Archive for the ‘Art Outside the Box’ Category

Envisioning Ourselves: Draw this First

Monday, May 26th, 2014

my ladies and iI’ve been working on an online portfolio. I find that whenever I’m slogging through something, I have a soundtrack of things I say to myself to pull me through.

It runs currently like this.

There’s nothing like reworking your portfolio and resume to make you take a close look.

Before you pick up a pen or a brush, or sit down to your machine, there’s a whole other art piece you need to create. You make whatever it is you make. You give it life and breath and spirit and hope in that creation. But along with that, you’re creating yourself.

Our vision is what we choose to see.

Our decisions make us what we choose to be.

Our limits define our strengths. We do what we do often because it is a work around for what we can’t do.

Our courage continues in a process that isn’t linear or rational or always along with the flow. Art is not for wimps. Of course it isn’t measured in how you feel. It’s measured in what you do.

All of those things make us who we are as artists. And who we are as people.

Vision is that person viewpoint which is wholly our own. It doesn’t matter if we see the world in dead bones, or trees, or flowers or space ship parts. We see what  we see. Our vision may be the most powerful gift we have as artists.

As I’ve been reworking my online portfolio, I’m finding that everything I’m saying here is simply what I need to hear. I’m whispering to myself in the dark. But that’s an art too.

Please come see my new portfolio at and let me know what you think.

Layer after Layer: All the Same Art

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

marble fly spiralIf you’ve been an artist long enough, you learn certain things about yourself, about your approach to art, and how that approach fit’s you in all kinds of odd ways. The strangest thing to me about art is vision and construction. No matter what media you’re working in, your vision is probably consistent. No matter what media you try, you’ll probably form images of similar things in the same ways.

alice and flamingof

Over time, I’ve discovered I view the world in layers. There’s the layers of air currents, water currents, soil, laundry and fabric scraps. There’s a whole other layer of things in the refrigerator we won’t discuss. And then there’s the layers of art.

It’s really not an onion experience from me. I’m not peeling an onion. I’m building something in layers. One layer under another. One layer over another. You may think you can’t see what’s underneath, but it always peeks through a bit.


This may explain why I’ve recently be seduced by photoshop. I’ve been slowing working through the courses on, and playing with old Victorian Etchings. And in the way I’ve  layered thread on top of thread, and sheer on top of sheer, I’m layering image on top of image.

ferny frog

Is there any practical use for this? I’m not sure it matters, though I’ve started playing with it at Spoonflower will take your designs and print them as fabric. You can check out what I’ve been playing with


Mostly I think it’s a virtual playground. But it does have it’s dangers. If you create something on the computer is it done, or is it a reason to go further? Will you have the will or need to take it into another media?

This is uncharted water. I just don’t know.

I do know that I’m taking layer after layer of something and putting it together where it all peaks out to be seen. It’s just how my art works.

Errol’s Stole: The Art You Make for your Moms

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

errols stoll

I’ve said I don’t do commissions often. Even less often do I make something for someone. I’ve done that since I was five and it’s lost a lot of it’s pleasure for me. That strained look. The “Oh you shouldn’t have,” comment.

Some people deeply appreciate your work and for some people it’s just an object. Sometimes they just don’t understand.

This doesn’t look like my work, because in a very real way it isn’t. I crafted it. But the person who wanted it gave me their specifications, their design ideas. In a way, I lent them my hands.

Father Errol is a priest I’ve known for over ten years. He’s been an endless source of support and good sense for all of that time. He’s a lovely extra mom. He’s at a point where there are some lovely life changes coming for him. So this stole is to celebrate that.

For those of you who know liturgical art, the symbols and colors chosen for a stole have deep meaning, sometimes in history sometimes just to the priest himself. It is, in a way, an extension of who he is and what his ministry is.

I don’t mind lending my hands to someone who’s held mine. It’s a whole other kind of gift. I’ve had a number of fabulous other mother’s. Errol is one of the best. As they say, make something that makes someone happy.

Back up on the Horse

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

eddy-cicada-song detail“Humans are amphibians…half spirit and half animal…as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time, means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters



Someone once said about a rather true insult, “I resemble that”. I’ve always loved C.S. Lewis’ quote about undulation, and always held it true. It isn’t that we always do something, or that we consistently do something. It’s that, even when it’s not working, we do it over and over.

I’ve heard that described as insanity. I’ve heard it described as perseverance. Probably a mix of both. Most of our vises are really virtues in the wrong place, used for the wrong task.

One of the things that gets endlessly tired in an artist’s life is the process of entering things. And facing the statistical likelihood of rejection. I’d hit a point where I really let that slide. 

Then the call for the SAQA portfolio came in the mail box.

“Where is that horse? Can I get up there? Do I get to use a ladder? Do I know where that photo is?” This should be familiar. Sometimes it feels like a ground hog day experience.

All of the above. I sent in my entry, be it the last day to do that. And remember that if I don’t put work in public it will never shine. So my cicadas will sing in public. Probably better them than me.

Open Season: It’s Hate Mail Time!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

891 By the StreamI always find it interesting the things that people write when they feel they are anonymous. This is my second piece of hate mail in a month.

I had a brave little bunny write me some hate mail on hate mail, which is new even for me.  I’ve decided that I’m not absorbing hate in the dark this month or at any other time.

Obviously I’ve failed to meet this woman’s standards. I’m terribly sorry she didn’t let me know that at the time, when I could have possibly done something to  apologies for my failures and have addressed the problem. But it’s not that kind of letter. This is a letter strictly to shame someone. It’s supposed to shame me, I suppose.

