Wednesday, February 29, 2012

giveaway! celebrate spring

Let's give some stuff away!

To kick off the coming dye season at the Lawrenceville Frankenstein Dyeworx, I'm giving away a Cusspot stuffed with scraps I can't even remember ( but I know they came from my favorites jar) and this 22" square vintage damask dinner napkin which had the happy fortune of being chose as a guinea pig for testing those new soywax crayons that I cooked up over the weekend. They really were a pain in the tail when it came to the washout. This piece had to be boiled to get the wax out!

I won't ask you to leave a comment since it seems to be a pesky venture even without verification turned on. Everyone can play...worldwide. All you have to do is send an email to:  .Next week on Wednesday, March 7  we'll have a drawing for one winner! One entry per customer and I will confirm each email received with "celebrate" in the subject line! Good luck!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trick or Tool


I have been idly dreaming about having a small, vintage manual typewriter, as if that would help. I don't even know if I can still type on a manual machine and if I started using one would it wind up crippling me and what about that day job? I still spend eight hours a day on the computer and get paid for it. No matter how I lust after the sleek, shiny black vintage machines for sale all over the web, I'm not going to get one until I actually put my fingers on the keyboard and whack away for awhile; see how it feels.

 Although I had an ancient manual typewriter as a kid, I never learned to touch type until the late eighties on a computer keyboard. The whole notion is probably a pipe dream fueled by watching a couple of episodes of Band of Brothers last weekend. There were several scenes of a soldier pecking away at portable typewriter, so incongruous yet so ubiquitous during World War II.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend looking for an archive of the music that used to be on my Ipod. Last week I accidentally gave the poor little thing a lobotomy and thought that restoring it would be a click or two away. Hah! That restoration took the better part of the weekend but mission accomplished. I'm finding that sleeping with earbuds in and the volume turned way, way down on the playlist sinisterly entitled “sleepingpod” is has a canceling effect on my increasingly aggravating tinnitus. Some interesting dream trains have left the station as well.

In the middle of that file search I came across a long lost short story that I started back in the early '90s. To my surprise it still had legs, crookedy and wobbling, but legs. What started out as a harmless and common fantasy tale rolled quickly into Twilight Zone/Stephen King territory, no surprise to anyone who knows me. This file was created and saved in an ancient program called Lotus Word Pro (I still have the floppy discs somewhere) and had been clumsily converted to a more universal file type. There were many errors in that conversion; formatting was lost and a myriad of crazed hieroglyphs were randomly inserted in the text. It was also obvious that there was no spell checker in the house and/or the writer was somehow impaired.

Dropping this file into OpenOffice and starting to edit it just for typos and formatting was good for most of yesterday morning. What with the side trips and diversions that are all too available when working on a laptop with a great internet connection, the morning evaporated with little to show for it and now, Tuesday morning is well on it's way to history too. All this brought me back to thinking about what it would be like to use an old typewriter with just enough interference between the brain and the paper to check my pace and keep my thoughts in order, without the distractions.

My first typewriter was a behemoth from the thirties or forties that my mother dragged home from a yard sale. I really can't recall the make, something common like Remington or Underwood, but due to it's advanced age, ribbons for it were impossible to find. I bought fresh, replacement ribbons for whatever brand I could get cheap and then wind them by hand onto the large metal spools of my machine – messy but effective. It had trapdoors on the side for access to the ribbons and at some point, I allowed my pet rat to hide out inside the machine. We won't talk about the day that I idly tapped a key and snipped off the tip of his tail.

I typed my homework for fun which probably bothered my teachers. I don't know what they were expecting when they came across my typed papers in a stack of hand scrawled assignments but I rarely delivered if my grades were any measure of success. When I figured out that a C or B would keep me out of jail or the doghouse with my parents, that was good enough for me. Grading should be kept secret from kids as long as possible.

