Posts Tagged ‘Uncategorized’

Commissions: Other People’s Dreams

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

I love birthdays! Celebrating birthdays is how we say, “I’m glad you’re here! So I was particularly delighted when a friend asked me to make a special quilt for her sister on a special birthday.

Thalia Johnson had come to the studio to visit before. She called me to ask if there was a great tu’rtle quilt for her sister’s birthday. I said, “Not at this moment, but there could be.We sat down with some great reference pictures. Have you used Teamviewer before? It’s a way to share what’s on your screen with someone else. It’s definitely cool. It allows you to look at another person’s computer miles away,



Turtle in the Hostas


Fly Fishing

We decided on a water slider turtle, rather than a tortis or a box turtle. She loves orchids and her sister gave me pictures of her collection. It made a perfect lady’s slipper.
I went to work.
I embroidered the turtle.

Created the branch
Built in the water and sky and made lady slippers.

Here’s Paige with her quilt.

Commissions are an honor. They’re a badge of trust. They also scare me a little. I’m always terrified of letting someone down in some way. But when they  please someone this much, I feel privileged to have been asked.

Moving Day

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

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

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

We’ll see you here!

Find the Flakes

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Every season I offer three quilts on my web site at a silly low price, just to see if you’re watching.

I just posted up my three winter ones. We’re calling it the Snow Flake price because I really flaked out on it.

Here’s a secret: They’re all in the new Thread Magic Garden Book.

 See if you can find them! They’re at
Thread Magic Studio Gallery

Announcing My Computer Radio Show Premier at Creative Mojo!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

I’m  going to be on Mark Lipinski’s Creative Mojo Radio Show on 
Wednesday, December 14th, at 3:00PM -5:PM EST
 (2-4 CST, 12-2 MST, 11-1 PST),
 Live for two hours with Listener Call ins.

Mark is one of my favorite creative quilting lunatics. He brings immense talent and a wacky sense of fun to us all.
On of his gifts to the quilt community is this fabulous show.I’m so honored he’s asked me to join him!

Go to on your computer and click on the live button on the right hand side of your screen. Or you can listen to it later at

Come and join us. Call in! I’ll answer 

anything (well almost.)

Getting Together

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Normally December would  be a time of getting things into place. Getting them together. Tax receipts. Almost finished quilts. Articles that have to go out. The teaching is done for the year, and all those tasks impossible in the travel have to be done.
This December, add to that I’m getting ready for Thread Magic Garden, my new book from C&T publishing to arrive in January. There’s a flurry of newsletters, articles and new work that has to be in place.
In the middle of that muddle, I’m trying very hard to realize that the best task is simplification. So with that in mind, I’m putting all my blogs into one place. 

I know that some people just want information, some people want stories, some people want a place to check for schedules, and some people just want eye candy. You’ll still find it all here at the Art Outside the Box at blog. I’ve put in a cloud label so you can find what you need easier. And I’m very curious as to what you think. I’m hoping you’ll let me know.

All the blogs have been fed into this one. I’ll still show you wonderful Lunatic Fringe people, color studies, funny stories, fabulous techniques and amazing embroidery. But, we’re getting together. Right now.

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Musings: Art Outside the Box: Coming Attractions:The Thread Magic Garden

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

As a gardener I have a love/hate thing with January. It’s a month of frozen tundra, puctuated with ice storms and an occasional  melted mud pit in back. I look longingly at dead stalks and seed pods and live for the seed catalogs that start to fill up my mail box.

But as a quilter, January is one of those best times. Dark nights and snowed in walks make it perfect quilting time. It’s exactly the time to make the garden in the studio bloom.
So I’m delighted that C and T Publications has told me my new book Thread Magic Garden will be ready for release in January.

If you’re familiar with Thread Magic, you know I don’t write the traditional, “12 quilts for baby” quilt book. Those books fill a special place for quilters, but I’m constitutionally incapable of it. Besides, I don’t know 12 babies who need quilts right now. Someone else needs to write that book.

What I do write are books that take things apart, show you new ways to put them back together and that focus on free motion, thread work, artistry and expression, so far out of the box that they don’t fit in squares any more.I’m hoping you’ll find that true of Thread Magic Garden too.

I’ve created a simple system for pattern-less flower applique that goes from deliciously simple to  intricately stitched and embellished. And a new way of codifying free motion zigzag stitch that’s changed what I can do with applique.

None of this is done with fancy machinery. I actually don’t do anything that’s hard. Instead, it focuses on simple zigzag and straight stitch to create a world of magic. It’s just time consuming and compulsive. 

There are 25 flowers for you to create, a full discussion of free motion stitching with different approaches for straight and zigzag stitches, 2 step by step teaching projects and over 50 new quilts.You’re going to want to play.

It also means I have new classes and lectures to share with  shops, guilds and groups. Check my web site for the new classes covering this groundbreaking material.

They tell me my book is coming out in January. Email me and I’ll notify you when it’s ready for pre-order.

C and T Publications have my first book, Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy, available in a downloadable and a print on demand format. You can order it from them now.

Art Outside the Box The Care and Feeding of Quilt Shops #2

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

I’ve written about quilt shops before, because I KNOW how vital they are. One of the treasures of getting to visit all over the country is that you get a chance to see all the wonderful little shops.

Now I’m a fan of little shops in general. I believe in small business as the way we hold ourselves together as a society. It’s people taking good care of people and it’s worthy of support. It’s the store where no one tells you that you are the only one that wants an item, that the store only gets what the corporation sends them and that this is just what’s in right now, never mind what you really want and/or need. Corporations are not good at customer care.

More than that, it’s community. A good quilt store creates your place for information, gorgeous fabric, gossip,the latest tools, good advice, a friendly shoulder and an excellent cackle. In short, it’s a place where quilters meet amazing people like themselves.

