Posts Tagged ‘lunatic fringe’

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


Once More with Feeling: A Series of Your Own and a New Pattern Book

Monday, March 11th, 2013



 I’ve spent about a month sharing my series with you. Now I’m going to ask you to share yours.

So, what’s stopping you? Whatever media you work in, be it doodling on envelop backs or marble carving, you can stretch into a series, just like stretching into new jamies. It’s not hard.

If you’re waiting for the golden day when you paint your masterpiece, you’ll wait forever. Here is here and now is now.  So take an idea, run with it, do it again and again, not in search of perfection but in search of new pathways,  ideas and passions. 

Here’s some ways to start working in a series

  • Take an image or an idea you’re passionate about.
  • Do it over and over again.
  • Change the angle.
  • Change the size.
  • Do it in primary colors.
  • Do it in black and white.
  • Do it in every color in the rainbow.
  • Do it in a color you really hate.
  • Do it upside down.
  • Get really close to your image.
  • Make your image really far away.
  • Do three of them in your piece.
  • Do five.
  • Make just pieces of your image.
  • Create your image. Cut it up and put it back together.
  • Do it in colors you don’t think go together. Make them go together.
  • Pick a complementary pair of colors on the color wheel that you love. Move it over two spots. Use those colors.
  • Draw it with really thick lines and no detail.
  • Draw it with tiny lines and immense detail.
  • Segment the image parts and color them differently.
  • Segment the image parts and color them so they shade progressively.
  • Put sheer layers  over your image to put it in sunlight, water, or mist.
  • Try it in a brand new media
  • Try it in a media you tried before but didn’t work then.
  • Cut it instead of draw it
  • Draw it instead of cut it

I hope you’re getting the punchline. Draw, put, try, create, take, do, change: these are all action words. Do something to it. Do something different to it. The world is wide.

eddypatternsforembroiderybookcwYou all gave me the best ideas for a pattern book. It went places I hadn’t thought of and I am very grateful.
This is not the pattern book I want to do that includes color clues and stitching advice. It is just an assist, to act as a springboard, if you wish.  If you’d like a free copy,  you can get your copy  of Patterns for Embroidery, at 

I’d also like to show you off. Would you like me to post your work on the Lunatic Fringe thread? Send me a series of 4 pieces of your work (any media) and a picture of yourself with a paragraph long art statement. Tell me how you’ve explored your series. I’ll  post the ones I find most exciting on my site and link them to your web presence. If you gave me book advice please go to scribd for your free ebook. And thank you!

Send your images and statement to

I can’t wait to see what you’ve done and what you’ll do!

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.

Ilini County Stitchers

Monday, July 30th, 2012

 just had the nicest visit with the Ilini County Stitchers in Champagne/Urbana, Illinois.

This is a guild I’ve visited before. There’s nothing nicer than coming back to a guild you’ve taught at. Firstly, they’ve told you they like you by asking you back. I don’t know a nicer compliment for a teacher. But secondly you get to see the wonderful ways they’ve grown.

This is an arty guild with a lot of passion for new ideas. So you can only imagine. And they didn’t disappoint me. 


 They did three classes .Guilding the Lily is a class where we take a great print and embellish it with beautiful straight stitch thread work.

Thread Magic Mastery is where we work with every kind of thread.



Bobbin Work Flowers is a little class where we make bobbin work applique flowers with lovely thick threads. 

Here’s some of the fabulous things they did!

Heaven’s knows what they’ll do next. I can barely wait to see! 

 If you had a teacher you loved in class, consider more classes or retreats with them down the road. As they say you can’t walk into the same river because the river has changed and so have you.  But the new things you’ve learned and that they’ve learned help you reach a whole different level.   And your new people in the guild will be thrilled with their new skills too. And isn’t that what class is all about?

You’ll find the Ilini County Stitchers  at their web site at

The Illini Country Stitchers hold regular meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of each month except in November (second and third Thursday) and December (second Thursday only) at 7 PM at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 905 S. Russell St., Champaign, IL. Visitors and Guests are always welcome. What a fabulous heartland guild!




Of Bandits and Bullies

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

In my travels, I got to stay with my dear  friend Kathy Semone in Maryland. I was teaching at The Bears Paw in Baltimore.  Kathy and I have  been friends for almost 20 years when she came into my class and wanted to do gargoyles. It was before the gargoyle cliche hit. I loved her immediately. She is one of the original Lunatic Fringe.



