When you see a tree….. Part 1

Do you have a thinking place? A place where you can go to clear your mind and let problems solve themselves. For me, it is my shower!!! While soaking under the warm spray of water I have solved accounting problems, house repair problems, quilting problems and have had more inspirations than I want to admit. My water bill would probably be a lot less if my thinking closet was somewhere else!!!

My latest epiphany relates to a guild challenge that is due at our meeting next Tuesday…. less than a week away!!! The challenge is “When You See a Tree” and, as usual, I had way too many ideas of what I would like to do. Many times the real challenge for me is to narrow it down to just ONE choice and often that narrowing takes place at the last minute!! This particular morning, I kept coming back to the idea that a tree is a place of refuge and the image that formed was a tree branch with a bird’s nest in it.

I was pretty sure that I wanted to use some three dimensional leaves and other accents so I wanted to do something different with the tree bark as well. I have seen tree trunks that were made with cheesecloth and thought that it might be fun to try it myself. The first problem was that I needed cheesecloth!!! After a walk thru my local grocery store I finally asked the customer service person and was told that I could find it in the cleaning section where the rubber gloves are!! Not exactly where I would have put it, but at least I left the store with it in hand!!!

I began by wetting the cloth and loosely folding it in a plastic box. I dribbled three colors of paint onto the fabric…..

…..and then pressed the color through out the cheesecloth. When I squeezed out the excess paint, I grabbed another piece of fabric and used it to sop up the beautiful brown leftover paint…..

The two dyed pieces were carried down to the driveway for a (hopefully) quick drying session.

While I waited for the fabric to dry, I cleaned and put away all of the paint and supplies. Now my husband, when he reads this, will fall into a dead faint because I am SELDOM known to pick up after myself when I am in “creative mode”.

Of course the Georgia sun and heat, which has been in overdrive in the last 3 weeks, was nowhere to be found. The first 10 minutes of “drying time” produced no great difference in the fabric, so I grabbed my hair dryer and started adding some heat of my own.

That did the trick and I was quickly back in my studio trying to figure out the next step. I felt that the cheesecloth needed something else added to it so I pulled out my felting tools and started adding bits of wool roving to the cheesecloth base……

After seeing that it was working well, I switched over to my felting machine which hasn’t been used in YEARS!!!

And, in a few short minutes, I had a wonderful piece of fabric to turn into a tree trunk…..

As I laid it out, I was super pleased with the result…..

Next I picked a background fabric and started thinking about how to add leaves to the piece. I knew that for perspective some of the leaves needed to be very small and fairly dark in color. After thinking about fusing leaves on I had the idea that stamping them would be easier!! I cut a leaf shape out of foam….

….and started stamping on a scrap of fabric, following lines that I had drawn in first. I was thrilled with the results…..

I drew in some tree branches with a Pigma ink pen and then stitched over some of them…..

I was extremely happy with how it looked after I placed the felted branches over the top…..

Now it is time to add the leaves that are in front of the branches and I guess that I need to insert the bird nest at some point!!!

More to come……

No Fishing

The latest challenge for our guild is called “Say It with Flowers”.  The rules are that the quilt has to have words of some sort on it and has to contain 3 flower fabrics.  At first I searched online for words or sayings to use and came up with things like “Be Creative” and other cutesy sayings.  None of them caught my fancy!!

Then, my computer screen saver popped up a photo that I had found in my Mom’s stuff.  It was a photo of an old Windmill that was on my parent’s property.


The best part of the photo were the words “No Fishing”…..my search for inspiration was complete!!!

As I drew out the pattern I decided that I wanted a more “up-to-date” windmill, so I started out just working on the background first with the idea that I would add the windmill later.

I had originally planned to make the sky collage style using  a bunch of different fabrics, but when I saw this one, I decided just to make it easy, especially since I am on such a short time line.



Next was to add the ground.  My initial attempt was good, but when I looked at it, I realized that good ole West Texas soil wouldn’t have that much green in it. 


Michael agreed and I pulled all of it off and started over again……


This is MUCH better.