So a new quilt store, particularly in an area without, is a cause for  major celebration. Thread Benders is a brand new quilt store at 613 Franklin Street, downtown Michigan City, Indiana. It features things for quilters of all styles. It’s just an hour out of Chicago, and on your way if you’re heading up to Michigan for the weekend.Threadbenders will be open from 5-8 pm for the First Friday Michigan City Gallery Walk, July 1st.

For the First Friday Gallery walk, I’ll be at Threadbenders, showing off her new Sweet Sixteen longarm. It turns out to do excellent bobbin work. I’m in love.

I’ll have quilts, my hand-dyed fabric and threads, and books available. We’ll do some raffles of cool things to start out your hot summer sewing. We’ll have plenty of brownies and wine to chill down your evening. We’ll play with her new handiquilter machines and show them all that, of course! Quilts are ART!
Come join me.

Fare well, Jean. And Thanks!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

March 3, 2011 10:25 PM

Jean Ray Laury, 1928-2011

Some sad news: We’ve lost Jean Ray Laury, Fresno’s most beloved fiber artist. She died Wednesday after a long illness. From the obituary in Friday’s paper:

Her most recent local project was an installation at the new headquarters of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust: five 9-foot banners that depict, in alluring colors, the array of plants, wildlife and other inhabitants of the river region. The project took two and a half years.

“I can’t imagine any commission that could be more fun or more rewarding than this one,” she told The Bee.

A graduate of Stanford University, Mrs. Laury developed an international reputation in the world of quilting and fiber arts, and traveled as a guest lecturer, including to Australia, Belgium, France, Norway and South Africa.

In 1999, her work was included in a Houston installation titled “America’s 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.I’ll be putting together an appreciation of Laury in the days to come, so if you have any thoughts on her artistic contributions or personal memories, feel free to share.

Several weeks ago when I was on facebook, I found Jean Ray Laury had died. 

Jean was not one of the names I remember most from my beginning quilting. I watched the “quilt artists” with a lot of interest and passion.  I don’t remember seeing her name that much. 

But it was there. What I do remember is seeing her quilts. Advice from Your Mother. Cowgirls. Political statements. They represented a  huge change in the art quilt world. They centered around her printmaking skills and wacky sense of humor.They were strictly about women’s work, ideas, lives fears and hopes. They were an education. I was at a conference several years ago with her and had the time to see her lecture. What I found was that I did know mountains of her work. Year after year, piece after piece, this quiet woman with a loud artistic voice made an astonishing  statement about art, femininity, and self expression. Her work had lifted me to a level where I was brave enough to begin my own.

So many of us as quilters have a trick, a tool, a viewpoint of our own that makes us unique.Perhaps that was the beginning of the movement from quilt to art. I think Jean may have been part of the first of that. Her prints, so unlike quilts, but clearly  quilted showed us that path. Now she shines on. 

Do we have quilting saints? I hope we do. People larger than life, full of a path and vision that changes us all? I think we do. Saints are legends, not necessarily holy, so much as they are wholly what they are. Their lives illuminate ours. Their clarity clears away our clutter and confusion. Do they watch us to see what we do in their wake? God knows, we learned from watching them.  I think she’s a grand Saint Jean, of the quilt.

Fare well, Jean. And thanks!

Print on Demand: Confessions of a Book Junkie Wandering the Printing Industry

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I can’t help it. It’s a disease that runs in my family. My mother was the president of the library board, and my father read me Gods, Graves and Scholars when I was three.We kept books in the same quantities my mother kept gin and extra undies. The answer was simple. Are there more books? Then we need more books!

One of the odd things within our current financial world is the book out of print. I didn’t believe it happened when I was a kid. A book was a book forever. You could always find it. It wasn’t until Ms. Driscoll, my junior/senior English teacher sent us scattering to find a bunch of out of print 1920-50s plays that I even knew a book could go out of print. My mother, president of the library still at that point, hunted each of those books down. They might have been out of print but our library had them.

Now it’s a constancy. Fabulous books go out of print. Buy it now. You may never see it again. Or you may find stacks of it at Books a Million. It’s an unpleasant crap shoot.

Publishers make their most money out of the first flush sale. A book that is classic does not make the kind of cash a best seller does. It can’t. And it will, unless someone protects it, go under. A new book itself is a huge investment for a company. They sensibly go for the main chance, and that limits what gets into print.

Enter into that the print on demand publisher. This is probably just one step above the company that will print your loving-hands-at-home book in a beautiful leather binder, and post it on their web site with other titles like My Amazing Life as a Hardware Salesman or How to Bronze Baby Shoes for Fun and Profit. Shall we say, it’s a limited market.

But for the cost of upload, and printing a hundred books, you can print on demand. And post it on the major book sellers market. I’ve done it. More than once.
Because in the same way I crave books, I crave putting out books. I love working with a professional book company. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again if allowed. But for small books that I think people need, and that I need to put out, it’s an answer.

Here’s the rub. They always cost more, for you and for your reader. You’re not having 15,000 run from China. Instead you’re paying an American company for a much shorter run. And the wonderful wheels of promotion that every publishing company has will not roll out for you. It’s all your own.

In the end, it’s your consumers who decide if it’s worth it. Is it worth a bit extra to have the book that wouldn’t get published otherwise? 

So I’ve done it again. The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily is arriving today, according to ups. I’ll start shipping them out to those who’ve ordered. We’ll see if its a companion piece with the book on bronzing baby shoes.

The Town of Torper is a little cautionary tale about small towns, gardening standards, war and peace.You can order it at my site at

Thread Magic is Back!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Twelve years ago, I wrote Thread Magic. That’s not really true. I wrote it over a period of 10 years before that. I wrote about the many quilts I’d made. I told why and how. I tried very hard not to offer it as a cake recipe without all the ingredients. I knew I’d done different things than other quilters, and I wanted to document what I’d done. I was more than a little shocked, after 12 rejects, when it was accepted.