Hate mail is not about the person being written to. It’s about the writer. It’s not about the faults of the person written to, although they might have those faults. It’s about the not so brave person who’s evidently held on to some offense from years ago, only to strike out in the dark years later.

Sad. And since it’s anonymous, unfix-able. Meant to be. I understand that I may fail and disappoint people. But a letter is like this is about shame and blame, not about correcting wrongs.

She said she didn’t want her name plastered on Facebook. That’s not what I would have done if she’d directly told me I’d offended her. I’d have asked what I could do to apologize. Instead she wrote a fairly hateful missile, which I’m showing in it’s entirety just so that she can see that whether her name is out there or not, her darkness is.

I’m not proud. Nor am I right or wrong. This isn’t as much about me as it is about her. And name or not, here she is with all her warts and mine, in the light.

So here’s her little note. 


Next time  have the courage to tell me what I did wrong to my face. And we’ll see what kind of self absorbed princess I am. For all my sins, I’ve never written anything to anyone I didn’t sign. You might not mind your name on Facebook if you weren’t doing something basically nasty.

By the way, did you know that kind of letter is  considered harassment and stalking?  And I do know who it is. This is bullying. And I won’t absorb this in  private. If you want to bully me, come into the light and tell me your name.


Tools Change Everything: Zigzag Bobbin Work

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

20u singerI believe in tools! 

Years ago I bought this 20U Singer industrial. It was under protest. I had burned the brushes off a very nice 930 Bernina. If you don’t know any of these numbers, take my word. 930 Berninas were war horses in armor.

So they told me that a 20 U was  a tough enough machine. I had mine calabrated to work with embroidery thread, and did a number of zigzag embroidery images on it. 

For a fast machine, it was still a tedious experience. This machine doesn’t really use a foot. So all the fabric needed to be hooped. And unhooped. And re-hooped. Again and again and again.

I simply stopped working with it at one point. I was considering selling it. 


179 The problem with princesBut people have always loved the quilts made through this technique. It allows for so much detail and coloration. 40 weight embroidery thread is ephemerally beautiful, and it shines when it’s laid in color layers.815 butterfly garden detail

Yesterday, I tried it with a felt stabilizer sandwich and a Halo hoop


halo hoopl


The Halo Hoop has been around for a while. I use them for any larger bit of embroidery I’m working on. It’s a weighted metal hoop with a plastic coating that grips the fabric. Instead of clamping it, you simply slide the hoop along.

My favorite stabilizer sandwich is ( from the back tp the front) a drawing in Totally Stable,  a layer of Decor Bond,a layer of polyester felt, and a layer of hand dyed fabric as my top. Anything that doesn’t iron down, I spray glue with 505 spray.



frog in process

I took this frog drawing and stated to color. I worked from the back for two reasons. My drawing was there, and I could tie off the ends.











frog in process  f2I didn’t get done, but I got far enough to know that between the stabilizer sandwich and the Halo hoop, the whole technique had been revolutionized for me.

Things I learned

  • My father’s old saying: if it’s too hard, too horrible or too long, you have the wrong tool.
  • You can use a hammer for a saw, but it’ s hard on the hammer and what you’re sawing.

Rethinking how to use your tools makes all the difference.  

You can work without a foot, but you need to use your fingers and a hoop. And hopefully your brain!finger positiona

And most of all, good tools change everything!

264 As Good as it Gets


Artists and Other Prickly Creatures

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

GRANDVILLE 2I received an interesting piece of hate mail yesterday. It’s taken me sometime to process it and I’m still working through that. But the bottom line is that I had gone to a group of creative people who were not my primary art interest (we’ll say they were weavers, because they were not), and my selfish self had shown itself. A really dear friend of mine  who the letter was from, cataloged how I had offended everyone, and how I had no interest in being in a group of creative people because I was selfish and driven and rude.

I was pretty much raised in a barrel as a kid, so it’s not impossible that I was. Most of the manners I have I’ve learned from the kindesses of quilters. I do try. I have my failures.

I can’t quite dismiss what she said, although I have a problem with anyone who wants to tell me how I’ve harmed everyone else. There’s no way to fix that. Tell me how I’ve harmed you, and I will, if I can to my best to make it better.  There was so much rage in this.There was no way to back up, apologise, rework it. Which makes the friendship a dead duck on the floor. At that point there’s nothing to do but sweep things up. 

Then I remembered, they do for a hobby. I do this is a part of my job. I take it out in front of people, occasionally sell a piece, occasionally teach with it, and use it in a daily way.  I’m really not sure most of them do, except in this small class in this group.  And I am sure it puts me in a place where my needs creatively are quite different.

I’ve known so many amazing artists and quilters who were loathed in their groups or guilds. They were like an eye in a hurricane. All kinds of chaos swirled around them. And that was usually the complaint. “They’re self absorbed. They’ve very driven. They’re competitive.  They believe that they are geniuses.” I suspect that I am guilty as charged. It takes an amazing amount of courage to put all this stuff in public. And a huge amount of drive. And don’t forget arrogance.

I’ve believed always that everyone is an artist. It’s part of the human condition. We breathe, we dance, we tell stories, we make art. And what that is is imposing order and beauty on the random ugliness and cruelty that often is part of living. We re order it, redefine it, rework it until we make it something we can live with. Talk about selfish. Well, yes. To do that professionally takes immense drive and  compulsion and probably puts you lacking in the social skills. Because everyone will challenge what you’ve done, or what is worse, ignore it.