Bandit the Bully

One of the many gifts Kathy has given me is the friendship of her dogs. I was not raised with dogs and I really didn’t have doggie friends. No. I don’t mean friends that have dogs. I mean friends that are dogs. One is not the other. But she had a darling Havanise  named Bobbin who would stand on his back legs and clap for you. What’s not to like? Of course I adored him.

So when we were talking about my visit, she said I needed to know about her new dog Bandit. Unlike all of her dogs, Bandit has lived his whole life on his looks. He’s a retired show dog. He acts a bit like a male version of a rock star with a hangover looking for his latest drug of choice. Lots of barking and displays with the occasional nip for emphasis. He really only knows how to behave in a show circle or at the groomers. And he hates crates.

I was a bit daunted. I did what I do whenever I’m really nervous. I went and found a book. 

Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog was a book already in my library. But I went to it for information. If you yawn and look the other way, you’re saying, “Oh for heaven’s sake, calm down. It’s not a threat.”

We did that a lot. I watched Bandit nip at several folk during my visit. But he eventually fell asleep on my feet.

All life is a tutorial. I came home to my bully neighbors. My heavens! Bark bark bark bark bark.  I do wish it was the dogs and not them. This time they insisted on their rights to powerwash their house. Of course they got the building inspector involved. For the day, they had three carloads of visitors to whom they gave tours of my yard, they just power washed the side of the house on my side, and they squashed hostas with abandon. I called the police for the second time when they tried to scream a friend of mine off the property. They called the building inspector to whine three times before the day was over. Bark bark bark bark bark.

It’s a really hard thing to yawn and look the other way. I didn’t manage it, quite. 

What makes a bully? I’ve suffered from them my whole life long and I do think that there needs to be a transformational act. Are they like Bandit, scared and unable to respond in any other way? What would they do if I yawned? If everyone yawned and what they wanted didn’t work? I can’t say I know but I can’t help but think there’s something there.

Bark bark bark bark! Oh calm down.

You’ll find The Bears Paw on their site and at their shop at

8812 Orchard Tree Lane
Towson, MD  21286

It’s a delightful shop, full of all kinds of fabrics, threads and great ideas.

You’ll find The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicals in Cats and in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by T. S. Eliot and Canine Body Language  on Amazon.

You’ll find bullies everywhere. Practice your yawning.

Dyeing without the Red Menace

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Piney Dragonfly


Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.

It used to be that I never dyed anything without certain dyes in the house. Clear yellow, turquoise, plum, blue violet, lemon yellow and fuchsia.If I was out of any of those, I ordered dye. Even if I was out of only one.

Did I ever order one color of dye? Don’t be silly. That would be horrific in shipping costs. So the need for one $4 jar of dye would really quickly turn into a $75  exploration of new colors. It was fun. The economy was stronger and I was teaching much more often.

Now that I’m home more in the studio, my dyeing has changed. I dye more just for myself and much less often. And when I found myself out of fuchsia dye last week I rolled my eyes, shook my head and dyed without it.

It’s fascinating how one color changes the whole pallet.

Piney Dragonfly is dyed using fuchsia, along with hot pink, cotton candy, yellow green, forest and dark green.


three point landing

Three Point Landing was dyed without fuchsia.The reds here were done with basic red, mixing red, strong orange, raspberry, amethyst and scarlet.


  They call fuchsia the red menace for a reason. It bleeds. Not a little. Not sometimes. Stuck pig style. In the most peculiar pink if you have a white spot in your fabric for it to land on. Some people like it. For me, it’s an almost automatic cause for an  overdye.

Leaving out the fuchsia meant that I didn’t have any bleedover. Who knew? Nothing is good or bad less thinking makes it so.

If you want more information about dyeing fabric The Dye Day Workbook will walk you through my sponge painting methods  to wild wonderful fabric, with or without fuchsia.

Technology and the Dye Cup Fairy (Pat Winter)

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I love technology. I hate technology. I feel like the red queen and though I can’t possibly run fast enough, or at all, I must try.

Pat Winter is the Dye Cup Fairy. When I’m done dyeing fabric, I always have a bit of left over dye in the cups. Not so much that you could dye yards and yards of fabric. But ribbon? Yes! So Pat comes by and picks up the dye cups. I go for long periods of time when I don’t see the Dye Cup Fairy but you always know she’s been there. There’s a note, missing dye cups, and if you’re lucky, new plants in your garden or an Icy waiting for you. If you don’t know Pat, she’s perhaps the most inventive and amazing crazy quilter in the world.