It wasn’t the best selling book of that year. But it struck a cord. When, 7 years after, it went out of print, it began to sell first for $50, and then for $150, and finally settled out at $450 per copy until it was reprinted. 

I wrote about my own artist’s journey. I showed what I had done and did the best job I could of documenting it so that other people could go there as well.  I didn’t do it because I thought my journey was so important. We are all in some way on that journey. What else can we do, but chart the ways we’ve taken?  Somewhere, maybe 50 years from now there will be a young girl who discovers the art quilt movement. We’re the only art movement run almost entirely by women who are old enough to have some wisdom, some savvy and something to say. It’s a grass roots movement. It came really out of no where. It’s supported its artists as teachers, and made unique opportunities within guilds where you can, as a quilter, learn from the very best. What will that young girl find?

My suspicion is that she might have to really dig to find out what we did. Why. How. Women’s history tends to disappear.  But if we all write about our artist lives and selves, we will be there for each other now, and for her later. Who knows what she will do, if she knows what we did? Who knows what we will do, as we watch and cheer for each other?

C and T is now reprinting Thread Magic again. I’m shocked Thread Magic is back in print. But I’m grateful to be part of a movement that has said it’s truths over time. I hope my journey illuminates yours.
You can order your copy at my web site at  I’ll sign it for you.

Changing the Rules Can You Outgrow Fairy Tales?

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Do we ever outgrow fairy tales? I don’t think so. For one thing, it’s arguable that we never really grow up. We get older, we get wiser, but somewhere inside we are all the ages we ever will be. There is a  four year old who sits next to a wise old lady in my head. They both respect each other’s strengths and knowledges. They don’t necessarily believe the same things or know the same things. But they both support each other endlessly. We need that child and that crone. They are both who we are, and are never the whole picture alone.

So this little skit warmed my heart. Who hasn’t run from the world as it unravels? What I love is that she changes the rules. She stops running, takes it on with what she has and knits a blanket. How fabulous!

We too have our days where it unravels. Where the wolf sits in the forest in wait. Where it gets darker much earlier than we planned and we find ourselves sitting in the woods, afraid and unclear as to where the bread crumbs went. There was a study in a country where they stopped reading fairy tales to children. The kids got quite strange. You really do need to know what to do when you’re lost in the woods. 

My grandmother self knows better. She’s cautious and smart. But she has no idea where the wildflowers are. She doesn’t know that the mushrooms on the stump are an amazing pink. She does remind my four year old self not to put them in her mouth.

Butterfly Garden was done in response to my garden woes. In many ways, it was changing the rules. I still think that’s the best way to float over and above so many of the heart’s hurts. The flowers are nothing but lollipops. They’re the flowers of my four year old self. They also echo flowers I had on my favorite dress when I was 16, and the floral prints coming out lately that just turn my heart over.

I changed the rules. Do I have to be real? Accurate? Embroider them onto my quilt surface? Use real colors? I’m so sorry. Those are your rules. I don’t think they apply to me. Not unless I say so.

Now my caterpillars are as real as I could make them for the most basic fact: YOU CAN’T HAVE BUTTERFLIES WITHOUT CATERPILLARS.

So I pick my rules, just for me. I told this story to clear my head and to entertain. Like all fairy tales, it is not what it seems.

 I believe in  fairy tales. I believe they’re vital to our hearts and health. I tell them to adults as well as kids and watch my grandmother and child inside nod wisely. 

Today I sent The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily off to the printer.
I expect it ready to ship in two weeks. You can order your  signed copy at
The Town of Torper on my web site at

It’s the best garden fairy tale I could tell.

Telling Stories_The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

Friday, February 4th, 2011

My mother was 3rd generation Irish. She was truly the best story teller I knew. Sometimes that’s a wonderful gift. Sometimes it was crazy-making. She wasn’t overly honest when  she told stories. Often there was a loose and wild rape of reality.
Eventually I came to understand that she told the stories in ways that made the world work for her. Once I came to understand that, even if I was her go-to villain (and I often was) I learned to use it as a measure of where her hopes and fears were. The child with a monster under the bed isn’t necessarily wrong. Often there are terrifying real monsters all through that child’s life. We can talk about the one under the bed because it’s safely “not real”. 
Somewhere in our modern world we’ve lost the ability to tell stories. We even sometimes view story telling as a kind of dishonesty or a case of bad reporting of the facts.

I never was a Dragnet fan. “Just the facts, Mam,” doesn’t always tell the story. Sometimes there needs to be a fiction in the place between us.

I’m Margaret Eddy’s daughter, more than I ever care to acknowledge. I indulge myself in creative story telling because it heals my heart. Like my mother, I know that it helps if the retelling is funny, if the victim is silly and clueless, if the villain has their own reasons, and if the fight is over small mole hills. 

I’ll tell a story in two ways, sometimes in words, sometimes in images. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I had an unpleasantness with some neighbors over the garden.I often quilt my garden. It’s where I live in my head. I come home to my house, but I live in my studio and garden.
So in the way we create our space, I’ve written a fanciful tale about  garden wars. It’s called The Town of Torper and the  Very Vulgar Day Lily.
I’ve put in some of the pages so you can have a peek. It’s been loving illustrated with my garden quilts and is as silly a story as I could make it. We’re planning it’s release at the end of February. If you’d like to put your name on the pre-order list, email me.

Broken Clocks

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

It would help if I were better at ladders.Like my cat Momo, I have gravity issues. I can get up there but there’s no grace getting down. And if I ask the dogs to spot me, it’s much worse if I fall on them, rather than just splatting myself on the floor.
So a stopped clock is a real problem. And I have three of them in the house and studio at this point.