I also wrote letters, specifically, begging letters to all the missions to the United Nations for every flyspeck country that belonged to the UN and a few that didn't. I'm sure my name got on some government lists when I was eight or nine. 

What I was begging for was canceled postage stamps from their home countries and, man, where they happy to oblige. I think I must have created at least a handful of jobs for people working at carefully tearing off the colorful, beautiful stamps from letters sent from all over the world. I didn't really even have a collection – I had a hoard! I started out with the best intentions, like all those skipping down the road to hell, but the response to my letters was so overwhelming that I quickly became blasé about the stack of fat, brown envelopes that would be waiting for me when I got home from school. After a quick perusal for anything new or different, everything got tossed in the desk drawer but I kept pounding out letters and spending my allowance on postage.

Once I got tired of getting duplicates of stamps that I already had too many of, I turned to typing papers for classmates who would dictate to me over the phone or give me chicken scratch notes on legal pads. Bigger brains than mine who didn't have access to a typewriter abounded. Then again there were the papers that I corrected and finally, rewrote,  until a couple of teachers twigged and recognized my style scattered throughout the three fifth grade history and English classes. My career as a copywriter/editor was squashed by a short meeting with the principal where I promised to stop giving it away and promised myself to charge more and work more carefully.

All these years later and I'm still giving it away and someplace in a second hand store or, more likely, a landfill, there is a hulking, golden typewriter with the mummified remains of a rat's tail tip deep in it's bowels.

Monday, February 27, 2012

digging and finding

Spontaneous Construction 42"x43" 
I spent a lot of time this weekend finding old things and seeing what's held up, and what hasn't.

It started with having to restore and update the music on my aging Ipod. The backups have been lost and so I was, one disc at a time, restoring the cuts I crave these days. I found several unlabelled subliminal recordings that sounded suspiciously like whale gut rumblings and I fell asleep with the thing on, earbuds plugged into my head! Who know what cracks in my brain have been reordered or re-routed and with what information?

  It was interesting that more than half of what was, is no more and not missed. Then again I found myself one-clicking one song after the next at Amazon from a long wish list of CDs, new and old.

Then I started in on the bedroom closet and and came across this piece which was hatched out at my first ever class at Arrowmont with Elizabeth Barton.  I was very new to dyeing and we were tasked with dyeing two gradations and these colors must have been assigned to me (although I can't imagine it) because red and green would be the last on my list of choices. A proper image is in order. At some point in my life I took the time and infinite patience to hand quilt this making it up as I went, as was the machine pieced construction. If you have the opportunity to take one of Elizabeth's classes, jump at it.

I also unearthed a fragment of a story that, although unfinished, is worth a second look and some harsh reworking. Who was it said "kill your darlings" ?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

mystery PITA crayons

I've just finished messing up my kitchen cooking up this batch of soywax+dyepowder crayons but I'm afraid they are going to be a big pain in the ass to work with. No wonder these pounds of  soywax crumbs were so cheap at Binders. Although the package said 'melts at 150 degrees'  it was a lot hotter than that and the wax is much harder, more brittle than the stuff I'm used to from Prochem whose website is unable to take credit card orders right now.

 Lord only knows if and how I will be getting this stuff out of the cloth when the time comes. I may have to set up the cannibal pot on the lawn instead of just rinsing the  stuff out in the sink with Dawn and hot hot water. Time will tell. The nifty mold comes gratis when you buy a dozen votives at Yankee Candle, it had a nice lid too but I cut it off as it was getting in the way.


Yesterday I got a lovely email from an artist in New Zealand asking permission to teach a class based on the technique I used in this piece which was published some years back.

I never thought of stitching layers of torn strips as any exclusive technique of mine (and I said so) but it was a very civilized gesture. I hope the students enjoy the class.

The first time I used this technique was on a piece that was about a yard long and only ten or so inches wide. I remember working on it while waiting in the car as my youngest son was taking his road test...ages ago. There was a lot of trepidation stitched into that one. Wonder where it is?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Closing in on finished here, I've enjoyed working on this one with the simplest of techniques for me, hand  applique.