I’ve never much doubted my abilities, because I am so often alone with them, so often compelled by them. To doubt them would be like trying to breathe in a vacuum. You can. For a very short period only, you can.

I’m sad for this letter, this judgement, this failure of comprehension on their part and manners on mine. But I understand how threatening it can be to stand next to the eye of a hurricane. Even an older hurricane who’s weathered by time and experience. I wish everyone in this group the joy of their creation, and understand that the chaos of my own is probably not group appropriate. And that my own will have it’s own joys. That will come too.  I’m an artist. It’s an isolating process. I’m prickly like that.

This porcupine is another Grandville image I’ve played with on photoshop. He’s my alter ego today. He’s blue, sc^&*^ed and tattooed, which is pretty much how I feel. Ah, the glamorous world of art!

See Making Layers in Art if you’d like more information about how it was done.



Making Art in Layers

Sunday, October 6th, 2013


Hi Peeps!


435 Swimming Upstream


So much of my art is done in layers. Sheer applique is layer after layer of color and texture. I create a layer of hand dye, then add a layer of stitching, add another layer of sheers, add a solid image and then add more stitching and sheers. I don’t so much design a quilt as I build one in layers.


So its a good thing to try those layers on a whole other platform. I’ve begun some while back to study Photoshop on, which is a software classroom web site. I don’t know  anyone knows Photoshop. But I’ve learned some tricks and it’s interesting it, too, works in layer.


I started with a great abbey hall and soften the image.



abby window




granville 3_0003_abby window






I added in two Granville drawings. Grandville was Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard  generally known by the pseudonym of J. J. Grandville, who did fabulous character drawings in the 1900s in France.








I put in a painted layer underneath to add color


granville 3_0001_Layer 1granville 3_0000_Layer 2granville 3_0002_Layer 3




And added white swirls for energy and pattern.


Then I slid the color panel to the right.


What did I learn?


What I’ve always known. All art is art is art. Playing with layers in one form is no different than playing with another form. And I learned I like white swirls, a lot!



granville 3So get out the paint, the computer, or the organza, or the very wierd lace. Layers make a rich tapestry to delight the eye. The building of patterns and textures make the rich and fabulous world in which we celebrate our art!


You’ll more information on Grandville granville 3aat


grandville bookDover has a great digital design source book on his work. has classes on almost anything and everything. It’s a fabulous way to learn new software.


Go play hard at something new! It’s amazing what happens when you bring that skill back to your own art.





Making Dragonflies Fly Tutuorial Part 2 Patternless Applique

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

853 dragonfly in bloom


 I have very little patience with patterns, recepis, instructions and general directions. My mother had a phrase for it. She called it a being a pig on ice. What it  meant was that you were being a large and confused creature who needed help and refused it in all forms. Of all people, she should have known. She had her own moments of skidding across slick surfaces.

It’s not that I can’t take direction. It’s that I want to know enough about something that the directions can be veryloose. And I want what I do to be unique.

This is why I teach patternless applique. This is why I do it. I want that freedom. I want you to have that freedom.

So for this video I show you how to form a dragonfly of sheer and brocade fabric just by cutting. 

inn fuse-4.part2 2


Because it’s so simple and fun that even a pig on ice such as myself can’t help but make a great dragonfly every time!





infuseAgain, we’re testing out Inn Fuse the new fusible craft film from Innovative Craft. And we tested it here on

  • brocade
  • glitter organza
  • tissue brocade
  • lame

You know, the fabrics you wanted to use but you were scared. Well slide over her, over onto
the ice and join us. It’s a lot of fun.

Thread Magic Garden

Thread Magic Garden

Thread Magic Garden also has more information on patternless applique and

making dragonflies fly! You can find it on my web site,on Amazon or at C&T

Next week we’ll show you the third part of the tutorial, stitching soft and hard edge applique!

10799_SP_Part2 (1)_Page_12

Making Dragonflies Fly/: A New Tutorial on Fusing with Sheers and Inn Fuse

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

You’ll also find this tutorial on You tube

471 Waterlily Waltz


infuse This week I have my first of three tutorials up for you on using Inn Fuse, Innovative Craft’s new fusible film. Iwas particularly excited to hear we have a new fusible film. I’ve been a Steam a Seam fan for some while, but since there’s been trouble getting Steam a Seam I’ve had to rethink how I workThere are several things that really mattered to me. Like release paper and the ablity to reposition my pieces. So when Inn Fuse came out, I was estatic to find a product with both those properties. I talked about this in an erlier post called A Box full of Rocks. Inn Fuse has  those  properties and some very fine virtues all it’s own. 

But whenever we have new products, they change how we work, how we think and what is possible. And there are some differences.

Inn Fuse is a lot stickier. It’s based on a nail polish remover solvent instead of  an alchohol base solvent. It can be run through an ink jet printer. And it’s amazing for all kinds of sheers as well as for cottons. Of course, it takes a little special handling.

So in the interest of not giving you a recipe for a cake that won’t rise, I’ve put three tutorials up. This one we’ll build a background on hand dyed cotton using all kinds of sheers and Inn Fuse. 

Here’s some of suggestions for using Inn Fuse:

  • Use teflon scissors:
  • Back your fabric with the release paper to make your cutting easier.
  • Use a pin to separate the glue from the paper
  • Use a discardable piece of cotton as your pressing cloth.
  • Iron thoroughly at a medium heat.
  • Don’t be afraid to be sheer! I used lace, tulle, organza, glitter organza, cheesecloth and oriental brocade. It worked on them all.

I’ll put up the next two segments over the next couple weeks. Look for them there.

