………….Well, Yes!

One of my pet peeves is sewing machines that are just too slow. There’s a moment for that. The first time you show a five year old how to  do free motion, yes, I do put the machine on slow. Its not likely to happen any other time.

Why? There’s an illusion that if we sew slowly we’ll have more control. Boy, is that an urban legend.

Imagine yourself on a bicycle for the first time. That first time when you are so scared that you pedal slowly. Wobble, wobble,  wobble. Once you really start to pedal faster you find you have so much more control and stability. It’s true of free motion too.

I’m so enjoying my experiments with the HQ Sweet Sixteen. The speed on a long arm/ mid arm machine is what makes the smooth and excellent stitching possible. Slower is wobbling along on my bike.

Nicer than the machine speed is the ability to stop on a dime needle up or down. Fast starts, fast stitches and fast stops make for excellent free motion.

But here’s the really cool thing. I just quilted 7 little quilts in less than one hour. Wahaha!!!!!  My mother would have called that seven in one blow. Take that, Green Giant!

There are things you didn’t know you needed, you really need. 

Eastern Iowa Heritage Quilters

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Holding up the World

I  just came home from a day at the East Iowa Heritage Quilters

at Cedar Rapids.I did two lectures and a half day class. How

much fun. EIHQ is a large enough group to have both a morning

and an evening session. For the morning lecture we had The Color

Cook Book Lecture, a gentle discussion of color theory as recipes,

and for the evening we did The Visual Path, a look at how to design

quilts that move.


For the afternoon, I taught a class on landscape design.These ladies

were so good.

For a half day class, they really created some great beginnings.





I can’t wait to see what they’ll do. Hopefully they’ll send me pictures and I’ll show them to you.

You’ll find East Iowa Heritage Quilters  at and and

Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What a great group of Quilters!

Who Believes in You?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This little video asks a question everyone doing  artistic things in public kind of has to address. Am I worthy? Is my art worthy? Do I have something to say?

Like most of those horrible 3 AM self-worth conversations, there’s no way to prove anything. Fame is an odd dog. He’ll follow for a while and leave you to sniff trash cans. If you’re waiting for a sign, you may be a while.

Like all those 3 AM self worth conversations I suspect this not what it looks like. First off, 3 AM is a huge sugar dip for me. I’m at my lowest. Secondly, what goes on in my brain when I’m at my lowest is not quivering truth. It’s fear.

It’s fine to be afraid of rattle snakes, mice (although the two together can solve at least part of the problem), sociopaths, spiders, sticking ones hand down the disposal while it’s working. Rational fear, even irrational fear, has a place.

Fear against yourself, maybe not.  I think fear against yourself is a reliving of bullying experiences. That strikes me as something to be fought against.

The only fight I know is to act as if. To decide that what we all do has a real value and to act as if it does. Which means to believe in you and myself, whether I have a sign, a road, a moon to shine down, or nothing but odd fears in the dark.

I’ve done my bugs for years, because they’re my image of my beauty. I was  told all my childhood that I was unlovely. Not for someone’s truth, but because it gave them control over my actions. I do my bugs to remind me that beauty can be very odd and lovely indeed. And so can I.

So who controls you, with their judgments? No one ever tells you no, but you. Take your art and go do it. Whistle at the dark. You don’t necessarily need to believe in yourself. But you must act as if.

How Long is your Arm?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

My studio has a new toy in it!

I’ve worked for years with home machines but this is a brand new day. Why am I working with a mid arm?

Well, it’s not like it’s easier to stuff a big quilt through a little hole, but I’m wildly excited about working with long arms and bobbin work.

Bobbin work? YES,  BOBBIN WORK!

Why? There’s a number of reasons for using a long arm/mid arm machine for bobbin work. The extra big bobbin, the speed and the straight stitch only capabilities are all in your favor.

I’m very excited about the Sweet 16 because of it’s size and its sit down capabilities. I played all yesterday, snow and all at Threadbenders in Michigan City with one and took it home.

Wow said backwards.

The home sewing industry has always made multi-purpose machines. But the sewing industry itself has always considered them silly. For good reason. Most of the time you want the machine that does something excellently. If it does one thing excellently, then that’s better than doing thirty things fairly well.

The mid arm is basically a long arm machine without the large frame. But the thing both of them offer is excellent blazingly fast straight stitching. And room to move. And much bigger needles.  Which is the beginning of all kinds of stitched line art. Can you say, Zen Tangling? Bobbin Work? Lily Guilding? I can’t wait.

Art outside the Box: Persistance

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Nobody ever made the last mistake or bounced back one too many times.” Claudia Schmidt, Happy Hearts

I love this dog! Talk about life lessons!

I regularly get myself in hopeless projects. I want to do something no one has ever done quite that way. Sometimes it’s kind of clear that perhaps no one should have done that. Hard to know.

But I get a bee in my bonnet and go for it. Somewhere in the middle of all of that there’s this moment where you’re looking at a very large pile of something. A stupendous, why did you do that, way tooooooo large a pile.