As I started to work on the trees, I first cut them out of solid green fabrics, but again, when I looked at the photo, I realized that they were Mesquite trees and very wispy.   Mine were MUCH too solid.

Then I decided to try painting them and pulled out my trusty favorite sponge and started mixing green paints.  I didn’t really trust myself to paint directly onto the sky fabric so instead I cut pieces of the fabric out and ironed them to freezer paper that had the tree shape drawn on it……


I was then able to cover the entire piece with paint without having to worry about the outlines…..


Now I just had to cut it out!!IMG_2509

Now the background is complete and it was time to start on the Windmill.  I got online and started looking for photos of windmills that I might want to use.   I found this one…..


…. but obviously something was missing!!!

After playing around with it a bit and trying to extend the legs, I came up with this…..


It looked good but was a little TOO perfect..,…the one at my parent’s farm NEVER looked this good.

At this point I made the decision to build the windmill myself, using strips of fabric and just adding on as I wanted to….should be interesting!!!

It was a lot of fun putting all of the pieces together and trying to figure out where the shading needed to be.  I was excited when I stepped back from it and was able to see how it looked….IMG_2528

One thing that I have learned is to use a grey Fabrico marker to make the shadows.  


It works perfectly!!!    I really need to buy a stack of this color since it is about the only one that I use!!

The next step was to do the mill itself….

I wanted a metallic looking fabric so started with a solid grey fabric and added a Lumiere pewter paint on top…..


I then added a bit of black to the paint and sponged some more…..IMG_2538

I wanted the sail to look different from the blades so did the same thing but started with a  print fabric….


I was so pleased with the final result…..


The last step was adding some fussy cut flowers (from 4 different fabrics)….


I had a wonderful time doing the quilting and trying to think what details needed to be added with thread.  I am happy with the final result….IMG_2547

If I was making it again, I would make the windmill base narrower and shorter.  I think that the proportion would look better.

Overall, the thing that I enjoyed most about this quilt was stepping outside of my box and trying painting the fabrics and just using the pattern as a guide and not as an exact pattern.   Both of these represent personal growth for me!!!

It was finished about 45 minutes before time to leave….one of these days I will finish a challenge quilt early, but don’ hold your breath!!

It’s a Southern Thing–Challenge results

In the last post, I told about my challenge entry……


As usual, there were a lot of really fun entries and several fun stories behind them.  Here they are……

Pat focused on the good old Southern “Hey Y’all”…….


Sue got her inspiration from her Magnolia Wallpaper and did a 3-D rendering of the ubiquitous Southern flower……DSC07916

Madeline went for the song “Amazing Grace”, noting that it was sung everywhere……DSC07914

Linda had a “Southern Snowman” that is NOT made of snow!!

DSC07915Denise stitched her favorite Cotton plant, using a rust dyed fabric for the background to simulate the Georgia clay, and trying some thread painting to make the cotton bolls…..DSC07917

Cleo picked our favorite phrase….”Bless her heart”.   For all of you Non-Southerners, you can say ANTHING about someone (good or bad) as long as you add the phrase, “Bless Her Heart”!!DSC07919

Pat used the Dogwood blossom as her inspiration and did a TINY Millefiori design but MACHINE pieced the whole thing…..it was amazing!!!!DSC07920

Fay did a definition quilt……DSC07921

And Deb used a scene from “Gone With the Wind” where Scarlet (the main character) pulls a carrot out of the ground and says “As God as my witness, I will never be hungry again”…….


Once again, it was a wonderful challenge!!   Bring on the next one!!!

It’s a Southern Thing!!!

In June, our guild held another challenge.  This time the theme was “It’s a Southern Thing” and the size was limited to a 12 inch square.

As usual, I had MANY ideas about what to do with this challenge, but most of them were far too complicated or detailed to put into a 12 inch square.  However, I have put several of these ideas into my “to be done later” folder.

Then, one morning I went out to get the newspaper and happened to glance up into the early-morning sky.   Then I saw him and knew what my challenge had to be.   Let me digress……

Since I was a little girl I have loved the constellation “Orion, the Hunter”.  I did a Girl Scout project about him back in elementary school and He has always been the one constellation that I could easily find. 