You’ll find more information about Inn Fuse at Innovative Crafts.

teflon scissorsYou’ll find teflon Scissors at Havel. 

You’ll find me in studio cutting a whole bunch of dragonflies to be fused.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Summer School Gift for You

Sunday, August 18th, 2013
color outside the wheel.indd_Page_01

Color Outside the Wheel An Ebook for you!

We’ve had a great week. I hope you’ve learned some great new ways to approach color, past picking the colors off the wheel. I need to thank Caryl Bryer Fallert, Kathy Weaver, and Susan Shie for letting me explore colors in their magificent work.

french toast

French Toast, Susan Shie

Robo Sapien Agent 4

Robo Sapien Agent 4 Kathy Weaver

Feather Study 1 by Caryl Bryer Fallert

Feather Study 1 by Caryl Bryer Faller

 I need to thank Monique, Kleinhans, Rebecca Dorian Brown, Lauren Strach, Joan Davis, and Roberta Hoover Ranney for letting me put them in places of honor on the refrigerator gallery.


I have the answers to your tests here. Not that that matters. The real test is, does this change how you think? What you choose? And that’s as much a test for me as for you. But here’s your answers.

Color cast is
C. whether colors lean towards the sun or the shade.

2. The color wheel is
C. a map of color relationships.

3. Differences in value
A. help us sort things visually 

4. We all recognize the same color names
B. False

5. Color temperature is about
 C. Both

6. Color theory works the same for mixing colors as picking colors.
B. False
7. All blues are the same.
 B. False

8. Everyone sees color the same way
 B. False

9. Differences in hues are
 B. differences in light and dark

10. Contrast
C. Pops out the figure from the ground

11. You should never use a color your hate.
 B. False

12. Color theory is
 B. A theory that works up to a point. C. 

color outside the wheel.indd_Page_01As a gift to my students. I’ve packaged up this class in an ebook you can enjoy and work with at home. Thanks for being such good students. And go color off the wheel. You can download it at or click the picture for a link.

Next week I’m exploring the new box of Inn Fuse that Innovative Craft sent me so I can do a demo for them. And, of course, for you

Thread Magic Summer School: Contrasts in Tone

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013


Cyborg Female 3- Amusing Disorder

Cyborg Female 3- Amusing Disorder

Our color master today is Kathy Weaver.

Tone is the dark side of colors. In dye and paint a color can be darkened either by browns, blacks or by the complement of the color. Tint is the lightening of colors either with white or water. 

We somehow fear the dark. We sometimes forget the  colors that dark or muddy. But diamonds show up best against a black cloth. Darks are our shadows, our depths, the underside, the forest glade and our art is sorely limited without them. 

Pastels offer us a pale world, a shadow delicate mist.  I find it hard to go there. I want all my colors bright. But bright colors gleem against a pastel background. In both cases it  is a contrast in tone that focuses us exactly onto the art and lights our excitement.

Kathy Weaver has created a quilted world of robots that have always astonished me. She’s color master, part for her choices but largely for her painted imagery that jumpstarts her work. And she knows how to work contrast to make her images shine.

I’m also going to introduce you to one of my favorite online tools. Big Huge Labs is a site that has all kinds of free and fabulous photo tools. This is their swatch generator. It’s an easier way to look at the colors in a piece.

Here is one of Kathy’s works and a swatch list of the colors she used.

Robo Sapiens, Agent 5 has a glowing yellow robot against a deeply toned set of bars.

In Robo Sapiens Agent Four, we have the contrast of this wild pink robot against a beige netral.

Robo Sapien Agent 2 glows against the darkly toned background.

When we look at the swatches we can see the contrast in tone, the light and the dark. In all cases, she chooses the difference in tone to accentuate the figure from the  ground.

The figure is our focus. But if it do the same as our background, our ground, the eye has to somehow figure out where it is. Making a visual obvious distinction between the figure and the ground pops it all into view. And making it with differences in  contrast is a clean and clear way to that.

Cyborg Female 1- Complacent Nature

Cyborg Female 1- Complacent Nature

It doesn’t matter whether we choose a lighter or darker backg round. The difference itself, either way sets the figure fore and center in our perception. Cyyborg Femail has yellow arms that echo her background. But the difference in the tone pops her out against it. She glows against the background because there’s a contrast.

Fire Slinger glows against the dark because of the differences as well, although this time she’s gone to the darker contrasts.

Fire Slinger

Fire Slinger

And Invader has both soft background and foreground, but she lets the edges darken enough to pop the contrast.



Explore more of Kathy Weaver’s fabulous world on her web site at

Or you can learn from her at her classes coming up at Arrowmont, September 29th through october 5th. Here is the website info. workshops/venueevents/196-kathy-weaver


Make your images pop by choosing differences in tone when you pick backrounds. Go light. Go dark. Go different!

Laurens refrigerator

On our refrigerator today we have Lauren Strach from St. Joseph, MI. Lauren’s nature quilts have attracted attention (and prizes) both locally and nationally. Her work sings with color and contrast!

















This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You’ll find more of Lauren’s fabulous work on her facebook page at

Thread Magic Summer School: The Magic of Contrasts

Monday, August 12th, 2013

bradford fantasy 1Our color masterist today is Caryl Bryer Fallert.

What all art creates is a series of contrasts, in some form or another. Color theory is one way of describing those colors. We joke about plain white canvases being art because we know  that even as an art joke there’s no drama there. The ability of art to change how we think, how we feel, how we live is the point of it all. Good art changes the world. But to do that it has to demand our attention. It does that by emphasising contrasts.

