Tag Archives: journal quilts

Two New Journal Quilts — Economic Storm

Longwood Mall

Longwood Mall

We had more snow yesterday and last night, and I had a chance yesterday to stop by a group of magnificient beech trees and snap some pictures.  What is it about old beech trees that makes them so incredible?  They remind me of elephants or some other large and wise creature.  Well, perhaps they ARE large and wise creatures, but I mean large and wise creatures that can walk!


Brookline, Mass.

Brookline, Mass.

I made two Journal Quilts on Sunday, which ought to compensate for a missed week in February.  They both are scrappy, collage quilts that reference the economic storm.  On Sunday morning, I stopped by ‘America’s Favorite Thrift Store’, which is also MY favorite thrift store, and after a many-month dry spell, there were too many cool, printed men’s shirts to choose from!  The palm tree print came from one of my buys.

11.5" x 14"

11.5" x 14"

Both Journal Quilts include a chunk of toile with a house in the landscape.  The smaller one, above, features a slub silk background mounted on a piece of sea green Lonni Rossi with script (referencing my sometime-view that while so much of what’s happening is unprecedented, somebody ought to have seen the writing on the wall… )  The effect is supposed to show the vulnerability that so many of us feel right now — a tiny house in a huge storm with high winds tossing about long-held notions, long-held savings…


I like it when the garment that I’m ‘upcycling’ (a favorite word on etsy) reveals some of its structure.  Here, I’ve accentuated a seam from the cut-shirt with some quilting that has one color thread in the bobbin, another color on top.  (This trick was discovered through laziness (I often STOP sewing for the day when my bobbin runs out rather than wind another…), but now I sometimes mismatch top and bottom threads intentionally because I like the effect).

Journal Quilt, 11" x 16"

Journal Quilt, 11" x 16"

The second Journal Quilt is a little longer, but includes that same stormy palm-printed shirt.  Here, the toile house is not a focal point, but off in the top right corner.  The focal point, instead, is the toile figure harvesting wheat (earning his bread — okay, I never said it was subtle).  Interestingly, (or not, I don’t know), this quilt did not feel complete until I obscured the harvester behind a dark rectangle.  Could that represent how punishing this experience is to years of hard work, saving, putting away, and living-within-our-means?  Well, of course.  This one needs a little more stitching around the edges of the green linen.


The precipitous zig zag, stitched in red below, represents the Dow (again, I didn’t promise subtlety!).


The little kids’ hands scooping up the balls  (can you see them in gold and black in close up above?) — has the feel of a kid who has lost at a game of marbles and is packing up to go home — representing the urge to sell stocks and stuff the money into a mattress.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a gratitude list so as to balance out the grim and ugly — (I guess that makes my harvester a “grim reaper”!)

Blog through the fog?

Three small pieces

Three small pieces

Last week found me sick, distracted, and stuck, and so I did not post.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, with the kids home and all, it was that I couldn’t stand to hear myself.  Today my need to show up outweighs the need to feel presentable (and I DO feel better!).

These three ‘sketch’ quilts were made over the last two weeks.  The Journal Quilt on the far right did not start out as a house, but once I put the windows on there was no going back.

Journal Quilt Feb 15, 09

Journal Quilt Feb 15, 09

The thing I like most about this quilt is not the final result, but the way the cotton batting took the needle as I hand-quilted the background.  So often, I am quilting through four, five, six layers of fabric, one of which is drapery weight, with poly batting (almost necessitating pliers!), so I want to remember how smooth and easy this was for future projects.  Also, I dyed the muslin in coffee and the aged look is nice.  The house I can take or leave, mostly leave.  Perhaps the slumping roof expresses the time of year and the wish to get out of town while staying home.   For future projects, I also want to explore using that silk of the roof for ‘drawing’ a fish — I can just make out the beginnings of a large Pacific salmon in a leaping arc there.

I seem unable, however, to generate any polar bear that I can stand to incorporate into the kitchen table quilt.  The bottom is nearly done, and the top, still waiting.  I experimented, unsuccessfully, with printing onto lutrador, and also tried using oil pastels on fabric.



If I am going to include this in the quilts that will be showing at the Arsenal Center for the Arts starting Friday, I’ve got to hustle.  Or jettison the idea of a polar bear altogether!

Here’s where I’ve been having some fun:


Sewing paper, swimming bears


Journal Quilt Week 5 (18" x 24")

For the first time since starting these journal quilts, Sunday morning arrived without my having so much as having picked a background fabric.  I knew I wanted to depict a polar bear, but that was it.  Two weeks ago, sitting with two other artists in a fledgling crit group (yeah!!), a painter asked another quilter in the group, “Do you ever do studies before making a quilt?”  While I make variation upon variation, I’m not sure I’ve ever made a study.  I liked the idea.  So, given that the “hot” part of the large global warming piece that is all over my kitchen table is resisting attachment to the  “cold” part — study was definitely in order!