No trixie embroidery, no layering the threads, no crazed french knots - just a double strand of Sulky 12wt cotton in colors matching the fabric.

 Almost all the the fabrics are hand dyed damasks which has  tendency to creep away and fight the needle at every turn. The trick to needle turning this stuff is pins, pins and more pins and then stitches that are maybe an eighth inch apart. Sounds obsessive but the damask needles like butter.  I'd like to take this technique to a larger field for the next project.

Spring will be on us before you know and I'm daydreaming about the first dye fest of the year.
I have so much wonderful raw material at hand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

flings fly

In anticipation of spring this fling will be flying today.

It's been hanging around the studio since it was made and every time I unearth the thing it makes me grin so now it's going to make my mother and her friends at the nursing home smile and have a cackle.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Just stitching on a passage thinking about the story.

I walked alone to school from day one. Across Main under the stern gaze of a crossing guard, down along  the dark side of Maple, past the front doors of the firehouse and the local newspaper and down a footpath through a dark wood.

There was a little wooden bridge over a brook and there were certainly trolls under that bridge but they could never catch me, I was running so fast. You had to hold your breath in the woods or they would be waiting when your feet hit the first board.

 At the end of the path the woods unclenched onto  the baseball field behind the school. It was full of cold sun with the block buildings squatting on the other side daring me come, full tilt.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


JR and I were loose on the streets of ATL yesterday on our bi-monthly mission of self indulgence. Nobody went to infirmary and nobody went to jail - mission accomplished!

 First  stop - IKEA! who is only too happy to feed people free breakfast so they will have the stamina to shop till they drop well after lunchtime. There was a real bedding frenzy going on..I got mine.  I have not been so inspired to nest refurbishment since Takashimaya was in NYC where I would spend my grocery money on a regular basis buying must haves like transparent turquoise and fuchsia plastic boxes, carved chopsticks in silk cases and acid green eye liner. Who needed to eat? Begging in the streets for Taka-money often crossed my mind.

On then to a quick visit to Phoenix and Dragon for a spiritual uplift and to take a few measurements (more about that later)  ..then we went  applying for part time jobs (just kidding folks)
Late lunch found us feasting at El Aztecas on Roswell Rd which had  moved across the street and upscaled quite a bit since the last time we ate there. Fabulous food and the waiter was most understanding about the no carb thing and made off with the dessert menu before I could read beyond Strawberry Cinnamon ice cream.

 Later we found out that "ESTATE SALE" doesn't necessarily mean there's any kind of estate involved. Just a lot of crap that was in the place when someone shuffled off and left it. They did leave this behind, to my delight!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

inscription or tattoo

Jude says I have "Color and Heart"...
..thanks for the reminder lady.

"Hopped Up"   2007

(here's a little genesis for this one)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

a low level buzz of anticipation

"Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in".

The fabrics and stitching that is.
 Out of boredom and frustration, I started thinking spring yesterday with needle and thread. I'm trying to find my way around a serious blank spot in my line of inner sight by  making an end run with familiar techniques and materials.

I'll tell you what is hard...writing is hard. Talk about making something from nothing. Sustaining the attention for your own story, the one you are making up as you go, is like walking into a room full of large fans whilst holding a bunch of helium balloons on very thin, greasy strings.

On the news front, I am talking with the owner of a local bookstore that also has a large meeting/classroom that doubles as an art gallery. They have never had fiber art there.  So far, it looks like a one woman show in April at  a great location that gets a good bit of traffic that didn't come just for the eye candy.  More when the details are hammered out.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012



 Bless my darling Goodman for making sure my Valentine's day was celebrated properly, with cannolis from the Italian Pie.  They come dressed with fresh whipped cream and an extra drizzle of a sweet, creamy sauce flavored with anisette.