Several years ago, I bought what I call a boob camera. Not because it’s for those of us who are a bit behind. No. It fits in my bra. Now this is important because if you don’t have a camera with you you can’t take the picture. I know you’re supposed to be able to do this with a phone. 
Please! I can only master one plastic box at a time.


Panasonic Lumix Boob Camera

I love my boob camera. Simple, no cap to lose. Takes a lot of pictures before it declares itself dead. Do I know what all the settings are? Don’t be silly!





So one day I walked into my studio and found the Dye Cup Fairy. And being the Fairy of Large and Incomprehensible Messes, we played together. With the boob camera and paint sticks.

Pat is much better with a camera than I. We both looked at the sport setting and said Sure! Why Not! You press the button down and it takes picture after picture after picture after picture. Well, you get the idea. She pointed and shot. I just played.


We got 836 pictures. What do you do with 836 pictures? Even after you take out the ones with blurry hands, more is definitively less  there really is a too much. Who’d have believed that?We’re not going to use that setting again.





Did we have fun? You betcha

I hope you have a Dye Cup Fairy who takes, gives and shares wonderful things with you!

I hope you play with your friends, even when the technology is incomprehensible!

I hope all your messes bring you wonder and joy! 

You’ll find Pat Winter’s blog at Pat Winter Gatherings. She also does a fabulous crazy quilt magazine that will launch you into a brand new crazy  quilting world.

You’ll find more about paint sticks on older posts of mine at 

The Secret Handshake: New Toys 

Paint Stick Updates

The Schamburg Expo

You’ll find my camera on There are lots newer ones, but none better. And it fits just fine in a DD cup.


Experimental Art by Accident: Plumbing

Sunday, May 6th, 2012



All of life is an art form. I’ve always maintained that how we live our lives, structure our stories, organize or not organize our space is in it’s own way a creative act. Sometimes it features beauty, or courage, or growth. Sometimes it’s a rare moment of survival in the midst of craziness. It is, however a creative act in response to the world we live in.

Several weeks ago, my neighbor Liam told me he wanted to make a volcano. Not  a problem. Got a soda bottle, vinegar and some baking soda. Mix and explode. It was a lovely afternoon.

Yesterday,  I recreated the LaBrea Tar Pits pit in my kitchen. Honest to God. I can barely wait to show Liam.

We wash dishes here every six weeks or when we run out of forks, whichever happens first.This time I decided I’d have a clean kitchen for my birthday which was yesterday. At least it’s a novelty

I had a very slow drain and thought it was risky to run the dish hider ( I haven’t noticed that it washes dishes. But it’s very good at hiding them.) I knew it was a dicy situation, so I went and looked up drain cleaning on the internet. As always, every product had at least one one star review and five five star reviews. Thus equipped, I went over to the hardware store and picked up a product I will not name. It was buffered sulfuric acid. Should cut through anything. Right?

Not exactly. Home again and we put it down the sink. Looked good. Made significant noises. ( I always find those encouraging). I waited 15 minutes and ran cold water. Out of the depth black bubbly goo started to rise. And take over one side of the sink and then the other. I went to the living room and started to pray for a faith healing experience. That didn’t happen. Two hours later I had everything from the black lagoon in the kitchen sink except, thank God, the creature.

Then I heard the drip. I looked down to see a streak of black goo on the pipe. Ran to get a bucket from the studio. Ran some more cold water to dilute it.

This situation is what we call a busted comode. Full of something and going no where. When I though again about plunging and plungers, I remembered that we could have sulfuric acid and black goo everywhere.

Back to Liam’s volcano. I got the box of baking soda and started to pour it in. Black bubbles rushed up one side of the sink. The other side burbled in response. An odd black greasy crust formed on the surface, broken temporarily by more bubble action. It went on all night.Blump. Burbble burbble, blump,plip,plip plip. Grirrrirrrgle. A symphony in black tarry substances. More baking soda in the other side. More blurble sounds. It was the symphony of the swamp.

I plunged at 10:30. At 3 am. More burbling noises but no other changes. The swamp is still extant and bubbling at nine am.

