One stitch at a time

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there beforesmall orchestra RXR2018.”  – Neil Gaiman.

I came across this quote this week and it hit home.   It seems that everyone I know has a major transition going on in life right now.   Weddings, births, divorce, and of course the big one for me personally,  Liz leaving for college.   Some are good, some not so,  but always changes are disruptive.    There is also plenty of dissent and negativity in the larger world too.    Times like this I want to retreat to simple activities that soothe the emotions and allow for some calm amid the storm.    This is probably the time I most love doing hand work.   Hand quilting,  hand piecing,  simple embroidery stitches in abundance and done in a comfy chair with some good music playing is restorative.    Each stitch is something that was not there before,  and I am in control of it.  Each stitch builds on the last,  the work in my hands gets more and more beautiful,  more personal,  more meaningful with each pull of the needle.    The world gets a little brighter.    I know that it will all be fine.

Tomorrow is Crazy Quilt Club,  yes it’s a date change,  but the shoppe will be closed on Saturday the 18th for a wedding,   and then again closed on the 24 and 25th to take Liz to School.    Yikes,  where’s my stitching??

Tuesday the 14th is hand stitchers and Stumpwork clubs.

Lastly, if you are loaning work to me for the fair exhibit please get it to me asap.   Thanks again!!


Can I help???

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Good Work.

We have spent some time lately looking at design.  This is simply an outward way of organizing.     Today I want to spend a few minutes on something less tangible.    I am talking about the reasons that we want to quilt in the first place.    Why do we do it?  Once again I was asked to explain why we bother to cut up lots of perfectly good fabric and sew it back together again.     Today you can walk into a big sewingworks150box store and buy a perfectly good ( and sometimes really pretty ) bed cover and blanket for very little money.     So there must be another set of reasons that quilting is a multi million dollar industry in America.    I bet that you are not shocked that I have a few ideas.

First and perhaps the easiest answer is that creativity is fun,  fabric is pretty,  and good fabric feels good in your hands.     Second,  once basic skills are mastered it can be very relaxing to do.   Third, there is a great satisfaction at finishing a project and seeing someone you love enjoy it.    This is probably the reason many of us got started,   so and so is having a baby, let me make a quilt.     This touches on one of the big picture reasons that I am so involved, and I suspect so many of you are too.  IMG_6502

Making a quilt,  or teaching people to quilt,  to me is simply making the world better.   Often when I gift a quilt, to someone I know, or charity,  I write on the back,  ” A quilt is a Hug whenever you need one”    Despite my deep love for the art quilt,  the connection to this kind and compassionate concept may be the biggest reason that I still make functional items too.    The inspirations I try to pass to my students comes in part from the value I place on creativity for the individual maker,  but also for the desire to spread a positive and supportive energy in the world.    It is up to us people,  Lets make the world a better place,  one project at a time.

Tomorrow is the Block of the Month meeting,  and next Friday is the Quilt Label workshop.   Just in time for you to get a label on that project for the Dutchess County Fair.      While I am thinking of it,  the nice ladies there have let me know they are looking for volunteers to be in the booth with the exhibit of my and your work.     A four-hour shift comes with free admission to the fair so let me know if you are interested and I will send them your info.      Keep up the good work.

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Looking it over

I want to extend a great big thank you to everyone who will be contributing to the exhibit at the fair this year.     I am busy writing copy and checking details so I can give the paperwork over to be laminated before I finish out this week.   I  will send a group email out to everyone participating by the end of today, for you to check over and be sure I have spelled everything correctly ( grin ).   Please respond with an ok or with whatever needs to be changed.


This one wont be finished in time.

This has been a summer for looking back. Reminiscing over our past projects has been great fun,  and has me wondering if one or two projects might be fun to do again,   Cloth Doll anyone?     It has also been instructive for me personally to look at my own work.   In my art school and teaching days I would do it regularly as a matter of course, but it has been many years since I have done such a review for myself.     When I was first approached with this exhibition opportunity I secretly wondered if I had enough work that was not shoppe samples that counted in my own head as “my artwork”.   Then I began to gather up pieces.     There was more than I thought.    What is more is that it all managed to look like the work of the same person,  where the shoppe sample projects are much more eclectic.      Looking at it all together I was able to see clearly the ideas and themes that have informed my creativity.    Using the design principles and going through a checklist like I shared last week,  I was able to write up a clear, consistent,  and concrete statement about my work and what it is really about.