That makes time an internal process. It’s interesting when your time is wholly internal. Time is always elastic. It stretches through moments and flies in odd ways. Without a clock in charge it can’t be trusted. I slide into this laziness that isn’t watching the clock. The time creeps and runs at the same time and I find my time eroded in irrelevancy.

Except for the moments when  time stops and bathes in creativity. These pieces were several I designed in an afternoon where, for reasons I don’t understand, I sat down to one of these and had 6 of them planned when I was done.  And I’d only blinked thrice.

Some days I tie myself to my machine with stories and songs, to keep in in a grid-like process. The clock reminds me that if this is my job, I should put in the time to do it. 

Then there are those moments when time stolen and stopped, makes all the space art need.

Does it happen if I don’t hold the course? I still need to find my way through the studio door, over to my machine or cutting table. But every so often, my broken clocks measure the time in the only way creative time can be measured. In what pours out.

Musings: Art outside the Box: Working and Reworking

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

This is the time of year when I hunt for the studio floor. I’m not a bad housekeeper. You can’t be called bad if you don’t do it at all. So at this time of year we have what might be called an archeological dig in the studio, looking for what has been lost in the stratta. Things get flung to and fro in the process of creation and at the end there are large heaps of fabric, stabilizer, clippings, thread ends with small inclusions of scissors, bobbins, and dog cookies, strewn through the studio floor. I don’t exactly clean it, but I do sort of sweep through, usually trying to find a path to the iron or to the door.

This is when I find the undone. I always have at least 6-12 projects in different states of doneness. There’s the large quilt, ready to bind and I need a back for it. There’s the small quilt ready to stitch, and I need a day to just sit and do. And then there’s the stymied quilt: the one that didn’t quite work. It’s waiting for a miracle of some sort. Either I need a new skill or fresh eyes or to decide it just isn’t happening. 

I found this lady languishing there.
This series of dancing trees was a challenge I started for myself several years ago. It’s particularly a challenge because I really have some difficulty living in my body. I tend to live in my hands and my head. The rest is a lump I drag around with me. So it takes some courage and a bit of extra love to look at bodies at all. But I wanted trees that danced. 

I’ve found a couple of good tools and an ally. It’s interesting to me that my camera sees things I just can’t. I’m regularly photoing  unfinished quilts ( particularly quilts I can’t take time with ) and viewing them through the lens. It’s astonishing how clearly the camera shows me what I’ve got. My friend Rebecca Dorian Brown is a fabulous art ally. Through Team Viewer (this very cool program that lets you look at each other’s computer screen in live time) we’ve been checking each other’s work and been able to see what needs to happen next. It’s invaluable to have another set of eyes on something, and Rebecca has the best eyes I know.

Thank God for allies and tools! My tree’s not done yet but she’s in process again, because I can really see where I’m going.

This is good because she has a date. My tree is  going to be shown at Trinity Episcopal Church on the First Friday Gallery Walk in Michigan City, IN on January 7th.

All four of these pieces will be on display at
Trinity Episcopal Church
6th Street and Franklin
Michigan City, IN
 5PM through 7PM
January 7th
6th Street Entrance
call for info

The First Friday Gallery Walk is something like River North for Michigan City. There’s a number of excellent and edgy galleries, all open and on display each first Friday of the month. Wander, eat, see wonders and dream of art! Please come and see them there.

I hope this year brings you new tools, fresh eyes, true allies, and places to let your work shine.

You’ll find Rebecca’s amazing work at Rebecca Dorian Brown Art.
You’ll find more information about Trinity Church here.

Silent Night

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

I’m in complete rebellion  this Christmas. I can’t quite get it. I don’t want a tree. I will not shop. I’ve sung carols with my church but I won’t put them on at home. I’m not doing it.

This  Santa boy represents everything I would prefer to miss. He’s actually a Japanese vending machine for Christmas. I’m sort of waiting for the Easter bunny version and the Jack-o-lantern issue.Talk about Christmas out of the box. Yuck.

It occurs to me that maybe I just don’t understand Christmas. Christmas was utterly changed the year my Dad died. My father was the hearth of our home. When he died there was not much there but gin, literature and cold ashes. I desperately tried to put up a tree and make everyone presents. I annoyed everyone mightily. They wanted a steak dinner, gifts out of a catalog,  a stiff drink and to fall asleep in front of the TV. I’ve been pretty sour on it ever since.

But the one thing that has made Christmas work for me is the kids in my life. I never had a child, but that never meant I didn’t have children. For reasons I don’t understand, they seem to creep through the cracks in the door. They stay as long as they need to stay, all for different reasons.   To be fed cookies  at your table , or to dye fabric, or hear stories, or play with your dogs, or to have someone hold down their rage while they learn to do that themselves.The price of all that is the price you pay for every child in your life. You need to be willing to let them go as easily as they come.  The love is all there, but their path is not. And it’s cruel to mess with that.

This year, I have children gone again. They’re healthy and brave and well. There’s no reason to grieve. But I hate the loneness of Christmas eve.

People who say art is your child, don’t really do art. Things are just what they are. Your art is your art. It’s not ever going to run to you with it’s arms open. Or show you a kitten, or bring you a song. It can’t be asked to do what it cannot.

In process Daylily Quilt

It is your creation, in a way a child can’t be, although it has a life of it’s own. So I’m in the studio, pouring life into a new piece, building day lilies out of dragon claw shapes.

Creation is a love. A dry love often, but a love.And it strikes me that that too is Christmas. For Christmas we get a baby. Not a baby who can love us yet. No baby can. But a baby that coaxes our love out of us. It’s a baby that demands our care, our involvement, our concern. It invite us to love and teaches us how. Its advent demands our attention. And flays us open to a heart available for the love that is always there.

