Tag Archives: house

Something lightens


“River House”

This house was built in preparation for the class I’m teaching this Saturday at the Boston Center for the Arts.*  While probably not apparent to a viewer, this quilt pulls together many elements of recent learning.

How so? For one, it’s lighter than I usually work (exploring white online with Jude Hill).  It has a less defined horizon line. The house sinks into its surroundings better and displays a little perspective (the two barn pieces taught much!!! here and here).  And, the attachment techniques are more refined (and yes, that is the same green plaid I used to roof the two big Barns).


component building

Off-top building” —

By that I mean connecting small elements with stitch prior to trying to connect them with the background (the “top”).  In this case, I HAD to stitch these teeny house elements together, because I couldn’t keep lifting and shifting the background fabrics without going nuts if I hadn’t. Once stitched, I could easily lift the entire component and rearrange the background fabrics.

Note to self: when constructing a component, use pieces of fabric that are already part of the background!

Reducing the number of pins required for when the piece is in your lap is always a good thing. And, this component-building has the additional virtue of reducing stress about shifting windows and doors, some of which are smaller than a standard-sized postage stamp.


‘sky’ fabrics dyed in backyard last summer using chemical indigo (I know! I know! – haven’t gotten to the plants, yet)

Again, because of the work with white over at Spirit Cloth, I laid some gauze over rectangles on the surface. They are staying. For a while, I shifted the house lower down (photo above) and exposed a piece of the underlying linen napkin (just above the roof). I liked wondering what it might be like to leave an unadorned white section, there, right in the center of the quilt. What matters? The house? Or the empty space above?


‘shadow’ of house is an overlay of polyester from a shirt

It is not something I have committed to yet. In the photo above, I have shifted the house back to center, covering not only the white linen, but that mauve rectangle (another goodie from Sandy Meegan, by the way!!).  I like knowing that that empty rectangle is still there, even if I’ve covered it.

Of course, the entire underlying linen napkin is THERE.

The pale blue water fabric came from a fabulous skirt depicting scenes of a European city on a river. I normally eschew ‘cheater’ fabrics (the name says everything, doesn’t it?), but here I am happy to employ.


Back in 1980, I lived in SF and worked in a copy shop.  The best part of the job was access to a color copier, which was BRAND NEW technology then!  The house image came from a photo of a duplex I occupied during the last two years of college.


isabella-street-greenAnd here’s a more recent picture (photoshopped church from Newtonville):

newtonville-churchLastly, a collaged card using a cut out photo of a quilt and an Inkydinkydoo moon stamp:


* Class is at Boston Center for the ArtsSat. June 1, 10:00 to 1:00
Free! (but contact the Center, it might be full).

meditation on germs and used Kleenex

found-fiberI am perpetually picking up ‘garbage’ on my walks, as I know many of you do, too. Generally, I go for rusted scraps. This find may be Kleenex. I know. I know. Gross, right? But – it was so old, so weathered out of its original use (if, indeed, it had ever been used), that I didn’t allow germ-worries to interrupt my scavenging.

People who know me ask, “When have you EVER let worry about germs slow you down?”

grey-fiber-on-grassI have a long history of being rather casual about germs.

Perhaps it’s because my mother was a lapsed Christian Scientist. She wasn’t averse to doctors or anything. Nor did she instruct us on the powers of love or the mind. But she did seem to think Vick’s VapoRub and aspirin could cure most childhood illnesses. I don’t think I ever heard her say, ‘Put on a hat or you’ll get sick!’  Nor were we issued dire warnings about death-producing cramps when we jumped into the Woodlin Club pool right after eating lunch. Most of all, she did not instill the notion that germs were lurking everywhere, just waiting for the unsuspecting, unhygienic to stumble or swipe into their sick-producing path. On some of these things, she has been proven correct. Regarding germs, though, of course I now know better.

But here’s the thing. Even though I now wash my hands more and will avoid someone sneezing up a storm, I keep bumping into germ-protocols that surprise me. Still!  (To my credit, I’ve always been scrupulous about cutting boards, knives, and raw meat)

The first time this happened, I was about eight. On a really hot summer day, my friend Susan’s mother took us to Jumpin Jack’s along the Mohawk River for ice cream.  I remember being absolutely shocked when Susan’s mother prohibited her from eating the flat bottom of the cone. Why? Because it had rested momentarily on the counter. (As a side note, given that Susan’s house was the messiest (and perhaps the dirtiest) on our block, I found myself wondering how this strict concern fit with her mother’s rather lax approach to housekeeping) (and yes, eight year olds DO think this way). This was just the first of MANY shocks.

The Seinfeld episode on ‘double dipping’ was a revelation to me.

When it came time to parent (nursing for a total of 32 months, I was now hyper-attentive to keeping my hands clean), I found the joke about the ‘five second rule’ ridiculous. It was not a joke for us, but a natural response to fallen objects. The birth order jokes about pacifiers? You know how it goes — boiling for the first kid; wiping off for the second; just popping back into the mouth of the third… did not pertain because ‘popping it back in’ was where we started.