This one might be done in time.  Love these colors.

Now most of you will never need to write a formal statement,   but a good description of your work to verbalize to friends and family gives  greater importance to what you are doing.    Don’t ever let anyone put it down as just a  hobby.   If you enjoy it it is important, and speaking about it in educated terms underscores that.  It also helps you to understand the things that you like and don’t like so that you can continue to create work that you still love when you are done with it.       Even for those of you who like kits and precuts,   you are still choosing patterns and designs that make you excited.   Everyone has design preferences,  and knowing consciously what yours are you will waste less time and money purchasing things you wont ever use.     And yes even though I own a quilt shop,  I want you to use the things you buy.    A huge stash of things you wont use is not doing anyone any good.

So look back at the things you have done,  the projects you love, and the ones you didn’t,  and learn from them more than just techniques.   You never know what you might discover about your own work.     And be sure that if you visit the fair ( or when you are there checking out your own entries!! ) to stop by the quilt booth in the craft building and Check out the exhibit.

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Here’s Looking

The last few weeks we have been examining principles of design.   Now the question is what do I do with it?    Well the obvious answer is design a quilt,  and I can help you do that if that is your desire,  but not everyone will want to do that.    However, everyone reading this is going to look at quilts.     It is also true that those who look at quilts will see some that they like, and some they don’t.    Your knowledge of the design principles can help you express your opinion in an educated and helpful way.    You will now be able to understand what you are seeing and how your eyes and emotions are being led by any given image.   ( That goes for advertising too )     If you truly look at the images around you with the principles in mind you will quickly come to understand the common factors in what you like,  and what you don’t.     While I have it in mind I want to remind you all that during quilt show and fair season it is ok to not like a piece,  if you need to express a negative opinion out loud please do so in a respectful manner.    Use the principles to explain your opinion in a manner that helps the listeners understand more clearly.     The quilt maker or her friends may just be in earshot.    So here are a few questions that you can ponder to help your looking be productive for yourself and those around you.    ( and one of my all time favorite paintings to practice looking at.  )


Starry Night by Vincent Can Gogh

Is the composition well balanced?   If not why?

How are the harmonies and dynamics increasing the overall message or emotion being conveyed?

Are there rhythms and patterns that support or interfere with the dynamics?

Does the color support the other elements?

And of course as quilters we also need to look at technique,  is it structurally sound?   How does the technique work with the design elements?

There are so many ways to begin to look with an educated eye,  I hope that each of you will practice this skill.   Looking with awareness is perhaps the greatest tool I can introduce  to you.    It can apply to many other life situations and will enrich many experiences.       Before I close,   I want to remind you that Crazy Quilt Club is tomorrow,   and that if you are going to submit for the fair booth I need to know asap.    There are some great fun pieces coming in,   thank you for all of it!!




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For today we are back to our discussion of the principles of design.    Value in the case of design means how dark or light a color is.   Tone speaks to intensity using words like pastel, muted,  or bold.     Tone and value often work together, and controlling these two principles allows you to create three-dimensional illusions.    The trip around the world in greens is an example of changing the value in order to achieve an more dimensional effect.     You can also use this


idea in tumbling blocks,  attic windows and half hexies for amazing optical illusions.        So in music,  value is called volume,  and  tone is described with words like soft, muted, bell-like,  and clear.     In music it is hard to have beautiful tone if your instrument is out of tune, or in disrepair.

I feel that I need to address the idea of value and tone on another level also as these two words have applications the go beyond the arts.    When artists in any media refer to good tone or the right value,  it is a relative thing.   The subtle manipulations of these principles in a work are key to the expressive quality,  often collectively referred to as the dynamics.     When the differences are large it is very dynamic, when they are small it is not.   Good use of dynamics can make or break an artwork.    This is for many,  the trickiest of the design principles to master,  but it is worth the work.