We can build contrasts in a number of ways. Color is only one. We also have contrast in value, in saturation, in size, in color cast and temperature. All of those scales give us a way to separate the elements of our work. The most important separation is between field and ground.

color wheel  pattern 3When we look at the color wheel we have the map of how colors (Hues) relate to each other. The closer they are to each other the less tension there is between them. The further they are, the more tension and the more potential excitement a combination has.The colors farthest away from each other are called complements. They’re the electric voltage to most art, and they’re what we’ll look at today.

Perhaps the finest quilt color master of our time, Caryl Bryer Fallert is a master dyer and quilter. She has a gift for astonishing color, that usually encompasses the whole color wheel. All those complements at once are electric. The tones and the saturation on these colors are relatively even. All of the drama is in the change of the hues, the colors themselves. And she’s always dyed her own fabric.

These pieces romp through the whole color wheel. Doing that they place all the complements against each other. This is a winning combination, visually and at shows because it always grabs  attention.

Once we start picking and choosing colors off the wheel, the complements still s are the king combinations of these. If we are a little more aware, we can catch a bit of the feeling we get off them. We like them because they offer strong visual stimulation.

Here’s some of Caryl’s work that encompasses complementary combinations

We can also take an arc of the color wheel and focus on that. Those are analogous colors. Here are some amazing pieces of Caryl’s focused in the blue/green arc.

Caryl’s astonishing work can be seen on her web site at, at her studio in Paducah, KY and in art collections and museums across the country. Make sure you see the amazing body of work she’s continued to graced us with.

We’re used to thinking about color strictly as hue. But tomorrow will look at differences in saturation and how they make it easier to separate field and ground, background and forground.

rebecca refrigerator 4On the refrigerator today we have Rebecca Dorian Brown, the creator of Dreaming Girl Highway. Rebecca is also a master colorist and she let me put up these lovely images. Dreaming girl is a series of 78 images out of her life and time set in a deck of Inner Vision Cards. Her media is computer driven and she is a master at generating depth and drama out of pixels and vectors.

Rebecca’s amazing cards are available on her web site at Make them your visual snack on your way past the refrigerator.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Would you like to be on the refrigerator too? Send me several quilts and your contact/web  information at

Ann Arbor and then Thread Magic Summer School

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Tomorrow I’m heading up for Ann Arbor the their Quilting Unlimited Festival, where I’ll be teaching this weekend. I’ve got my usual pile of  thread, books, kits, toys and quilts and I’m ready to go. I’ll be teaching the Stitch Mastery Book, Applique Master, Bobbin work Flowers and Button hole Binding. If you’re anywhere near, come and join us. You’ll find more information on their web site at

QU_2013_flyer898 Dragonfly in the Clearing

When I get back I’m going to start up Thread Magic Summer School Session. If you joined us last year, you know it’s an intense week of blog classes, this time on color theory outside the box.We’re going to talk about how and why color works the way it does. It’s kind of like class camp for grownups, where we focus on quilting, color, art, expression and fiber. The first lesson will start August 12. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s a great way to stretch your knowledge. 

Join me both places! This is going to be fun.


The Other Parents: Mourning My Other Dad

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

It must have been over twenty years ago now that I met my Bosnian Family. I was living at the edge of Rodgers Park near Devon Street. A family moved in and proceeded to bring their whole coffee table onto the back porch.

It was moderately odd but completely harmless. I came to understand later that coffee and hospitality were both sacred to them.



Of course it was the youngest boy who made the first move. Amir was a ball of activity and saw me go out to play with my guitar. But I met them one by one, story by story. Within a year  I had children running in and out of my door for homework and odd crisises, and I would check on the Grandparents at night when the middle adults were off at work. I would sit at Hanifa’s table and she and her husband Mustafa would teach me Bosnian.

My Bosnian never got very good. But I learned so much from these people. I learned tenacity and faithfulness, and the fear and strength involved in living in a new culture. I learned how proud I was as an American to welcome in another group of people, who had, like my own, left their country with death at their heels. I who have had so little family in my life, learned what it was like to be part of a sprawling family, because they took me in completely. I learned what it was to be betrayed and come back faithful, to be harmed and come back strong.

This picture was Alma’s wedding. Mustifa is the handsome older man in a gray suit.

I called Hanifa and Mustifa, Mati and and Tata, Bosnian for mom and dad. And so they were. Today Mustafa joined Hanifa who died several years ago.  I suspect they’re sitting in a kitchen somewhere with two tiny cups of wildly strong cups of coffee, joined by the love of  family they raised in grace, fear, pain, love  and strength.


Thank you! Come Raid My Fabric Stash!

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

829+jazzed++rice+petals+I ‘ve always been amazed at quilters. I’ve had many people over the years who have told me that what I do is art and I should strictly teach it to artists. That’s only partially true. What I do is art. What we all do, in our own way in creating our lives and worlds is art. And quilters are the finest community of the creative world I know. They also have, over the years, created the best education system for themselves that I know of. Quilt guilds are the only group of creative people I know who have an education system where you can learn from the best  experts in the field directly, in short affordable subsidized classes. Or that support the artists in their field.

Last week I went to you as quilters for help. You overwhelmed me with your kindness and your generosity. I’ve sold a number of small works and am in the process of destashing my studio to pay for my latest batch of medical bills. 

886 Bubbly

It continues on. I’m still in process. There’s still mountains of fabrics in the studio. And the bills are still being figured. I’m not out of the woods yet. But I feel so much better knowing how kind and decent the people I’ve worked with are. 

I’ve continued to put up more work at deeply discounted prices on the Etsy Shop. Those prices will be reflected on the web site as well.