Why is this art? It’s too funny to be anything else at this point. But in the middle of this, when I called a friend to ask what to do about it, she said” Have you seen the moon?” No, it wasn’t a non-sequetur. If you’re going to have the worst plumbing night of your life you might as well have the best moon too. And I bet there was a spectacular moon over the tar pits as the dinosaurs went down. You’ve got to enjoy what’s there. And it’s a new form of surface design. But you might not want to try this at home.

So I hope you have a super moon to light your plumbing disasters. I’m also hoping the plumber works on Sunday.

You’ll find more information about the super moon at

Update: The plumber doesn’t work on Sunday. And he thinks it’s the whole drainage system. Anyone wanting to buy a quilt today, contact me and we’ll have a half off sale. 



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.


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.

The Sprinkles on the Donut

Monday, December 26th, 2011

After years of drawing bugs and frogs it has occurred to me that I’m a bit odd. All artists are, mostly. The ones who look normal pass well.
I’m not that good an actress.

I was at church for Christmas day. The choir at this church takes off for Christmas. I could have sat in the choir pews, but I ended up in the general congregation.

I’m not an alto as a show off. It’s simply where  my range is. I can’t sing the high notes reliably. It happens occasionally, but like Tuesday, anything could happen. So I was singing the alto line, against the bulk of the congregation on the melody.

It’s different within the choir. You expect to hear the part above and below you. The blend is planned and it’s where you belong.
This was much more separate, and more isolating. 

At the end of the service it occurred to me that much of my life is that way: a counterpoint to melodies I can not reach. My plans for the holiday collapsed and I ended up  more alone than was comfortable.

I was speaking afterwards to the choir director who said, “You know, you’ll never be the donut. You’re the sprinkles on the donut. And that’s why we want the donut anyway.

Now the nicest thing about the sprinkles on the donut is that they come in a range of color. They’re practically an edible color chart.

I don’t get to eat donuts either, but I’ve learned to appreciate allergy foods as a visual experience. And I’m an edible color chart! There are worse fates and worse goals.

The Wizard of Odd

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Having fun being weird today? Thank an artist!

Lately, they’ve been playing the Wizard of Oz again. It occurred to me just how much of our language comes from that amazing movie.

Most movies are a cultural moment at best. They expand on a moment in time. What is a classic changes with the wind, but I think we can say that it’s about how it changes the way people think. 

I was going through the number of phrases that the Wizard cemented into my verbal landscape:

  • “If I only had a brain.”
  • “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”
  • “Over the rainbow.”
  • “And your little dog too.”
  • “I hope my courage holds out. I hope your tail holds out.”
  • “I’m melting.”

And of course,

  • ” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Frank Baum, the author, had a rather unsuccessful life outside his books. He bounced from one thing to another until he wrote this odd and lovely tale, largely about politics. The politics have disappeared in time leaving a wonderful story about friendship, challenges, appreciating weird and very kind help, and finding your heart. Who would any of us be without it?

That being said, I take heart in this. When someone says, “You quilt, right? Can you make me a bed quilt? In beige?”

I remind myself that my glory and my crown, my hope and my consolation is that I be as gloriously odd as I am. And that if I do it well a small part of the world will shift for it.

Those of us doing our art shift the archetypes. Not purposely, or with cause, but simply by bringing our vision to the world. It’s not something one picks and chooses. It’s simply an act of trust to bring what your heart demands into being. We bring it all to the table and let time sort it out.

Lauren Strach: A Botanical Lunatic with a Plan

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Lauren doesn’t look like a lunatic. She looks like a pink cheeked soccer mom. Look out! Stand back! 

She’s an emerging art quilter who attacks new approaches and techniques with gleeful ferocity. And masters them with passion. Every time she visits me, I find myself flying to my machine, inspired by her intensity.

Lauren says,

“My inspiration, like so many other quilters, comes from nature. 

As a life-long biologist and Master Gardener, I thought I saw nature, but it wasn’t until I embraced my artful journey that I began to really see.  My inspiration is found in the whorls of snail shells, the miniature worlds of mosses and lichens, the rugged nooks and crannies of the bark of the fallen tree, and the intricate shading and nuances in the early spring wildflowers. And, the more I see, the more I see.