As we have lived and traveled around the world, Orion has been with us but hasn’t looked quite the same.  When we were living in Australia, he was even upside down!!

So now, when I look up into the sky and see Orion, I know that I am truly home and that is my “Southern” thing!!

Since I knew that my piece was going to be a nighttime sky and would be fairly dark, I decided that I wanted a newly budding tree in the foreground, adding some interest and also a bit of light.

In my mind, I was thinking of a Dogwood tree but ended up going for more of a generic tree design.   

I started out with the background fabrics, looking for a dark green for the foreground.  The one that I found was perfect, except for some white dots that just weren’t working.  I ended up taking a fabric marker and coloring each of them in!!  You can see the difference between the center of the fabric and the side…DSC07176

I added a fence to break up the background a bit more……DSC07182

Now it was time for the tree and, since the piece was small and I had plenty of time, I decided to experiment a little bit.  I pulled out my wool roving and started thread painting the tree trunk and branches, using two layers of water soluble interfacing as my base…..


It was so much fun to pull the roving until it was thinner and thinner, making the branches.  I then cut off much of the exposed interfacing and attached it to my piece using even more machine embroidery.  Once the interfacing was washed out, the tree skeleton looked great!!…..DSC07197

Now it was time to add some buds to the tree….but what to use??  I started out with beads……


….but felt like they were a bit TOO much.  So, I cut all of them off and started over again with French knots.  I added some little circles of roving to be some buds that were a bit more open…..


Next I added some embroidered grass tufts and some machine quilting.

Now it was time for the stars.  I had purchased some “Hot Fix Crystals” and a heat gun at a Sewing Expo and decided that now was the time to use them…..DSC07923

The final step was to spray the sky with a glitter spray.  I actually did this at the very start of the project, but it had all washed/worn off before I was finished so I gave it another coat!!


It worked well and I am very happy with the finished project…..


Guild Challenge Results


As I had predicted, most of the  Stained Glass Challenge participants went with a traditional view.   Here are the wonderful results…..


Mary had started this as a kit and used the challenge to move it further along….

DSC03893She made this one too.   She and her husband have quite a collection of Nativity Scenes from all over the world so this will fit in perfectly….DSC03892

Unfortunately, I dont know who made this one….DSC03890

Barbara, our challenge organizer, made THREE..


Pat always does the challenge twice.   This was her more “funky” design based on the colors in a peacock feather…..DSC03885

And this was her traditional design……DSC03884

Fay’s was gorgeous……DSC03882

And Lisa’s was magnificent!!!   She designed the pattern herself and then cut out ALL of those tiny pieces……DSC03881

and Donna quilted a wonderful angel……DSC03878

Although you cant see it in the photo, Brenda’s quilting adds so much to her design….


As usual, it was fun to see just how each individual interpreted the challenge!!

Another Challenge with almost no planning

Back in June, a new challenge was presented to my quilt guild.  This time it was to be a Stained Glass quilt.  Most people immediately thought of the traditional stained glass, using bias tape for the “leading”.

Well, I thought about the challenge for 5-1/2 months and then finally had a couple of ideas.  I could remember two photos from some of our trips.  The first was of a window in St. Giles Church in Edinburgh, Scotland…..


I loved the colors and using squares, but really didn’t want to make it this structured.

The second photo was taken at Notre Dame in Paris…..


I liked all of the leading and particularly the horizontal lines.

So, with those two photos in my mind, I headed up to my studio and started pulling out jewel tone fabrics that were already cut into 2-1/2 squares….


I put a piece of black fabric on my design wall and started randomly adding squares  and rectangles of color…..


After I had filled the “window’’ up…..


….I had to figure out a way to get all of the pieces off of my wall, backed with wonder under and then replaced on the background.   After thinking about it for a while, I decided to cut strips of wonder under that were just a bit wider than 2-1/2 inches and lay the pieces on it one row at a time…..


I trimmed them by hand, wanting there to be slight variations in the edges.

At this point, Michael thought that I could stop,  but I wanted to go ahead and turn it into a window.

The next task was to figure out the curve and start working on the sides of the window.DSC03867

After I had cut and placed the inner border of the window I realized that I had a big problem….