I also have some amazing kits and scrap bags I’m putting together.

Most people know I’m a hand-dye junkie. I’ve dyed fabric for years and prefer my own because it gives me the light sources and landscapes I  find vital for my work. I do dye fabric for people, when asked.

But I also have a mountain of collected sheers and prints. The prints are largely from my apron collection. I have, surprise to no one, a serious need for Kay Fasset and Alexander Henry prints. And a passion for Halloween fabric.

So all of that is reflected in the bags of scraps and kits I’m putting up on my new Etsy Shop, Raid My Fabric Stash. If you’ve ever wished you had my fabric, this is that time.

Please come visit. I’m putting up new things each day. 

And thank you for the support and love you’ve always given me as a fellow quilter. You are the best people on earth.

Ellen Anne Eddy

Spinning the Color Wheel: A Photoshop Journey

Sunday, June 9th, 2013


I’m obsessed with color studies. Of course, my favorite present, even as a child was a color chart. I still feel that way. But what I’ve found over the years is that it’s the relationships between the colors that set my heart pitter pattering.

Once you get past the physicality of how you do your art or craft, you find yourself needing to expand somehow. Usually that takes a question. What if? How? Why do we always? Most great or even mildy interesting art asks a question and works through the answers. You can see artists of all kinds ask questions. What if it were really bigger? Upside down? My dream view? My nightmare? Blue instead of yellow? All of that changes our perspective on what we’re doing. And I think, personally, that the change of perspective may be the basic reason for it all. If we see our world as different, then it is. If we can get someone else to see the world differently, then we’ve really changed them at least.

The hard and exhausting thing about this is that often it takes years of work to ask and answer those questions within your work. Sometimes that’s worth it. Sometimes it’s a way to avoid doing anything important while you play in a corner.


Enter the computer age. Instant spelling, communication and in some ways, instant art. One of the coolest tools on the computer is  the computer program Photoshop. Even in it’s lighter versions, it’s the go to program for digital Phototography. It’s a golden oldy. I don’t know anyone who knows Photoshop. But I’ve been learning what I call tricks with Photoshop. Within it is an endless set of tools to manipulate color and shape. Sound like anything we know? As I’ve worked on books for myself and others I’ve needed to know more than just how to size my pictures.

So I’ve been taking classes on, which is a tutorial service on the internet that offers a mind boggling range of videos on anything you might want to learn. This is what happened when they showed me the slider bar on the hue menu. I’m not going to show you how to do this, because it’s simply sliding the  bar around. I want you to see what happens to colors when we change the hue, but the relationships stay the same. And it does an instant abstract just by being colors you don’t expect.

Remember that peoni?


I could have spent the last 6 months making this peonie in these colors. It might have been worth it to me. I still may. But I got to see the changes without that time spent. I picked the  colors directly from the photographs rather than matching them to the wheel. The orange and lime ones are the ones that send me moonward. But then again, I’m always ready for orange and lime. But it’s the relationships that stay pretty constant. What would happen if I did that to the same bug? 

I’m not sure if I learn as much this way, but it seems that I do. I don’t think we know exactly how it works to learn something intellectually and visually, but not through the manipulation of materials.  But it’s six months of experimenting in 20 minutes. That was worth it.


Howard Schatz wrote an amazing book called Botanica, which I believe are a number of photoshop like images slid through different color waves. It’s mind blowing and very good for getting you out of the notion that roses are red and violets are blue. is also mind blowing. I invite you to check it out and see what neat thing you can learn today.

And I hope to see you on the journey.


Ellen Anne Eddy



Dyslexia and the Modern World- How You Do What You Can

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Fall Confetti Detail

Fall Confetti Detail

One of the horrors of growing up a teacher’s child is that everyone expects you to be good at things. And to be good. Good luck!

I made a best effort try over the years being a goody two shoes mixed with just a bit of a smart Alec. But I never could write or spell. At all. My spelling was practically Shakespearean ( meaning any way it could be phonetically guessed at.)

 I was in grad school studying dyslexia when I realized I was one. Is it a gift? Absolutely. It’s a born way to see the world differently. If you can actually show someone else a different world, they are richer by far. If you can show the world that, you can change it. I’ve taken far more joy from my dyslexia than sorrow. You just have to make it make sense to everyone else.

This does not mean it’s not a complete humiliation when you spell the world catalog incorrectly on the cover of your new catalog.

Enter the modern world.

Spell check! Online ( and therefore instantly correctable) publishing! And hopefully a forgiving world of people who know they hired you as a teacher and artist and not a English  teacher.

My mother is surely rolling in her grave. But I hope the rest of you can celebrate this moment of creative dyslexia, corrected by some much appreciated modern science.


Redefining Mothers: Past and Present

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

ellen and zekeI remember the time I was in an airport and a man walked up to me and said, ” Happy Mother’s Day.”  I almost told him I wasn’t a mother. But  he was a total right. If it’s mother’s day, you best enjoy it.

Mothering is not exactly biology. It’s loving. It’s caring. It’s nudging into place. It’s standing in odd places to protect the people we care about. As the family has fallen apart, we have found other ways of being family. It’s just too hard to be alone. But the language hasn’t caught up yet. So in the way we had to redefine friends, lovers and spice, we came up with significant, we need to redefine the word mother .  We don’t have the verbiage yet for other mom’s.

But God bless them all. My mother was screamingly funny, fiercely attached and deadly when she went on the rampage. She taught me to read poetry and quote it, social rules that were mostly socially unacceptable everywhere but in her head, how to do lectures and how to sell ice to Eskimos  If you wanted warm and fuzzy, it wasn’t on the menu.