I’m making a huge pot of soup for Christmas eve. I’m taking it to church and I’m feeding whoever asks.  Hopefully, angels unawares.

The Butterfly Effect

Friday, December 17th, 2010

I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The last, the very last,

So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing 
against a white stone…. 

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ’way up high.
It went away I’m sure 
because it wished 
to kiss the world good-bye.

 For seven weeks I’ve lived in here
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.

Only I never saw another butterfly. 
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto. 

Written  by Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942 

I don’t remember the first time. I heard about the butterfly effect. Was it Jurrasic Park? The movie of that name was not a favorite. But the concept made complete sense to me. The smallest things effect everything. The flick of a butterfly’s wing in my garden effects the weather in China. 

Is it true? I’m not a scientist. I don’t know. But I do know that much of my life is made up of tiny interludes with people as I travel. Moments, really. I don’t get years with people except for a few rare and dear friends. Those are also celebrated in moments. So, true or not, I believe in butterflies.

Trudi Sissons from  Two Dresses Studio  has joined with the Holocaust Museum in Huston to help bring to flight an amazing exhibit. There were 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.

Think about it. I really quite can’t. I have no idea what 1.5 million looks like as a number. So they are collecting 1.5 million butterflies from artists, one for each child, to exhibit there.
What did we lose with those children?1.5 million symphonies, lullabies, amazing stories, astonishing art………… 

We can never know. We are in a 
way, as much a victim to the hate that killed them as they. Our world cannot afford hate. Each child is a treasure house, and hate is a vicious thief.
If each child were a butterfly and the wings of their life change the world, what have we lost?

So I’ve made my butterfly to be sent off. To remember what was lost and to hope we can learn the evil math behind hate. And my job today is to take someone I truly fear and hate and find why I’m wrong. Hard as it is, I think it better than Christmas shopping.  And after all, it’s what I really want for Christmas,  both to give and receive.

Art Outside the Box: Hunger is a Sauce

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Like most red blooded American women of my age, I’m not used to hunger.I learned my clothes making from the Amir the tentmaker design school. My mother described me as a pork chop in my baby pictures. If somehow I became miraculously thin, I would be in a massive identity crisis.

This is not to say I haven’t tried from time to time. But after 15 years of therapy, I’ve learned there’s little that can’t be soothed by a half gallon of Breyers in solitary splendor.
So hunger is basically a stranger. I’m very careful not to be hungry, and really only get in that spot when I’m traveling in the back of the beyond. It’s just as well. I tend to faint and bite people’s heads off. Since neither of those things get you where you’re going, they’re best to be avoided.


It’s interesting when you’re put nose to nose with your fears. I had a health scare where my acupuncturist put me on an eleven day cleanse that had 4 fast days in it.

I haven’t fasted since I fainted for my first four communions at church. The last time I woke up with the priest standing over me saying, “Don’t even try.”
But I love my acupuncturist. I even trust her. So I did it.
It’s interesting to find that hunger isn’t all about food. 

I found myself desperately hungry for companionship.
I found myself hungry for color and sound, stimulation.
I found myself desperately hungry for parts of my art on hold while I work out necessary practicalities.
I found myself desperately hungry for people I haven’t seen.
I found myself hungry for love I can’t quite give.
I found myself terrified to be hungry for what is holy in my life.

    Isn’t it interesting how much of your real self you can hide in an ice cream container?

    So, if I’m hungry enough to feel those other hungers, maybe that hunger is the sauce, the luscious topping that launches me out of myself and out of hiding, in search of what I really need. 

    Musings:Art Outside the Box: The Joy of Dyslexia

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
    “Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
    Rainer Maria Rilke
    I’ve been writing a blog thread on Practical Thread Magic about doing bobbin work. While I’ve been discussing bobbin tension and machine makes and all kinds of practical mechanical issues, there’s always a fear issue that needs to be addressed. Yup! It’s upside down.
    I’ve taught this for over twenty years. There’s very little new about bobbin work except for the threads available and the fact that it’s much more accepted.In over twenty years in a classroom, I’ve heard almost everything anyone is going to say about it. One woman always says, with fear in her eyes,”It’s upside down. How can I know where I’m going? What I’m doing? “
    It’s always a bad classroom moment. There’s a fervent urge to put your hand over her mouth and/or offer her chocolate. Hysteria is as contagious as pink eye.But everyone is thinking it. It must be addressed.
    Actually the answer is quite simple. A lock stitch leaves a line of thread on both sides of the work. You can see where you’re going from either side. And all you’re doing is filling it in backward.
    The word backward takes us to that wonderful gift, dyslexia. I’m not being sarcastic.
    I’m quite dyslexic. No one knew until I studied it as a teaching student. They knew I couldn’t spell or write well. They thought I was lazy.
    Well, they were somewhat right about that, but the truth is that d’s,b’s,p’s and q’s are identical for me. I learned to read through context and configuration.It helped that my school teacher mother made me study and read an extra 4 hours every night after school. She wasn’t trying to fix my dyslexia. She had no clue. It’s simply what she thought you did with kids.
    I still can’t really read a map or a calendar. They move on me, and I can’t hold numbers in my head. How do I deal with this? I hire someone who can do those things, and I do what I do well myself.
    But here’s the upside. I can read stories in any configuration, beginning, middle and end, in any order, and it makes sense to me. And I can read and write backwards and upside down, cursive and printed.
    Dyslexia is simply an ability to see the world differently. If you can make the translation to the rest of the world, (read and write, speak and hear), it gives you the ability to show a world something they’ve not seen before. It’s a gift.
    So when I’m looking at my drawing, I’m simply looking at it as I would look at a backwards slide. I know it’s facing the other way on the other side. That doesn’t matter. Instead, I fill it in with gentle shapes and change my color on top when I change it on the bobbin. There’s no mystery. Simply a different point of view.
    Fear is a dragon. Perhaps a princess dressed up as a dragon who’s really waiting to see us be brave. Besides, everything worth doing is worth doing badly. If you want to do anything well, you need to be willing to go past the worst fear we have as adults: that we might not be instantly perfect at something. If you want to do it badly enough, you can do it. I know. I’m dyslexic.