The act of translating that vision in line, pattern and color into textile recreations introduces the next level of AHA!  It is an ever fascinating challenge to take the experience of seeing with eyes wide open, to shape it into form. From the fantastical realism of exaggerated insects, to the abstracted likeness of the quintessential flower bud, I seek to uncover the universal codes, to bring them to life with fabric and thread.  Tactile, textile translations of the mysteries of nature, celebrating the wonders of life, that is where I find my inspiration.

Lauren’s work has been showed at both Paducah and Houston. She was a finalist in the $100,000 Quilt Challenge. Where will she show next? It could be anywhere. If she doesn’t send it in, it’s likely 
to fly in on it’s own.

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.

April H. Center: A Brilliant Painter with Words

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Holding up the World by Ellen Anne Eddy

April Center is a word painter in the Indiana Dunes area. Her images flow out of the page and grab you tightly. Sometimes they are warm and caressing. Sometimes they reach out in ways that are ferocious. But whatever they do, they always touch you somewhere deeply.

What Matters Now
Copyright 2011
By April Center

The trees know. The seasons require attention of different matters.
In spring they stretch their arms reaching for the light and the warmth,
With an awakening that follows throughout the millennium.
The sap slowly flows it’s lifeblood through their veins long before tiny sprouts appear
Like tiny fingers, whispering, reaching to grasp the hope and pursuit of sunlight,
Finding succor for the summer
Ever beckoning, wooing, breathing, soothing.
No need for wondering what matters now in the halcyon days of spring.

The trees know what matters in the glorious summer.
The trees are in full prayer and reverie – their chorus is heard easily
Above the canopy bestowing silent solace
Their arms with a million fans swaying, sometimes gently laughing, softly sighing
Sometimes boldly shouting, clapping and cheering
To the heartbeat of the wind – dancing,
Ever dancing with a grace beyond compare
The trees know what matters now in the ripe days of summer.

The trees know what matters in the fullness of time
In the slow fall from grace
No longer hindered, the trees and their kin shrug off their summer shroud
To be found scattered and strewn on the ground preparing a bed.
They sigh with a satisfied sleepiness after the dance.
A kaleidoscope of color shivers from their frames,
The painted beauty now leaves no trace,
What is left is the enduring body and face.
In the twilight of autumn the trees know what matters in the universe.

The trees know what matter most at this time. No longer concealed
Is their courage standing in place, always there but rarely seen while encased
In their garments of lace.
Not languishing, not laggardly, they brace
For the sharp, serrated winds that gust with the squalls of winter,
Withering all but the trees, for the trees know what matters in a world of much waste.
You’ll find more writing of April’s at Prudy’s View.

Dancing with Design:A Little less real. A little more art.

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I fight with realism. I really do. I wouldn’t say I win over often. I’m not against realism. I think that like fire,  it’s a good tool and a harsh master.

So it was with great glee I found myself with a new design tool. Like most great tools, it’s not an object so much as a headset. When I realized I could make flowers out of shapes, I then realized they didn’t have to necessarily conform.

Mind you, they could. And it’s pretty when they do.This fish has lovely wisteria dripping over his pond. 

But what happens if you just make a shape and have them follow that? They abstract in such a cool way. And if you embroider them? Here are the same teardrop shapes centered around a gentle c shape. The shape gives us a path, and the smaller flowers fill in the empty spots.

Everything is better with more thread! At least that’s my philosophy. These were embroidered with polyester embroidery thread until they glowed.

I’ve explored this cool Dance of Design, in Jim West’s Magazine, Quiltposium, pages 136-154 with a number of flowers. Go check it out. And take a shape out dancing today!

Pat Winter: It’s Always the Quiet Ones

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Crazy for CQ.
The best Mermaids ever!

Tucked in a cute little farmhouse outside Chesterton Indiana lives a quiet wild lady named Pat Winter. Pat has to be one of the most inventive crazy quilters ever. And when I’m lucky she dyes fabric with me. This incredible mermaid book is one of her masterpieces. Here’s what she has to say for herself.

 “Once upon a time there was a girl who gathered bits and bobs and her friends made fun of her “junk” collecting……  Up until a few years ago I never considered what I did art. I had always wanted to paint and draw however I did not inherit that skill from my mother. I did inherit the desire to collect and this I did very well. From a very young age I began gathering every little discarded trinket, pretty fabric scrap and bauble I found unusual or interesting and slipped them into a chest in my closet for safe keeping. As a teen only my closest friends saw my strange collection of bits and bobs. Unfortunately those items never made it with me through life but my desire and need to gather remains with me still today.