 This morning I am suffering from a carbo hangover and should spend the morning working out at the pool but will settle for extra fluids and some housework.

Monday, February 13, 2012

roadmaps and hinderances

I've gotten lot of advice from people I know and respect (and a boatload of total strangers) who have taken a whack at writing.

Everyone had a short reading list for me  so I hit the "used" section of Amazon and completed my shopping list for a mere song or two.

It's quite interesting that most of these books aren't a lot more expansive than the instruction booklet that comes (recipes included) with a new crockpot.  Except for King and Lamott, who have fleshed out their instruction with very readable autobiographical stuff, everyone else seems to have taken their own advice and cut to the chase...less and less is more.

Since I've been writing for a while for my own entertainment  I don't know how much or if I will take any of this sage wisdom to heart. One or two not shown here would be best mulched in a blender with fruit juice and taken as extra eating shredded wheat dry.

The hardest part for me? Every frickin' thing is in Black & White! My eyes are parched for color.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


After a very mild winter we are getting a serious polar swat.  It was in the low twenties this morning and we are all bundled up with our fur on end and very grateful for clear blue skies with no freezing precip in the forecast.

There were actually a few flakes flying by as I drove into the city yesterday. I made a hasty exit off the freeway because the locals were terrible distracted by the flurry and I285 was quickly shaping up to be a demolition derby. They drive faster while peering up into the skies and talking excitedly on the cells. The long perspective looked like they were trying to drive between the scant flakes.

I've rolled one of the little heaters into the sunny studio, cleaned up a little and plan on putting the finishing touches to my friend Jan's quilt top today. Jan if you are reading this, I still need a verse for the band around the edge.

Friday, February 10, 2012

last stitches


 "Grand Rêver"

   I've put the last stitches in this one which has worked out to be 27"x29" . The edges are raw and I am still deciding if I want to mummify this one.



( turns out this is my 1400th post. Sheesh, what wind.  I could have had that bloody novel in the can by now!)

learn to quilt!

Remember this recent acquisition?

The maker, Serena Potter,  has started an informal and free online tutorial aimed at people who would like to learn traditional pieced quilting, people who might have no clue how to thread a needle. She doesn't quilt to win blue ribbons or make a quick buck - she does it because she loves the tradition, the process and the finished work. Her easy going and straightforward style is fun and she writes about a range of beginner's concerns that have never occurred to many who charge good money for quilting classes.

I know not many of my readers fit this description. Most of us have been at it so long we would be hard pressed to explain the most elemental details of sewing anything by hand. It would be easier for me to hem your skirt than tell or show you how, if either of us had the patience. I don't.

Serena, who is also the mother of two toddlers, has plenty.

She also has a wry sense of humor that is right up my alley and I have a long list of non-sewers to pass this link along to and I'll bet you do too. It jumps around a bit and the reader might have to scroll forward and back through the days to find  a good starting place depending on one's skill set, but it's all worth it.

She worries that there are purists out there who will argue with some of her methods or practices.
I told her "Screw em!" I have held one of her quilts in my hands and if these methods and procedures are how she arrived at this result, then she knows what she's talking about.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

from the ridiculous to the sublime

Have you ever bought a product you didn't need just because the packaging was so cool?  There are three more flavors and I didn't buy any because I stood there for ten minutes not being able to decide which of the four to buy!

And we have Morna to thank for discovering the work of artist Huguette Caland.  Don't miss a single jawdropping link! Takes my breath away too, Morna..thanks.

This is the kind of work that makes me get all quiet inside and just pay very close attention to all the feelings and responses going on. Attend!

"Rossinante Under Cover I" by Huguette Calnd
51x42”, acrylic and pen on canvas, 2011

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


If you live in the Southern US and you are from the NE you know how hard it is to find a really good Macintosh apple. The produce man tells me that they just don't travel all that well and, in fact, you rarely find them in the stores.