    Musings:Art Outside the Box:Embroidery, Art and Truth

    Saturday, September 4th, 2010

    I love this 5 minutes of truth and what is true. Truth and what is true are not the same things. They are often foreigners to each other. We are too used the the courtroom in Law and Order, Perry Mason, and the who, what, why approach to the news. We are obsessed by the actual numbers, the correct dates and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.What is true, is that they perpetrated a fraud. But the truth is that they created a view of the world as we would like it to be.

     There is a  wonderful  truth to be hoped for here, in a world of people dancing together. Real or not, it’s something that may not be true, but it offers that which should be. Somewhere there could be a world of people dancing badly together, in harmony and joy. And why not? Truth is so much more strong than what is strictly true.

    I was raised with an Irish American view of all of this.My mother’s maiden name was Mulligan. She was a brilliant story teller. She never sewed if she could help it but she could embroider a story to perfection. The facts were often suspect. She told a story about herself as Margaret the African Violet Killer ( seven in one blow) that I really doubt actually involved her punch line about giants. What she did was take the truth, spin it slightly and show it to you through her eyes. And gild the edges, just a bit.

    Was it true? It was way too silly a story to be true. But she was truly awkward and bad with plants. Her not so true story had a  heart based in truth.

    Perhaps all affirmations are a bit like that. I’ve sat with bad children and told them that they were good. They weren’t getting any better believing they were bad. If I told them I saw them as good, then there was at least a reason to try.

    Most recently, I find myself in a room with women trying to do free motion for the first time. I always tell them that they’re brave. Are they? Well, bravery is not how we feel. It’s how we act. If she’s scared and she’s not under the table, she’s as brave as a tiger. And it helps to tell her so.

    Years ago I was visiting Glacier National Park and someone took me up a ski lift.  It was summer. As long as I could see the ground I was grounded. But when we were hanging just in the air I noticed I had a touch of agoraphobia. I was terrified. I had my hands over my eyes. My friend leaned over and said” So brave!” This was something I’d said to students the whole week I’d been there. It’s amazing no one had hit me.

    But it made me feel braver.I managed to look through my fingers to see the mountain below me and an eagle circling above. Was it looking for lunch? We’ll never know.Was I truly brave? I didn’t fall off the lift.

    I quilted this quilt of the mountain below me and the shadow of the eagle above.
    While we report what is true, I think we create our truths. We declare them, prop them in place, and help them happen, declare them  as we put them in process. That in itself is an act of creation. It’s an artistic process as fine as a painting or an tapestry. It’s an affirmation. It’s a story told well. And it’s the recreation of the world as it should be, shown through our own eyes.

    Musing: Art Outside the Box: Who are you?

    Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
    Im nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.
    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day

    To an admiring bog!
    Emily Dickinson

    Caterpillar: Who Are YOU?
    Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I–I hardly know sir, just at present–at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then
    Alice in Wonderland

    Gloria Hansen, quite truly one of the quilting goddesses and a winner of many quilting contests and shows, recently posted on Quilt Art Digest a curious interlude she had at the Walmart. She met some women there who were collecting quilting fabric and told them she was going to be selling some of her fabric off and would they like some. They told her they only quilted with Quality Fabric. Essentially they said:”Who are YOU?” The sadly funny thing is if they’d known, they might have crawled  after her down the isle for her scraps. I don’t use anyone’s fabric but my own, but I’d spit nickels just to look through her stash by way of a cultural artistic experience. She’s a brilliant quilter, who’s made her amazing fabric and quilts for decades.

    The quilt world is an odd and lovely place. We honor our best quilters, but to the main, famous quilters live very quiet lives outside the quilt world. Their neighbors don’t know or don’t understand. Their kids may not too.It’s a world populated by moms and grandmothers and has a civility to it I believe unfound anywhere else.Privacy is honored as well as honesty and fairness. And, to the main, it’s a place where strangers are greeted as angels unawares.

    I love quilt conferences. It’s one of the few places I know where you can simply sit down with strangers and they’ll greet you as friends. In a way, I take it for granted. It’s only when I walk outside the gentler quilt world, I get reminded of the rougher edges.

    Recently I’ve had a small town cultural experience with my neighbors. Basically, a garden war. And in effort prove I’m not the crazy lady they’ve claimed I am, I’ve come out of my quilting closet, and shown myself.

    They say it’s impossible to prove a negative. It’s true. I can’t prove I’m not a crazy lady. All I can do is prove I’m a famous crazy lady.   Admittedly I planted my whole yard in so I wouldn’t ever have to mow. My neighbors are past offended and somehow think plants bring mosquitoes and rats. I didn’t start by demanding my neighbors cut everything in their yard down. But they have mine. It has been entertaining watching just how crazy my neighbors look while they’re making their case. Sort of like a very sad comedy. 

    Of course, the difference between comedy and tragedy is largely where the story ends.  But it’s very about how we treat something other than ourselves. For them I am the stranger. And I have no idea what to do if they get stranger. So far, I’ve had to check the yard for rat poison and odd drugs (yes, we found those) and I find things like my car dome light on in the middle of the night (something I never do). I’m not that wise. I have no idea how to make either them or me less strange. As Alice said, “I hardly know.”