 This comes in handy for a crazy quilter. Vintage laces, doilies, buttons, broken jewelry and beads have made it into my current collection  as well as velvet remnants from Holiday dresses, lace trims from wedding gowns, silk, satin and moire from cast off prom dresses and an ongoing stash of “fancy fabrics” gathered from my shopping ventures all find a home in my studio. I enjoy making unusual and useful items using the crazy quilt method, not traditional wall hangings or bed coverings.

I can’t explain what drives me to create, I blame it on my muse. All I know is that whatever it is that makes me spend hours stitching and embellishing almost every day of my life is too strong to deny and brings me much pleasure. Imagine finding yourself locked in a chocolate shop and you were a chocoholic. That is how I feel when I walk into my studio and begin gathering items for a project. Lunatic? Yes, I believe so.”

You’ll find Pat’s amazing work at Winter Gatherings, where you can also purchase her new magazine, Crazy Quilt Gatherings, full of projects, tips, teaching and of course, crazy beautiful work.

Laura Krasinski: Out on a Limb

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Laura’s another quilter who shared images with me for the Beautiful Beast Slide Show. She wrote me this story about stretching, trying and changing that is the heart of the Lunatic Fringe.

This is “the story of making a quilt of my daughter.  It’s called He Loves Me He Loves Me Not.  
I was asked by Wendy Butler Berns if I would like to participate in her exhibit for Houston.  It is called Out on a Limb. 
I jumped at the chance since I have never had a quilt in a big show before.  So she continues to tell me about the challenge and then said it had to be at least 50″…. My jaw immediately dropped.  I don’t think I spoke a word for a minute or so.. .. I have never made a quilt that large.  So I thought about it and decided I needed to make this.  I took a photo of my daughter leaning against a tree.  I took the photo and with the help of Wendy’s technique I turned it into a 52″x64″ quilt.  I added a wall so I could put her cat Mr. Snuggles sitting on it. … During the time I was making this quilt I had some major family issues.  I really didn’t think I would get it done.  But, with the help and support of family and friends I did get it done, and in time.   This was one of the best experiences of my life.    Since I have done this quilt I feel like I need to do something better and maybe bigger. …But, I am bound and determine to continue to make beautiful quilts now that I have found my true love.  “

Her motto is “Everything will be o.k. in the end… if it’s not o.k. it is not the end.”

Fringe people aren’t reasonable.Nor is their art.  They follow their hearts and do what their heart demands. It’s loveliest when you find their people understand and hold them up in that process.

You’ll find Laura Krasinski’s work at

Wild annie! Wade

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Happy for No Reason

annie! Wade is a wildly creative lady who I first learned about when she lived in Florida.  Her work reflects the colors and chaos of the tropics.

Happy for No reason is a fabric book of  “...of scraps and bits and pieces I’ve tried different techniques on…and just made me happy…for no reason! Named after a book I read earlier this year by Marci Shimoff.

Gator Geezer
Gator Geezer started as a photo her husband took  with the kids from an air boat.  She says it was”…for my hubby of 33 years this weekend…was made of scraps that most people throw away. My son-in-law took some alligator pix when he was in the Everglades on a with my daughter and grandbaby and I knew I had to try to translate it with fabric. The original picture…which you can see on my blog…is quite different, and I still want to work on the eye…but otherwise, I think I’m done. LOVE using this technique to make quilts.”

 annie! spells her name just like that, and it’s true. She’s so unexpected and fun.

I love the idea of a book that’s happy just for happiness. That may well be the best reality we make for ourselves. I love when someone claims it in their art.

 annie! has also recreated her life. She has a grand daughter in Barranquilla Columbia and lives there with her husband so she can be with her. Catch her wild adventures in art and in life at

Celebrate the Fringe!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Celebrate the Fringe!
We’re doing a follower give-away to celebrate all our wonderful fringy folk! We’ll pick one winner from the lunatic fringe followers on October 1,2011.

The winner will get kit including 1/2 yard of Ellen Anne Eddy’s amazing hand-dyed fabric and hand-dyed pearl cotton to go with it. Sign up as a Lunatic Fringe Page Follower, on this page for your entry. Want to improve your odds ? Sign up as follower and do a guest post for the blog to have your name in the hat twice. Contestants must be in the United States.
Come join the fringe and get some fabulous fringy hand-dye to play with. Email Ellen to talk about putting up a guest blog.(It’s not hard. It takes a couple pictures and a paragraph.We’ll help.) Show us your Fringe!