"Willy" by ucumari

On Saturday, I did a google image search, gathering a handful of pictures of bears swimming, and fell in love with the above photo by ucumari (check out her great animal pictures on flickr!)

Sunday, I started the day flipping through a book of Rick Bartow‘s artwork — incredible pastels, ink drawings, and sculptures of animals — mythic and full of gesture.  Absolutely gorgeous work.  I was also remembering the stunning, muscular animals of the artist Nancy Erickson, who works on fabric and paper.  (I looked at her website today and found that one of her polar bear quilts is titled the very title I was considering for my kitchen-table-piece — and that is,  “Where’s the Ice?”)  Anyway, their combined artistry inspired me to render my polar bear with pastels, rather than fabric.  Since I am out of sheets of fabric to feed through my inkjet printer and since the deadline was rapidly approaching, I stitched the paper right on the quilt.


Now, I have stitched a lot of paper — for cards, in particular — but never for the central image of a  mid-sized quilt.  It was exciting and freeing, and justified the whole discipline of doing these journal quilts, I think, but I wonder at the durability of it.  Even though these pieces are meant to be finished by Sunday, I plan to bind this one, and also to trim some of the pointy edges of the paper.bear-constellation

I stitched a bear constellation in the sky, using the leftover Heat n’ Bond paper from my earlier bear journal quilt as a guide on the wrong side of the quilt top, right against the batting.  It was a good idea, but I would like this quilt better without it.

I am encouraged by this piece.  It suggests a direction that might satisfy my need to work faster.

Speaking of stitching on paper, here is a flashcard I made awhile back.  It is too big to be an official ACEO (Art Cards, Editions and Originals – must be 3.5″ x 2.5″, the size of a trading card), but could be a collectible nevertheless.  I think I’ll offer it for sale in my etsy shop.


The front is a photoshopped digital image of a small Buddha statue which might have become a holiday card if I was someone who got it together enough to send holiday cards.  I like the fact that there are two sides.  The very emphatic directive to “find that peace” seems like a pretty apt suggestion from the Buddha!

Scraps make a life


Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.
Meister Eckhart
(quoted in Julia Cameron’s book, “The Vein of Gold”)


sparrow-wisteria-moreI thought I was being soooooo productive and accountable to a blog-posted To Do list by hemming the jeans of Dan’s that have been transiting from pile to pile since Thanksgiving.  Imagine my surprise when D. held up one of the two pairs and asked, “Why did you hem Kevin’s jeans, Mom?!!”  (Kevin doesn’t live here).

Ah, so much for the satisfaction of a thing done.  The cut hems could not be thrown out, naturally.  The pictures above I hope demonstrate WHY not.  Their ragged edges and variations of blue do a better job suggesting the blue shadows of winter than my first journal quilt (below).


I have ALREADY revised my rules. I started with a rule that at least some fabric must come from the floor.  When I discovered over the weekend that I was reluctant to re-bin fabrics that had been dumped out (during some mad need for a container) because it meant I would have less interesting fabrics on the floor to pick from,  I realized that the rule I had created supposedly to trick myself into cleaning up had already become a disincentive.  So!  I revised the rule to —

Each Journal Quilt must include scraps from a bin.

This rule, however, is meaningless, since nearly my entire stash qualifies, so I let it go.  These two new mini-quilts (possibly one will be Journal for this week), put me in mind of perhaps a better rule…

At least one fabric must carry over from week to week.

Here, the deep blue with white dots (suggesting snow fall) was the background for last week’s quilt.


The process of putting Christmas things away is satisfying.  Wrapping, tucking, safekeeping for next year AND clearing space.  The tree is still up, but with only colored lights now.


I wish I could revel in the mess as much as the figure below seems to!


Lastly, here are two figures needing work.  The grey unspun wool figure needs a body.  I find that an interesting metaphor.  I may attach him to a cross-beam and explore the notion of sacrifice while I’m at the business of examining how and why I become dis-embodied (such heavy requirements!! — but then, it is just where the thing wants to go.  I merely follow!)  I drew the head on Shrinky-Dink, copying a portrait of an African man who appeared to be an ecstatic trance.  The priestly figure has a body, but needs arms.  This guy holds interest all of a sudden because he seems to have changed sides on me.  I made him during the height of the sex scandals here in Boston.  Then he was, by virtue of his silence and passivity, a nasty co-conspirator in the abuses.  But yesterday, when I wrapped him in that thread shawl (also made ages ago), he just struck me as sad.  Perhaps he is one of the many priests that was not aware of what was going on.  Perhaps he grieves the damage done — not just to all those victims, but to the Catholic Church itself.  Amazing what passing time can do to a picture, image or idea!