    My friend Rebecca Dorian Brown reminded me yesterday that all the great religions pretty much hold the same line on good and bad behavior. It’s not good or bad behavior because of some rule book. It really does create the difference between heaven and hell in our lives. Almost every culture has a story about the angel or fairy out of no where who looks like a beggar, or the old woman who, if you help her, leaves you with diamonds, and if you hurt her, leaves you spitting out toads. 

    The truth is the either human life is valuable in itself, or it’s not. Everyone has moments of fame and moments of quiet existence. Are they different people at those moments? We start as a squalling infant. Who knows who that child will be? The kindness we give to strangers creates the kind of world that is kind. We really give it, not to strangers but to angels unawares. And in the end, it’s what we give ourselves.

    You’ll find Gloria’s amazing work at She’s one of the quilting goddesses and amazing expert in the internet and digital imagery. 

    You’ll find my wise and lovely Rebecca’s work at her site’s an inventive and brilliant artist with a wisdom well earned.

    The Trees Speak!

    Thursday, August 12th, 2010
    Are books dead?
    My first impulse is to grab every child I see on the street, bake a big batch of cookies, sit them on my porch and read to them. Reading is the window to the world. Can you tell I came out to teach primary? Well, yes. 

    It’s actually deeper than that. My mother taught school and was president of the library board. Both she and my father read to me nightly. Of course she read me The Little Gray Squirrel. My father read me whatever he was reading. It ranged from the Jungle Book, to Argosy Magazine to Gods Graves and Scholars. I was around three at the time. I can’t say I understood it all, but it cemented my love for books. I can’t imagine a world without them. I can’t go to sleep without one either. The smell of ink, the touch of paper, glossy and full of color and impact, still is electric for me. The stories are often my only company for days.

    Technology often scares me. I went through a phase where I refused to learn how to use my voice mail. It was childish, but I felt overwhelmed. My ten year old neighbor is teaching me how to text. I’m not a quick study.

    So when you tell me books are dead, my panic starts to rise like sap up a tree. I have images of all of us rushing into book stores and saving the books!

    But books are not just paper and binding. Really what a book consists of is a story told, an event explained, a technique discovered, a life explored. Books are information! Information is always holy and always needs to be preserved.

    Having written several books, in the current age, I can tell you that they are completely set up digitally now. When I finish a book and it goes to the printer, it goes simply as a PDF file, electronically sent and received. The printed form is simply one of many ways it can be distributed.

    Technology changes. As daunting as I find technology, I no longer rush to my herbal books when the dogs are hurt. I go on the internet. The search for information is eternal. The formats will change in time and space. I have an image of monks rushing a printing press saying that it couldn’t possibly produce the kind of books they had over the years. They would have been right. The printing press a huge open door they could have never reached with a pen in their hands.

    Lately I’ve discovered You can download books to an mp3 player and listen. I’m in love. It’s as if my father is back reading to me. My player holds around 20 books at a time. And my mp3 player fits in my bra. How many books can you carry in yours?

    Wrapping it up:
    The technology changes, but the need for information is eternal. Books will go on and speak for ever.They may just not be made of paper any more. And since digital storage isn’t anything like a library full of books, they may well be much more available for longer periods of time and in ways we can’t imagine. 
    You’ll find MP3 books at
    You’ll find more of my books at Amazon or on my web page at

    Color Theory for Thread: Basic Shading for Embroidered Appliqué

    Monday, July 12th, 2010

    When I embroidery images,every so often someone will say to me, “Do you really need all those threads?”Well of course!

    Now, don’t be silly. We know the answer to the age old question, “How many mushrooms do you put in a quiche?” The answer, of course, is” How many mushrooms do you have?”

    But it’s not exactly that reason. You don’t pull in a million colors because you could. You do because it’s how nature is. It’s all about variance.

    If you’re going to shade something, you start with some color decisions. First we zone our design. Zones are areas that are fundamentally different colors.His tail and eye ring are one zone, his body  and his ear others.  His eye  is separate because we’ll do it in Sliver thread  to make it shiny.

    In each zone, you’ll need a dark, medium and light value. If it’s a larger piece you can have separate out  your areas as having darks mediums and lights of their own. I’ve drawn lines to separate the areas, but they’re not hard and fast. I’ll just start adding lighter threads into the mix at those lines.

    To weight the embroidery, I’ll add a shader at the bottom of each area. A shader can be a darker complement to the color or dark blue, grey, brown, green or purple.

    To lift the color and make it more exciting, we’ll add a shocker right before the last color. It can be a bright complement to the basic color or orange, lime, hot pink, or bright purple.

    Here’s the range of colors I chose for this squirrel. He’s basically orange, but all those colors go into making him shine and shimmer. Purple is my shader and the blues make a great shocker to keep the eye happy and entertained.

    Wrapping it up:

    • Pick a wide range of colors from dark to light for each zone. Go way lighter than you intend for highlights and way darker than you might to weight the piece. 
    • Pick a complement or very dark color to  shade your piece.
    • Pick a complement or very bright color to shock your shades. 
    • End with the color you want to see the most. You will.

    Shading images is endless fun. Feel free to pick wild and bold colors. Thread is tiny. You can be very bold with it.

    Musings:Art Outside the Box: Fantasy Land vs The Real Thing

    Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

     Wouldn’t it be rather a pull sometimes to have–a–to haven?” He hung fire; he wanted me to help him by phrasing what he meant. But I couldn’t–I didn’t know. So he brought it out awkwardly: “The REAL thing;”….
    She was always a lady certainly, and into the bargain was always the same lady. She was the real thing, but always the same thing.

    Henry James, The Real Thing

    I often find myself caught on the accuracy issue. If your work is based in some kind of reality, you really do need to figure out how much reality you want in it. Some of this is constitutional. Some of it is artist’s license. Most of it is a statement louder than words.