There’s this urge to go for the happy nappy. Sometimes I do. There’s nothing wrong with refueling oneself in every sense of the word. It’s when I find the pile (literal or metaphysical) three weeks later and still in the middle of the room that I realize I just have to go for it. Through the leaves. With my tale wagging or dragging, one way or the other.

No one ever tells me no but me. Everyone else can tell me that they don’t think so, or that they don’t want to hear it, or be involved. But I am the only one who ever really stops me. Everyone else is a delay at worst.

It goes for telling me what to do as well. The last time someone told me I must do a particular topic it was the Sears Tower. I did the Sears Tower. No one told me not to do it encircled by Pteradons with an eat sign. It’s never smart to tell me what do do.

I must go. I have a huge pile of undyed fabric on the table and a ball someone tossed in that I know is at the bottom, somewhere.

Moving Day

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

No one ever believes I’m organized. That may because I’m not. I live simply in howling chaos. I also know where mostly everything is. Unless it’s my camera, my scissors,my glasses, or perhaps my wallet.

Perhaps you can see the hole in that theory. I’m trying to be organized and that may well be the best we can do.With that in mind, I’m moving my blog over to my web page at It’s easier for you to find and easier for me to share with you.You’ll find all my blog posts here now at, in one spot

We’ll see you here!

Bad Raps, and Bad Wraps

Friday, January 6th, 2012

I grew up reading the Jungle Books by Kipling, so I’ve always loved wolves. The wolves take this baby in and raise him as one of their cubs. Like most adoptive processes, there’s a bit of cognitive dissonance about the whole thing. He doesn’t fit in well. 

So this video touched me.  It’s about perception and reality. For all of her obvious concern when she sees the wolves, they scatter when she says “Git!” The wolves are not evil. They’re just wolves.

This last year I’ve been working on the issue of bullies. I really don’t want to go to my grave grieving over things that happened when I was seven. And like all really good emotional issues, the opportunities come back again and again until I can find better solutions. There’s two schools of though on this. “Oh no! Not another learning experience!” And, “There you are again!”

Bullies function on a wolf perception.Someone has to be perceived either as a wolf to be driven away or a wolf who will probably eat you. Like most binary systems, it has some serious limits.

It occurs to me that two things have to happen to create a wolf perception. We have to give someone a bad rap. We give ourselves reasons why they’ve done what they’ve done. Maybe it’s true. Often enough, that’s a fantasy too. We just convince ourselves of their bad action and intent.

And then we dress them as villains. Give them  a bad wrap to wear: a black hat, a swirling evil cloak, an evil glint to their eye.

I’ve had it happen to me as well. I’ve had people hand me my black cloak and hat and tell me why I’m a danger.

It’s not that I believe there is no evil in the world. It’s there. Nor do I believe it my job to change people’s choices. I wouldn’t take someone’s path away from them like that. If we don’t walk our path as best we can, we won’t learn from it. 

But after years of dressing people in bad wraps and giving them bad raps and being dressed in the same, it occurs to me that they might just scatter if I said, “Git!” My perception is power I give or take, all by myself.

You’ll find the Jungle Book at Skip the Disney copies. They’re cute but a completely different story.

You’ll find people who want to dress up in funny black cloaks and be icky and people who want to dress you too in all kinds of odd places. I hope you can say “Git!” to them too.

Maharishi of the Vacuum Cleaner

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I would like to say that my cats taught me to be  terrified of vacuum cleaners. I’d like to say it but it’s simply not true.

 No one actually cleaned much of anything in my childhood home. We lived in a pleasantly shabby small house carefully insulated by mountains of books. So once every five years or so, someone would put some effort into finding the floor and once found, vacuuming it. Of course that took in my case, huge quantities of ice cream. In my mother’s case, similar quantities of gin. Either way we never faced it chemically unimpaired. It may explain why she thought it was funny to chase me around the room with it. It may also explain my complete dread of them.

But at a certain point you decide that your childhood is past. The floor is in shambles and it would be nice to see what color the rug is. So I went on the search for the vacuum I wouldn’t hate. 

This was not easy. We went through a Royal, several Hoovers, a Eureka canister that lasted a week.We have a dog cookie under every rug and mattress and wisps of thread escaped from the studio. Some of them whole and some in crumbs. Admittedly, this is a hard life for any vacuum cleaner.

I was bemoaning the Eureka when Pat Winter told me she’d gotten a Bissell that pretty much ate babies for lunch for $44 at Walmart. Desperate with the image of my new godbaby wading through the crumbs, fur and crunchies, I bought one.

OMG did this thing whirl fur and fluff around. So it was with tears in my eyes I watched it die today.It was almost a whole month old. Could I find the receipt? Of course not. So I went online, and found the manual. While I was looking for the belt, one of the hoses fell off spewing crumblies everywhere. When I looked in the hose there was a small plastic bottle.