Romance from the Edge of the Fringe

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Want A Man

I want a man who’ll wash the dishes
I want a man who’ll make the bed
I want a man who’s not suspicious
I want a man who’s halfway dead
I want a man who’ll do the laundry
Vacuum the carpets, sweep the floor
I want a man who knows his boundaries
No one could ask for more.
Uncle Bonsai

For two years I’ve had  lizards on my wall. No. I don’t live in Florida. Or any where else where that kind of ambiance is every day. I’ve had two Komodo Dragon lizards on my design wall for over two years. I drew them dancing and the butterflies to go around them and left them there on the design wall, either like desert or like an unripe melon, waiting for later.

I wish I could see images fully when I draw them. For some reason I can’t. I need to sit with them. I can walk into someone else’s drawing and  often tell them, this is off, this is out of proportion. For some reason, it’s like I’m in a semi-dark room where I just can’t quite see what’s happening. So when I’m unsure, I’ll sit a drawing where I can see it for a long time, to see what I might have missed.

In this case, that was wise. I could see the neck was wrong on one. The back needed to be wider on the other. I adjusted the drawings and then still waited.What for?

They’re really scary. Not because they’re Komodo dragons. I’ve met one actually, and I loved her. She was a modern day dinosaur. Now mind you, I’m glad she’d eaten first before I visited.

They represent all the fear I have over the dance between men and women. Romance scares me green.

It’s not that it’s not of interest. Although I’ll admit that as I get older the guys get less appealing. And though I have a bevy of strong supportive women friends, I can’t help but feel that I’ve missed something. I was an odd and distressed young woman who went through a whirl of inappropriate men, landed in therapy, and came out 15 years later with a better adjusted attitude and no one in sight. By then, art was my survival. It was past my life. I’d pulled all of my issues into different quilts, and dragged them one by one into my  therapist’s office. And I had a habit of living every extra moment of my life at my machine.

It’s astonishing but true that men don’t come into your  studio by accident or design to meet you. I’ve also found that every time I’ve tried to engineer that, it doesn’t work either. Sooner or later, I’m back in my studio. At  58, I’m resigned. Cats and dogs are truly lovely roommates. Besides, I’d need someone who could do light housecleaning, gardening, household repair and  not watch sports. I don’t believe that paragon exists anywhere.

Over the years I’ve watched my married friends, sometimes in jelousy, sometimes with joy  for their joys, sometime in anguish at what they’ve had to face. I’ve heard their stories, cried with them, laughed with them, helped fight their battles, cheered at their victories, taken in their children as my own, given them back in a heart beat when it was time. I can’t say it was easy. It was infinitely better than living in a hell of one. It grounded me to the world, which I do need some help on.

So it was with some shock as I watched a friend acknowledge that her gentle, kindly marriage, that I’ve truly envied, includes special moments where her husband radiates black rage and terrorizes her with it. Her oldest son tried practicing grandchild blackmail. You can imagine. He learned it somewhere. 

I find myself needing to take out my tattered images of love and romance and say, “Is this what you had in mind?”

And I looked up and saw my dancing, romancing Komodo Dragons drawn waiting on my wall. Terrified.

Now the things I draw sometimes happen. I do not know why. It isn’t something that’s always true. But I watch for it. So when I draw something that scares me, I have a choice. I can dig my head in the sand and refuse the image, refuse to be part of it or work with it. Mind you, it doesn’t go away. But denial is not just a river in Egypt. 

Or I can work the image and see if somehow the magic happens. Sometimes, if you work through the fear and the pain, it flips over. Something falls into a different place, and the object of fear and pain becomes something lovely, if scary. Or funny. It shifts something in my head and it shifts something within the piece.It becomes a glorified wound, a resurrection.

I started this year, realizing that I had hid from these large lizards on my wall. I told myself lizards don’t win awards. They don’t get in shows. Why would you do a large quilt that will take months and months, that no one will want to see? 

You don’t pin a drawing to a wall for 2 years and ignore it because it’s not important. The denial is a very wide river, dark and cold.  I plunged in, picked out thread and fabric, and started to stitch.