Enter my neighbor, Mary Annis who taught me to be late, messy, and honor my art. And who spilled love and crafts every where.

I’ve  mothered (or maybe smothered) batches of children who have come through my doors. And batches of dogs and cats, all of whom needed a meal and a lap  in a regular way.

Now my 13 year old neighbor has started mothering me. ” Did you lift your luggage”? 

“No. I just tilted it” You know that didn’t work.

Perhaps one of the jobs of mothering is to give the people and creatures you love, something to push back against. To define you as you have your small rebellions, so that they don’t get so large as to put you in jeopardy. To remind you where safety is and that someone cares.

I hope you had dozens of mothers. I hope you have dozens of children that are yours to love. I hope they love you back. I hope we all learn how intertwined we are, in spite of a language that cannot define it.


As the Stomach Churns

Monday, April 29th, 2013

891 By the StreamDo listen to this bit of John Prine. It’s one of my favorites.

I’ve not been blogging for a while lately. I make it a practice not to tell a whiny story until I’ve figured out what’s funny about it. Not that I don’t whine. I just try really hard not to do it in public. There are time when I like my whine with cheese. But I do try to wait for the flip.

This time around I’m still waiting. So I really can’t tell you about the phantom squirrels in the studio ceiling. That’s coming soon. By the time they’ve been there 6 months and you’re having the discussion with the squirrel guy about whether they’re demonic or not and should you call the priest, I think that’s an indication. This should be cooked soon. 

I’ve had some money issues that have piqued my interest in cooking spam for fun and profit because I don’t know that I’ll be able to afford much better. And some medical issues that are mostly resolved but have caused the money issues. I’m waiting for the flip.

What is the flip? It’s that moment when the world goes around. When the horrible and disgusting offerings that come round finally become funny. Or make us strong. Or different. Something.

So I’ve sat in silence trying to find my way out. Sometimes that’s strong. Sometimes that’s constipation. I can’t really tell.

zeke 2I do know that there’s always a flip. Not the one you expect. Not the one you even hope for sometimes. But I came home to find someone ( I suspect my kind neighbors) have put up my porch screen and that Ezekiel the new dog has found his personal calling. It appears he can jump over his four foot xpen with the crate door shut. From a standing position. Which really begs the question, what can he do with a baby gate? Time will tell. The flip can’t be far away.

I’m going to go fight with numbers and take my anti-depressives. It’s a happy enchillada, as they say. And maybe we can flip it over, add chimmichanga sauce and serve it for lunch.



Once More with Feeling: Under the Sea

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
159 Secret GArden

Secret Garden

Sometimes it’s an environment  rather than an image. 

I lived in Boston for three years. The best part of Boston was the ocean. I’m a Midwestern girl. I ‘d seen the ocean, in the way you see someone from across a  huge room once. When I lived in Boston, I got to know it as a friend. I regularly went to the beach, looked over piers, sat at the harbor, and found myself in love. 

Secret Garden was about an inappropriate love. Not anything truly wrong. Just terribly unworkable. The feelings were all there but there was no way to make them safe or kind.


162 Coral Sea

Coral Sea

Flying fish are a happier image for me. I love their ability to glide through rough waters.




342 crabby days2-1

Crabby Days

Finally because there are those days, there are crabs.

planet oceanThere’s an amazing book,  Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea and Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll  and Bradford Matsen. The illustrations are amazing. But the premise is that we all come from salt brine and carry that in us as our birthright. Watching the ocean roll, I could feel all of that.


Once More with Feeling: Hummingbird Visitors

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Homing Instinct

The seasons pass through with different studio visitors. But my favorite are the summer visitors. If nothing else, they  get to see the garden in bloom. Some of them consider it a ritual seasonal visit. They come year after year, for their pleasure, for my joy.

702 Homing Instinct Detail 1

Homing Instinct detail

I especially love my hummingbird  visitors. Actually he, and his wife, are both emerald green. But I dressed him up with a red head, just because I though he’d like to be formal for his portrait. Why do I know it’s a he? I didn’t look under his skirt. But if it’s a day glow bright bird, it’s a boy.

I was afraid I lost these visitors when my neighbors insisted I take down the day lily garden.  They had come back year to year to those flowers, and I’d never seen them anywhere but in front in the day lily strip.

 Floral Arrangement 24

Floral Arrangement 24

Of course, if one buffet closes, you look around for what’s nearby. They found the back sun garden without any trouble the next year. I was delighted to watch their visit from the back planting rather than from the front porch.


We forget that the things we grow for our pleasure, are survival for the other beings that live in our worlds.  I am honored they keep coming back.



The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

If you missed the entertaining and cautionary tale about my garden wars, The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily , you’ll find it on my web site  at or on, 

My hope is that if you cannot avoid your own, you can at least laugh at mine.

You can read more about the Town of Torper at

Changing the Rules. Can You Outgrow a Fairy Tale

And  Telling Stories

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 More with Feeling: Turtles

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
285 Twilight on the Isalnd (1)

Twilight on the Island

My very first pet was a turtle. Margaret decided that since it stayed in a bowl, you could always rinse out the bowl if it went terribly wrong. She was mistook in several ways. I was five, so things did go wrong. But she didn’t understand that turtles do wander. Myrtle the turtle escaped regularly from her bowl. We found her in the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, and the basement. Fortunately she seemed to be unable to complete her escape by going outside. But it was my mother’s living dread was that she might climb up some woman’s nylons during Kalerie Club, my mother’s reading group. My father always hid in the basement for these events. I went over to the neighbors. But I did hear the screams  from there when Myrtle joined Kalarie Club. Myrtle was replaced by other turtles and eventually I was allowed a cat.