Do you see it???    As I walked forward with my iron to fuse the first window border in place, I realized that I was about to fuse it directly onto my design wall!!   I guess that is what comes from not planning first!!

I started to add more fabric but didn’t really want it to get too much more bulk so finally decided to fuse directly onto the batting.   I ironed the black fabric onto the fusible batting and then fused the window frames in place….


I cut it out and used a Fabrico marker to add the “mortar” between the bricks making up the window frame…..


I quilted on each side of the “mortar” which gave it a nice definition and then started quilting straights lines horizontally across the stained glass.

The dark grey binding finished off the window nicely…..


With two hours to spare, I finished up the last of the binding and headed for the meeting. 

So, for the second time in one week, I made a project with very little pre-planning.  I know, who am I and what have I done with Frances Arnold!!!

Another project!!….


First of all, piecing has begun on the Guild Raffle quilt…..

photo 3

I have actually pieced 6 blocks, but managed to do one backwards!!!


Secondly, the creative group that I belong to is getting ready to meet again this next week and we are supposed to have made a start on our next project…..

One of our members, Deb, gave each of us this fun little book…..



Our challenge was to pick out one of the quilts shown in the book and use it as a jumping off point to try something new and exciting. 

There were several pieces that caught my eye, but the one that I have decided on is this one…..



If you have been reading this blog for very long, you will know that I am NOT big on handwork, so I think that is why this one has appealed to me.

I used the internet to research different methods of piecing the hexagons, first coming on this blog….



…..and then checking out Bonnie Hunter’s version……



I found a wonderful website where you can print ALL different sizes of hexagon patterns……



I printed some on paper and some on cardstock just so I could see which one was easier to work with……


I pulled out my 2 inch squares and picked out a few to practice  with.   I prepared some of them with the basting stitch on the back of the patch and some with the stitching on the front….


The final flower was finished in about an hour and I am pleased with how it looks……DSC02446

I decided that I really like using paper patterns better as I can sew thru the paper when I am preparing the hexagons and that seems easier to me, even though it means that I have to remove the basting after the fact.   Also, the paper gives a softer edge to use when putting the hexies together.


SO….now I have to decide exactly what I am going to MAKE with my hexies.  I like the idea of it being a bit more artsy and not just another Grandmother’s Flower Garden.   I am thinking about maybe doing blacks and greys, or maybe blues and greens, or how about a rainbow of colors…..AACK…..too many choices!!!!

Challenges Revealed…..

I thought that you might enjoy seeing some of the other 8-point star challenges that were shown on Tuesday night……

Sylvia showed these two…..


She has written up a pattern for her “artichoke” quilt block and it is available on her website…..http://flyingparrotquilts.com/


Deb used some magical colors for hers…..


Fay made her “Shades of Black” table runner  (sorry about the bad photo)….DSC02355

while Terri worked large and wonderful……

Pat usually makes two quilts and she outdid herself this time.   The first one is reminiscent of forest fires thru a window……


and her second one is called “New Growth”.  It is heavily embroidered and this photo does not do it justice……DSC02359

We all loved the bright colors in Diane’s wonderful quilt……


Denise made a great table runner just in time for the 4th of July!!…..


Barbara, the designer of the challenge, made a symbolic piece using symbols for Islam and Judaism……


I did miss getting a photo of the first quilt, but it was a pieced block with an applique flower in it.


It was a great challenge and was fun to see everyone’s interpretations.

I have found that, if I have time to work on a piece, I LOVE to do challenges and cant wait for the next one to be presented……

Caution….quilting in progress….

On Friday, I added the borders, made the back and started with the quilting.  

The border fabric that I decided on was a hand-dyed , very dark piece with small amounts of blue and purple in it.


I normally put a very “busy” fabric on the back so that you cant see the quilting, but decided that maybe I WANTED the quilting to show….


Hope I am happy with that decision when it is all over!!!

So I am currently quilting away……


….hopefully I can get it finished tomorrow!!!  Although, I am not sure exactly what it looks like to take a FINISHED project to a Challenge reveal!!!