Years later, in an online craft venue — I was shocked again — reading about a potential buyer who would NEVER buy a handknit item, say, if it had been modeled on a person (with skin! that flakes! is redolent with oils!)

Shocked once more to learn that Martha Stewart NEVER sets her handbag on the floor. Furthermore, she buys purses with metal studs on the bottom to keep them slightly elevated from WHATEVER surface they rest on (really? public bathrooms, okay, but everywhere?!) Even though I take all of Martha Stewart’s ‘perfect’ lifestyle choices with a massive grain of salt, (given the minions she has to clean her toilets everyday, for instance, and prepare her much-touted, healthy fresh juices), I can’t help but look at my purse and wonder where it’s been.

Here’s the most recent example. Just a few weeks ago, in writing class I listened to a character sketch of a woman whose signature trait was vulgarity. I asked, curious, ‘what made her so uncouth?’  The example?  The casual (but apparently repulsive) habit of sitting on her shoeless foot. On furnishings. In a movie theatre, so close to other people.

Maybe it was a bare foot, but still. I do this ALL THE TIME. So, I have to wonder, “What ELSE am I doing that is considered repulsive and unhygienic? That I’m not even aware of?!!” (And, just so you know, I cannot sit in most adult-sized furnishings comfortably WITHOUT tucking one or both feet up and under my haunch).

So, I get it. Picking up a potentially USED piece of Kleenex off of Week’s Field is gross.

But I fell in love with it.


grey-stitchedIt is delicate. Friable. And even though it is so delicate, it reminds me of the metamorphic rock, gneiss. It could pass, in some views, as a section of an old topographical map.

I put batting behind it, then, after stitching, clipped some away. I like how the furriness of the batting (normally an annoying distraction) adds to the texture.

grey-house-and-moonsSince this backing print is thick – perhaps cotton duck? —  I machine stitched. The scrap is sewn on the WRONG side of the fabric to dull it down a bit, but photographed up against a window, the print comes through clearly. I added a sheer moon, and couldn’t resist slipping a little blue linen under the leaf-shaped ‘window’ in that sheer. Lo and behold! I had not seen or intended it – but there it is – another house!

found-house-up-closeThe light coming through the needles punches makes me happy. Here the house looks nearly charcoal-black because of the setting on my camera.

Widen the lens – how?


side porch

Always, the unconscious is present, making this or that comment in our days, usually quite a bit ahead of our awareness. That’s part of the mystery, the fun, and the intrigue of making art.

But this picture made me wonder if there weren’t ways to build in a practice of less-conscious captures?

I mean something more than accepting that scrap of fabric that fell from somewhere and landed on a quilt, begging for inclusion. And I mean more than embracing a wicked mistake and owning it as part of a now-changed design.

I mean consciously building in a more random catalog. Anybody have any ideas about how to do this? Does anyone do this already (that they know of)? I’d love to hear.

The umbrella picture struck me because I shot it after composing a series of careful studies of the unfurling, magnificent hosta that line our sidewalk. I composed the way I usually do and had some thread of text forming in my head (something about the glory of spring and the changing tides of opinion — in this case regarding hosta — a pedestrian plant that I used to dislike, but now appreciate for its reliability and willingness to endure all kinds of stress — from rabbit-dining to cold shocks, mashing, and even clips by the lawn mower). As an afterthought, I snapped this dappled light and wet umbrella on my way in the door.

I liked this picture so much more than any of the careful shots, that I had to wonder what else I am missing by pointing my lens in predictable directions.  The rake with its signs of recent bed-clearing, the umbrella still wet with a spring rain, and most of all, the dappled  light… these elements collectively said “SPRING” better than my careful compositions. What ELSE am I missing by pointing my lens in ‘pretty’ directions? By deciding in advance what constitutes an image of something, in this case — spring?

And speaking of spring, here are some more shots of my neighborhood and front yard.


a snobby conflict about flamingos years ago led many in Newton to adorn their yards with them


our front yard – these pansies have suffered in the recent cold


one of my favorite nearby gardens


another beautiful garden on Oxford Road

On the route where these pictures were taken I found a lovely hole-ridden grey piece of something – I don’t want to gross anyone out, but it is probably a piece of Kleenex.


found object has become a ‘house’ quilt

More on that tomorrow! But here is a sneak peek:


light coming through

progress in white

Slowly getting the hang of our updates. There definitely are improvements in the offing.  For now, I am just moments shy of a good, long walk in the spring air, then it will be time to walk to the periodontist for the insertion of an implant (yes, sympathy is welcome!)

In other words, this post will be quick. A report in pictures. WH = “White House”, the very original name for this piece.