Turtles are another form of dinosaur. They’ve been around since then and are such wonderful living rocks. I love the dichotomy. I also wish I could pull my head in and be done with certain social situations. “No, that’s not Ellen. That’s a rock that walked in on it’s own power. ” You can see the appeal.

Here are several turtles I’ve done over the years.

But they are also an exercise in texture. The necks and extremities are full of folds and soft  texture. The shells are hard formations of plates. My favorite technique for this is garnet stitch with thick thread. Soft tiny circles make the skin, and huge bulls eye circles make the shell. I usually use my own hand dyed thread for these.

You’ll find more information on doing garnet stitch on my post A Gift and a Wish, and a tutorial called The Stitch Vocabulary on

Once More with Feeling: Moths in Moonlight, Butterflies in Sun

Monday, January 28th, 2013

765 Luna (1) What is it about the flutter of moth wings? I cannot resist them. The best part of summer is to open the door at night, look up through the tree to see moths flying moonward.

I am mostly a moon child. I sunstroked as a child on the lake and have never been able to take strong sun. So much of my outdoor life has been in early morning or late evening. Or, at night when the dogs take their last run. So moon creatures are my special companions, and I always look for them.

675 Snails Pace  detailNot that I can leave butterflies alone either. One way or another, I really want to flutter over the garden.

Of course what many people miss is that you cannot have moths or butterflies without caterpillars.815 butterfly garden detail



So I treasure them all. The moths, the butterflies, the flutterbys and the caterpillar  all part of their passion play. And the occasional cocoon that shows up hanging from the odd bit of bee balm.

Some moths in flight.


Some butterflies



Once More with Feeling: Arise a Rose

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy very first flowers were roses. The day I was born, my father sent my mother a dozen roses. And sent one for me.  It’s still dried and pressed into my baby book.

Roses aren’t the queen of flowers. Lilies are. But roses are the courtesans of the garden, because they court everyone with their softness, their scent and their exquisite presence. They also smartly have thorns. The rose in the Little Prince reminds everyone that they had best have respect for her, because, after all, she’s armed.

I grew up thinking of roses as the only flowers you gave to people because that was how my father viewed it. In his mind, you gave ladies roses, for all occasions. And only Abe Lincoln roses, with long stems, blood red blooms and velvet scent. I am spoiled forever.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI also grew up thinking you only got flowers if a man gave them to you. A huge part of my therapy was buying my own flowers for a solid year. Now I plant them and pass on the middle man.



223 (2)As a species roses have been cultivated for so long that there are a million kinds and buying them is a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole. So I spent a winter studying roses out of catalogs  and books. Turns out I love my Hansa roses best. They’re a bush rose that blooms twice a year, smells like cloves and has a dinosaur like habit of putting out thorns everywhere. They are blissfully unkillable.

When I studied to make roses, I discovered that, unlike most flowers, it really didn’t help to mimic the petals. There were just too many of them. Instead it was more useful to follow the growth of the petals. Which is in a spiral.

The petals are cut in spirals and whirled around each other. Then, I put the points of folds into the petals as I stitched them. Notice the change in colors. Roses are never just one color.

Of course, the other thing about a courtesan is that everyone wants to be a part of her world. I noticed every garden creature out there, especially tending roses.

865 Rose whiteWould you like a Rose from my garden? When people come to my garden, I usually cut flowers for them. Most often it’s roses, because they do bloom so long. In case, like myself, you know that you have to be your own valentine, I’ve put some delicious little rose quilts on sale for you. Of course, if you’ve got someone who give you things, that will give him a break too.  Check them out on my web site!

LittleprinceYou’ll find The Little Prince  on Amazon. If you’ve somehow missed this delight, run, don’t walk to find a copy to read it. It’s about growing, being, and  caring for the things you love.

Once More with Feeling: Sunflowers. Drawn to the Sun

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

555 Drawn to the Sun 2 bg (1)Once you acknowledge that you are never alone in a garden, you become aware of the life around you. The squirrels, the bugs, the robin that arrives in late March and the hummingbird that visits each July. In the cycle of things, you come to expect their arrival. And plan for it. Your garden is their home. They may be good neighbors or bad, but they are your neighbors, and you come to accommodate their schedules and needs.

vincent-van-gogh-vase-with-twelve-sunflowers-art-print-posterI love the ragged shapes of sunflowers. They’re the dinosaur of the plant world. Not because of their age so much or lineage but because of their huge rough presence. I’ve seen circles of them grown as a play house for children. I saw a wedding where someone created the isle for the bride with them . Van Gogh knew what he was doing.  He painted them over .You just cant beat them.

But better still. They are the ultimate bird, squirrel, mouse, and bird feeder. And you don’t have to do anything but plant them and ring the dinner bell. You’ll find your serving dinner for  a cast of thousands



This sunflower volunteered in my front yard while I was  writing Thread Magic Garden. When I went to break down the shapes it was simplicity itself. It’s simple s shapes with an oval center. Depending on how you’re viewing the flower, the petals either radiate out from the center, or spread out from one side and fold over the center on other side. Either way, YUM!

So I’ve regularly documented the many creatures that come to the banquet table in my garden. And one of their favorite dishes.

thread+magic+gardentnThread Magic Garden documents embroidering sunflowers, step by step. You’ll find it on my web page.



View Cart | Check Out