Last night as I pulled them from the machine, I could tell the magic is on it’s way. They’re ripply rivers of orange and blue muscle with scales. They’re gorgeous.Though the dance is risky, dangerous, a bit too close, it’s lovely.

Will my friend find a way to restructure her world? I’ve watched her do it time after time. She has the courage of mountains and stone.

I’ve taken my lizards and danced with them. That’s my part.

I wrote this about a year ago.
As a complete surprise, these babes have gone to Houston. I don’t have a good track record there, but I do believe that it’s an honor to be shown.  And it’s my job to shock/scare/titillate/ and generally push people past some boundaries. I’d say my work is done.

You’ll find the wonderful music of Uncle Bonzai at the Uncle Bonzai Home Page. They’re irreverent, fun and wonderfully fringy.
You’ll find Soulmates, my lizard quilt at in the humor section at Houston. Stop by and hum them a tune. I think they’ll dance for you too.

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

Linda T. Mintons Fringy Feet and More

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Tragically Cool and Incredibly Hip

Linda T. Minton has Fringy Feet! 
 I love her shoes! And I never love shoes. But I want these.

Painted Mud Clogs

Big City Girl with Her Hair on Fire

Here is a pair of colorful hand-painted Artist’s Mudd clogs that just make her happy, and the pair of black-and-white painted Z-Coil shoes is titled “Tragically Cool and Incredibly Hip”. To go with it she has a fanciful-face fabric collage is built on a favorite pair of bluejeans and is titled “Big City Girl with Her Hair on Fire”.  

Eye Pod

Her”Eye Pod” was  at the Journal Quilts exhibit in Houston. 
Her motto is:
Fail often in order to succeed sooner.” — Peter Sims
You’ll find  Linda Teddlie Minton’s wonderful fringy work  at

Melida Boman Shows us her Fringe

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Cafe de Human

Melida Boman hales from Oklahoma. She has an inordinate passion  for dragons and has worked on dragon forms for as long as I’ve known her. 

With three children she’s taken on the role of Mamma Dragon. As you can imagine, when Mamma isn’t happy…………….. need I say more?

Here’s what she had to say about this delightful piece.

“Have you ever wondered what other dimensions were out there? What would you do if there was a portal for hungry dragons looking for a little lunch? How you like to chat with one over some blood wine?  It could happen!”

And it could. I think I’ll look over the next restaurant carefully before I ask for a table. If it says “to serve man….” I may need to eat at home.

Show us your fringe too. Email me at and we’ll set that up.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

It’s official! The Lunatic Fringe is back in  action.
If you are a former Fringe member you know it never goes away. 
If you were in class with me and I gave you your badge, it’s good for ever. Like every sign and symbol, we really wear them mostly inside ourselves.

The Lunatic Fringe Badge is 

  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • Your Purple Heart
  • A Green Lunatic Fringe

Although I make these for people who take my class,you are completely welcome to make one for anyone who needs one, most especially yourself.

How do you know if you’re a member of the Lunatic Fringe?

  • Do you do your art at odd hours and in odd ways?
  • Are people always asking you “What’s that for?
  • Do you neglect housework, yard work, dinner, and paper work to do your art?
    Do you see wonderful inspiration in really strange places and at odd times?
  • Does your heart hurt if you can’t do your art?
  • Do you sew, paint, sculpt, write or whatever like a mad person?
  • Have you ever been rejected from a show or publisher?

These are just some of the signs that you are a member of an elite group referred to as the Lunatic Fringe. They are the artists, writers and crazy people out there doing something wonderful and weird only they can do. Great art comes out of the margins. It comes from people following their dreams in strange and wonderful ways.

Of course they need a red badge of courage. That kind of art takes guts. Of course they’ve earned a purple heart. Creative people  like that get shot at. Of course it’s lunatic. It’s lunatic, brilliant, fun, wild,real, healing, scary and personally vital.

This is not just for artists. All life is art and your lunatic fringe may be in how you garden,  arrange your life, cook your food, write your stories. The lunatic fringe is about acknowledging the art within your life.
I’m putting up a page on facebook for the Lunatic Fringe to strut their stuff. Your fringe is hanging! SHOW US YOUR FRINGE!

If you would like a guest blog on the Lunatic Fringe, email at and tell us how your part of it all.

We’ll welcome posts both on facebook and guest blogs. I’m starting a new blog for the Lunatic Fringe for you to show it all off.
Check out the  Lunatic Fringe Blog 

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