WH - scraps laid out

WH – scraps laid out


WH – seamed, with some embroidery


WH – pre-whitening close up


WH – same area, both whitened and layered (the silk had color and pattern)


WH – sheers pinned over whitening white running stitch (grey splotchy roof does not stay)


WH – sheers pinned on the other side of the roof


WH – more whitening with the addition of white running stitches (grey roof is gone)


WH – celebrating the shredding orange silk by tacking it down; one sheer had embroidered loops on it, seen here


WH – getting there

WH - hanging

WH – hanging

chugging along

blue-hut-startVacations (not mine), house cleaning, appointments, arranging college tours, two birthdays, SAT prep classes, allergic reactions (also not mine), snow, snow and more snow (and possibly MORE snow starting at midnight tonight).  Through it all, virtually no blogging, but a fair amount of stitching.

This b-day card for my younger son started with the central rectangle, which had been zig-zagged together at some much earlier moment.  The upholstery sample seemed a good base, picking up the check pattern of the ‘windowed’ linen.  For the roof and background, I used cloth that had been immersed in the indigo tub last summer.  Pairing almost anything with indigo-dyed cloth makes me happy these days, I don’t know why.   blue-hut-pinsSince D. is a Pisces, a bit of batiked fish seemed appropriate, and the cotton lawn in my scrap basket formed lovely, wrinkly moon and butterfly shapes when cut.  The pink linen backing is from a tunic that I used to wear.  This ‘card’ needed to carry a bit of me.


I was determined to keep the butterfly simple.

But, I could not resist adding ANOTHER backing cloth which adds a fair amount of additional graphic interest.

It is very nearly done – as are ‘cards’ for my older son (they were born two years, three days, and 15 minutes apart!) and for my husband (his is a Valentine).  More on those soon!!

simplicity vs. chaos

Start with a built-up cloth.  Decide ‘it’s too busy’.

remember this? WIP pinned to finished quilt

remember this? WIP pinned to finished quilt

Split, divide, rearrange, extend, amplify, simplify, repopulate, weave and KABOOM, back to chaos.  Here is the journey in pictures.

cut in half - Left side

cut in half – Left side

cut in half - Left side

cut in half – Right side


adding 'tiles' to give appearance of weaving

extending borders, adding another nine patch

extending edges; adding back color and form

extending edges; adding back color and form

Speaking of the desire for simplicity – I am just loathing wordpress right now.  Why can’t I just insert pictures and easily move them around?!

Stuck with some chaos for now it seems.  Choosing it, even.

the FREEDOM to tell a story

Each Thursday, I sit with a group of women and spill out writing under the tutelage of a teacher trained in the Amherst Writing Method as developed by Pat Schneider.

One of the key elements of this method is that all comments must refer to the ‘narrator’.  Even if a participant writes in the first person — the rule holds.  Is this a reliable narrator? A sympathetic character? Is she holding back, or giving us lots of details?  If a participant strays, and refers to ‘you’ or directs queries suggestive of the assumption that the writer is the narrator, our fearless leader corrects course.  “You mean the narrator…”

Why so important, you might ask?

Freedom, pure and simple.  Afterall, our writing session is not therapy and it is not a support group.  Not that we are impersonal with one another — not at all.  But it is nevertheless the case that even with pledged confidentiality, the protection of writing as a narrator is essential for creative flow.  It is actually a profound freedom.

In that spirit, I am working on letting cloth tell a dark story.

Here, where there IS no confidentiality, I am trusting my readers to hold the story of the cloth as if we were all trained in the Amherst Method.  In other words, I hope you ask yourself, “is this quilt successfully depicting trauma?” rather than, “good lord, what happened to you?!!”

At the ripe age of 55, I have come to believe that although we are each born with certain gifts and certain curses, and that they shape our thoughts and feelings in profound ways, on some level the details REALLY DON’T MATTER.

And so, I begin a house quilt where the symbol is not Security, Safety, and Solace, but rather a place of upset and fear.  I started with a simple muslin construct.  I pieced it to a ground and sky, because I wanted it to retain some sense of place once I started cutting it up.  I free-pieced some red fabrics that would be revealed when I cut open ‘windows’ and ‘doors’ in the house structure.This all happened in the span of an afternoon.  A very sunny day before Thanksgiving.
It was hard to stay the course on cutting, and in retrospect, I wish I had left the rest of the roof intact.
Even though I wanted the idea to include that the outer and the inner are severely mismatched, I like the way the red trunk points downward to the linen/green branch of the foreground.
I used a dark green thread to baste the house, the red under sections, and a swath of grey linen together, and the minute I started doing more detailed stitching, I regretted that.  The threads get in the way and I am spending a lot of time cutting and removing them.  Not sure, now, why I opted NOT to use Jude Hill‘s invisible basting method.
I had gotten a little lost for awhile with THIS detour (above)… and forced myself to return back to basics, then making the muslin house of the other photos.  Funny thing, though, when I laid the above-scrap over the basted quilt-in-progress, I found I liked it a lot more.
Not sure what I will do about that – if anything.  I plan to keep stitching the existing layers together, and then I’ll see.  The other little surprise, which goes to content here, is the appearance of an Indigo Angel.  I had absolutely no plan to address healing or grace or serendipity with the piece, and yet, as is so often the case, the quilt had other ideas.
There she is, clear as clear can be (she even has feet, which you can’t see in this picture) – fluttering her wings next to a heart-shaped face!