What could it be? I poked at it with broom handles, my croquet mallet handle, the fire poker, the skewers we use for roasting marshmallows. It finally gave it up for  particularly long mop handle.

What else could it have been? It was a bottle of sewers aid!

So I am now, by right of my passage Maharishi of the Vacuum Cleaner.Chief bottle washer too. And I know where I put the Sewer’s Aid. Life is good. Now where did I put the floor?

The Distraction Faction

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
I live in dread of distraction. So it is with serious fear that I face the holidays. I have a really low attention span, and I multitask unmercifully, but I know I will leave three out of five of those tasks in the dust. So when the holidays come, I know I really ought to find the floor. 
This year we had a particular reason why that was vital.
This is Tom and Sarah.

This is Tom and Sarah with munchkin. It’s astonishing how something so small can hold your whole heart that tightly.

Keira is at seven months, a bright sunny soul who likes soft boiled eggs, bee bop music, and is working on toy tossing as an Olympic sport. We had visions of what she’d do when she found the dog bones so we at least had to clean that much up. After that it became the search for more suction in vacuum cleaner land.

The weirdest thing has happened to me.   It was bad enough at the baby shower. I actually made a baby quilt. Since it’s out of all my apron prints, it includes ghosts, tigers, hawks, spiders, and beetles. We thought we ought to start her early on those things.

But I’m knitting………………………….!
I was really worried about having been distracted in this way and then it came to me. I won’t really have to have someone pry the knitting needles out of my hands. They come in pairs and I’m bound to lose one sooner or later.

Either way, I’ve been given the ultimate  delight of a tiny hand waving wet spoons and toys at me as I sing her bee bop. Pretty good for a maiden fairy godmother.

Keira lives in Austin with my God kids, Tom and Sarah, They better bring her back soon or, God knows what I’ll knit.

Fat Girl Boot Camp? I Don’t Think So!

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
As Good as it Gets

It’s no secret I battle with my weight. I am blessed with what the #1 Ladies Detective Agency refers to as “the traditional build.” So every so often, I notice that I’m particularly larger and pull things in a bit. 

Another thing I was blessed with was a small birth defect. My mother, being Irish and collecting tragedies the way other people collect Hummels made that into a huge issue. After being a March of Dimes reject, being fat is a cherry on top. It’s almost a non-sequetor.

So I was appalled today to run into a blog that suggested Boot Camp for fat ladies.  It was suggested that if you had extra punishments you carried with you at all times to remind yourself of what horrible thing would happen if you ate something other than a celery stick. As if you would miraculously not eat. They suggested you decorate a sign with your goal weight with glitter.

I will not give you a link to this site. I consider it toxic. 

I’m tired of aversion fads, and I’m particularly tired of the fat aversion fad. It’s like punishing people for having a birth mark. It’s about fear and self loathing. The science isn’t all in yet, but it’s beginning to show that although no extreme is good for you, being fat is not a death sentence. The attitudes about it are faddish, not necessarily fact.

But most of all, I’m tired of the attitude that says you should do it to yourself. Pour that kind of hate on yourself.

Renoir’s Two Girls

Fat aversion is a fad. It has come but it will go as well.I love this image of Renoir’s. Would we want these lovely girls anorexic? He knew they were gorgeous. And in our own way, so are we all.

The difference in me gaining weight and losing weight is my ability to hear when I’m full. That translates to three extra bites on my plate per meal.  Once I’ve been that mean to myself I need that extra three bites just to cushion myself from the sore spots on my butt from having been emotionally spanked.

I think I’m going to decorate my butt with emotional glitter.  I think I’m going to say it’s all me, and love it the way I love my sunflowers and morning glories, even when they grow way out of proportion. Then I’m going to love every bite of food I take and try very hard to listen lovingly when my body says, “Thanks that’s enough!”

You’ll find “The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency” on Amazon and in your local book store. Read it. It’s a delightful, loving portrait of vital, fun, kind decent people who just happen not to be thin.

Janice Paine Dawes Delightfully Dead Fringe

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
March Hare

I’ve been aware of Janice Paine Dawes wonderful work since she shared a lovely rabbit portrait of herself with me for my Beautiful Beast Lecture.

Day of the Dead 

She just sent me these great pictures of her Day of the Dead quilt! Here’s what she had to say about it.  It was taken from a…”painting…originally done in tempera on illustration board for a Day of the Dead challenge.The piece sold right away… A few years after that I decided I needed to do this in fiber. I love the fiber version most. I was able to give real dimension to the sugar skulls and they look good enough to eat.”

I love that she’s come back to this image to rework it, the way all important images need to be revisited.  I also love that they have no calories!

Her motto is: If you feel like a square peg in a round hole don’t assume you should change, you need to find a square hole.
You’ll find Janice’s brilliant work  at 
The Distoriated Quilter

And a great fun site about finding fabulous fabrics and ideas for cheap at

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