    Realism is always impressive. It bespeaks of excellent drawing skills and a keen eye. It’s more impressive when we see it outside the standard art forms. It’s great to draw a frog in pencil, or charcoal or paint. It’s a whole other thing to do it in thread.It’s also worth saying there really are blue frogs.

    But realism always falls a bit flat for me. I know it’s a brown frog. Couldn’t it be red instead? But couldn’t it have purple shadows? Green highlights? A bit of orange around the eyes?All of a sudden that frog has a rainbow quality that is definitely not realism.

    I could say it was strictly a color issue but that’s not true either. What makes this frog definately not the real thing is those lovely red lips. Frogs don’t have lips. So the lips themselves become a statement on how human our frog is.
    And there are those moments when reality simply isn’t as much fun.

    Patti Culea is my favorite doll artist. She’s also  a kindred spirit. When she asked me if I could do a quilt for her book Creative Cloth Explorations: Adventures in Fairy-Inspired Fiber Art, I wanted to. I just was a bit unsure about creating fairies. So I asked her, ” Do your fairies have a quality ride?” All fairies are royalty. It’s part of their job. So they can’t be going shank’s mare or rickshaw. They needed the best fairy frog I could do.

    Well, by the time you’ve put wings on it, reality has pretty much flown out the window. But the fun hasn’t.

    Don’t be caught by the trap of reality. Like fire, it’s a good servant and a poor master. Use it while it serves you and leave it whenever it just doesn’t have enough luster to lighten things up. 

    You’ll find A Noble Steed in Patti’s book on Her web page is at  PMC Designs.

    Basting: It’s Not Just for Turkeys

    Monday, June 28th, 2010

    Quilt Basting GunSeveral weeks ago, I went looking to order another basting gun. They don’t last forever. Even with new needles, there’s a day when the pin bends. I was appalled to be told my supplier wasn’t carrying them anymore. 

    These are a love/hate item for a lot of quilters. Do they leave holes? Yep. They can. Do they jam? Yep, they do.Why am I insistent on having one? Because they’re still the most hand-friendly way to baste out there.

    Case in point. This piece is still in process. I’m still at that point where I move things, look at them, move them again, and look again.  I could pin them. I also could go through a box of band-aides sewing them down.

    In comes my tack gun.I can tack things up, look them over, clip out whatever doesn’t work. Problems and all, I’m still in love.

    There’s another side as well. Tack guns don’t hurt my hands. I have a small amount of carpel tunnel that is not forgiving about safety pins. This is much easier. And it did solve the problem of the cat who would take the pins out and try to eat them. He still tries to take them out. He still tries to eat them. But they’re much less likely to do him harm.

    The Quilt Basting Gun is a good design tacker. It’s perfect for basting large elements  to your quilt. 

    Micro Stitch Starter KitYou might want to consider the Micro stitch for basting quilts. The tacks are smaller and leave smaller holes. I usually steam a quilt  and the holes all pull together.

    Either way, I feel the baby is in danger of going out with the bath water here. They’re not a perfect tool, but I can’t imagine being without. 

    Musings: Art outside the Box:History, Herstory

    Friday, June 25th, 2010

    Copyright 2008
    Dancing in the Light 
    Ellen Anne Eddy
    My quilt, Dancing in the Light, is being acquired by the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. I’m still looking behind me to see if there’s another Ellen Anne Eddy somewhere they were talking to, and how I might have gotten confused.Words fail me.

    It’s not the first time I’ve had a quilt in a museum. It’s not even the first quilt I’ve had in a permanent collection in a museum. But it’s the National Quilt Museum and it’s an honor past comprehension. It’s a bit like being put in the Rock Music Hall of Fame, or in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 


    Because of all I want for my work, your work everyone’s work, I want us to be remembered.

    Almost all of the innovations come from the margins. We tend to forget that. When you see Degas and Monet on coffee cups and umbrellas, you could forget how very marginal they were. You could forget that they weren’t allowed show their art with other legitimate artists. They were mocked and scorned. And yet what came out of their art was the beginning of modernism. They created work the world had never seen before. Somehow, someone fell in love, bought and protected those odd paintings. Someone put their collections into museums. We would not know them now if that hadn’t happened. Many Van Goghs were cut up to make shoes. But not the one’s his brother Theo saved. Art is dependent on preservation.

    The Art Quilt movement, to my knowledge, is unique. But it too is marginal. It began as a grass roots movement of women who simply wanted to express themselves in fabrics and quilts. And not just any women. These were almost all women past their menopause. The captions on art quilt shows have read” Not your grandmother’s quilts” long enough that actually they could be your grandmother’s quilts. But it’s been a place where women have had their say.Not just your models and your actresses. Not just beautiful women. Not wives of powerful men. Women who’ve hit the strength and power of their middle lives.Women who’s children have grown and gone and who have worlds of things to say. And who have found a million ways to say it in their art.

    How rare is that in history? The women artists lionized in art history books are almost all exceptions. They were brave enough to play with the boys club. They were many of them marginalized out of existence only to be rediscovered in history waves of reminiscence.

    I don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say that history has often forgotten her story. For every historic woman, you’ll see a list of ten men. We often see their histories written as historic romance, since we don’t know for sure, and that’s what women do, right? I can’t help but wonder how much of that is male wishful thinking. Or our own.

    The National Quilt Museum, and other museums that protect, defend, define, and display women’s art belie that concept. That they’ve chosen to include me, pleases me, honors me, and makes me feel I truly said something. But past all that, it comforts me with the voices of other women heard. We hear each other in our art. Our whispers, our moans, our cheers, our screams. In the silence of history, we’re given a voice.

    They tell me my quilt will probably be shown with a group of 20 quilts they’ve acquired to celebrate 20 years of their existence, sometime next year. You’ll find it at The National Quilt Museum

    215 Jefferson Street

    Paducah, KY 42001-0714

    (270) 442-8856

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