Tuesday the 17th is the rescheduled day for hand and stumpwork clubs,  and on Saturday the 21 we have our crazy quilt meeting.    For more information of  any of our clubs check the club new page, and if you are new to a club please let us know you are planning to attend.

Don’t forget to send me the info on any projects you have done with me that you would like to display.   I need to know by the end of next week.   Thank you!!

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Call for entries

I am looking for projects you have done with me that you would be willing to display in a booth at the Dutchess County Fair this summer.    I have already spoken to some of you about this, but if I haven’t here’s the lowdown.   I am being given the opportunity to show my work and that of my students/customers in a booth in the craft building at the fair this year.    I know it seems early, but there is much curating and paperwork involved so I am asking that if you have work to show please inform me by July 21.    I will need your name, the title of the piece, title of the class/workshop/club project if you can remember,  date completed and approximate size.    A photo also helpsIMG_7095 but is not required.  If you wish to say anything else about the piece that is acceptable as well.   ( This was the first time I quilted it myself type things are interesting to the general public. )    I don’t know yet how many pieces may come in and I reserve the right to not display a piece based on space limitations, but there will be no judging.       I have not shown my personal work in quite some time and it is good to be able to do so,  and I am even more excited that I am being given the chance to share that opportunity with you.     The single most important thing that I want to share with you my loyal customers and friends, and yes the whole world is the inspiration to exercise creativity.   This display at the fairgrounds will allow me to reach a whole new set of people and hopefully inspire a few of them to let their creativity loose in the world.


Today we have to close at 1 pm,  and Tuesday we will also be closed ( orientation at my daughter’s college!!! )  so Hand stitchers and stumpwork clubs will meet on the 17th instead.    The Civil War sampler will meet tomorrow at 9 am as scheduled.      I have updated the clubs pages with pertinent information on all of it.     Next week we will get back to our discussion of design principles.



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Rhythm and Balance

Continuing our exploration of how the principles of design cross from music to quilts and back,  we will look at Rhythm and Balance today.    Appropriately this morning my img_7110-e1530282338263.jpghusband had on the movie, The Blues Brothers.    It holds up pretty well, in part because of all the amazing cameos in it,  but also because the music is wonderful.    A good rhythm gets your toes tapping even before the morning coffee.   And that is the whole point of rhythm,   to keep things moving.    Feet, hands, and even the musicians keep time together because of rhythm.      In the visual arts,  drawing, painting and quilting,  rhythm is a word that can be harder to understand,  but it is still about how something moves,  in this case, your eyes.    When we talk about a print or pattern being too busy we are really saying that our eyes have no place to rest between stopping points and the rhythm is too fast and irregular.    Regular steady rhythms are stable and solid, but can be boring.    Great for all over patterns on a bed quilt where you will sleep under it, or a march where the band needs to step in time.      Introduction of an accent or syncopation can liven things up but you need to keep things from being overwhelming and that is where the principle of balance comes in.    Balance is like rhythm,  but zoomed in,  balance is the overall distribution of elements, and again, regular and centered is the calmest.

Lets look at Flow (  you can still take this workshop, call to make an appointment )  It is very balanced, there is a clear center and the elements are arranged equally around it.   This pulls your focus to the center, which is slightly different from the other blocks.   The rhythm is slightly syncopated, because the green squares are off-center in the block, and this keeps things interesting.   This piece is perhaps like a piece of slow jazz,   regular but slightly off rhythm,  a bit of improvising, and then back to the established rhythm,  nothing too discordant, but enough to keep you engaged.        small orchestra RXR2018

Our Row by Row has been picked up by people from as far away as Florida, and California,  and one lady who isn’t even doing the program saw our block online and drove all the way from Buffalo just to pick it up so she could make a few for her local guitar society.    How cool is that?    I hope she remembers to post photos when they are done.


Lastly a reminder that we will be closed on July 4.   Listen for the rhythms when you watch the parade!!, and stay balanced!!

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