I took a chance on just one from Publix this morning. More often than not they are mealy, blah and disappointing.

Today I hit the crisp sweet/sour jackpot and sat in the car and ate that apple like it was my last damned meal. Actually it was my breakfast and the first apple in way too long, I'm on a carb restricted diet and less than terrific apples were not on the list of things that I missed.

This had to be one of the apples that the wicked witch gave Snow White because as soon as I got home I needed a serious nap. Such has been the highpoint of my day....

Monday, February 06, 2012

post redux - In writing (11.18.09)

Thanks for all the wonderful points of view regarding the use of written dialogue stitched into art. It's good to know what other people think both about doing it and seeing it. For now I have decided against any messages or even letter forms.
I find that when I begin using letter forms I can't help but want to convey something snarky or entertaining. In fact, I find that when I work literally or do something representational you can pretty much bet on something weird, shocking or downright wrong going on. You'll laugh too if you don't run out of the room.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

rituals & tradition

I have a new ritual these days. Some might have noticed that it's eating into my blogging frequency. Probably.

I get up as soon as Jim and Colin leave for work, go downstairs and push the button on the coffeemaker that Jim has blessedly prepared for me.

By the time I've finished dishing out three different kinds of cat food and refereeing the jostling hordes (really, there are only four) the coffee is ready. I take it back upstairs, set it on the nightstand and get the laptop from the studio. It's still dark out as I transcribe whatever scribbles appeared in the notebook from the day before and fatten them as I go. An hour or three will go by before I notice.

If I get bogged down, I will take a new page and devote it to just focusing on a very small detail - Annie Lamott's "square inch picture frame" trick that she would use to keep up the writing momentum.

This morning I went after the day my father's mother taught me to cross stitch and why. The embroidery hoop in the picture is one of a pair that I still have that belonged to  Nell. This is the smaller of the pair and the same ones that I used that first time 58 years ago.

She showed me just how to set the hem of the cotton pillowcase between the hoops and watched over my shoulder as I constructed a little march of tiny green DMC  Xs along the hemline. I spent a lot of time looking at the backside and trying to make it as neat as the front, no mean trick for a four year old. My real objective was to be as stingy as possible with the thread because Nell told me that after I had used up the three hanks she had given me I would have to buy my own thread. She would be giving me twenty-five cents a week for helping her in the kitchen. Twenty-five cents a week equaled five new colors from the stationary store down the block from our house. I couldn't wait!

The "why" of the lesson you ask? Well, that's pages away.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Like the new header? I needed a change of scenery to go with the change of seasons.

It's a section of my personal "Beach" from back in May 2010. I was rooting around looking for more formal images and there are none. I could dig it out and reshoot it but this snip will do for now. It reminded me of the pleasure of arms wide, eyes afar designing and building a piece that was intended to be used and not just displayed.

Come to think of it, I know  this piece has no sleeve for hanging which is why it never got properly photographed.  More along the lines of this one gives me a lot to look forward to, fiberwise. It's time to climb out of winter's comfy, cozy closeness and aim far and wide.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

before the rain comes

It's warm for February, the jasmine on the mailbox has started blooming reminding me I need to cut the crape myrtles back very soon. Like tomorrow.

I've been spending time working on this one with my hands while I work on the writing with my brain; the other part of the brain that wanders all walleyed when you are stitching.

Each element is like a sentence or paragraph in a story that needs to be complete unto itself yet, for the story to be successful, they have to relate to each other in an engaging way.

I've had to completely remove a couple of pieces and start over in the spaces left behind. Brutal editing.

If you notice something odd about the scale of these creatures, good eye!. They are sitting about ten feet apart, acceptable distance per Karma in the foreground.

Juicy (stretching it out in the background) was closing in on twenty pounds the last time he was to the vets over a year ago. Madame K, on the other hand, might be seven pounds soaking wet.

She's been doing better, thanks.