Monday, August 31, 2009

Goth Butterfly

Probably a black swallowtail or in the same family. Big one, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Night Launch

Discovery on its way to the space station.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Circle of Shrooms

I think fairies have been having mushroom parties in my yard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beware of Fence

I pass this auto junkyard a couple times a week and I have yet to see a dog to beware. The fencing, on the other hand, is two layers of chain link, one of chicken wire, with barbed wire sandwiched in between.

I don't think Fort Knox has such ominous fencing. Old broken down trucks and rusted-out cars must be a hot ticket.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


And people laugh at me for saying yellow is an evil color. See? Proof.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Repair Job -- Harvested Patch

Repairing a crazy quilt with fabric or patches harvested from another portion of the quilt is usually done when the quilt is being downsized from its original dimensions. Over time, the edges of a quilt can wear to the point of becoming shredded while the center remains intact, in which case the renovator will "cut down" the quilt by trimming away the worn edges and squaring it off to a smaller size. Some usable fabric can generally be salvaged from the trimmings, and used for repairs.

When you're examining trimmings for harvest material, keep in mind that any frayed, worn or otherwise fragile fabric is not going to last. You need a strong, intact, well-preserved patch that isn't likely to disintegrate in a few years; if you can't find that it's better to save yourself the headaches of having to redo the patch in the future and just use lace or new fabric.

Because the satin backing material for this piece is heavily soiled and snagged, and yet still has some pretty quilted areas that are usable, I'm going to harvest a repair patch from the backing.

Here's one piece I cut from the back after I separated it from the silk patchwork top:

This one I'm going to save for another project, because it's too big and in too good condition to cut up for patches. But here's another section of the backing that was spoiled by whoever cut it up:

From this piece I cut and fit* a patch over a torn silk patch of the same color (Btw, I don't recommend using old satin for patchwork if you're not an experienced sewer because it's pretty slippery and hard to fit and stitch into place. Careful as I was, my patch puckered a bit on me, which I'll deal with later on when I embellish.) One fabric I never use is old silk; it becomes brittle and dry with age and it's impossible to get clean. Also, most old red silk dyes are not colorfast and will bleed if washed, making any piece you repair with them dry-clean only.

Also, remember to gently hand-wash any harvest material, air dry it and press it before you use it for repairs. You can really see how soiled the satin is when you compare the color of the washed/finished patch to the original. The material is so dirty it turned the water in my hand basin brown.

Whenever you cut down an old quilt (and you have the storage space) try to save what material you can from the trimmings. Very often I find old feedsacks and calico that I save from one quilt will work better than new fabric as repair patches on another quilt made in the same time period.

*If you've never tried fitting a repair patch, I posted a tutorial with photos on how I do it over on the stories blog here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Monday, August 24, 2009

Repair Job Layers

I meant to show how many layers I discovered in the repair job piece -- five in all. The top is the silk patchwork, handsewn to muslin foundation squares. Beneath that was a thin layer of cotton batting, then a flannel blanket, which was sewn in places to the satin backing (which makes me think the backing was quilted separately and then added to the piece.)

I've also found some human hair in the layers (sounds a little gross, I know, but this is pretty common. So are cat and dog hairs a piece will pick up from the maker's household pets and bloodspots from where the maker pricked her fingers while sewing.) The maker also had an aversion to trimming her knots, so there are lots of long embroidery thread tails under the foundation muslin.

The coolest part of the piece is the stitchwork. She used tiny quilting stitches on the backing, and her embroidery around the patchwork is very fine and perfectly symmetrical. Most crazy quilters work up to doing an all-silk quilt at some point in their lives, as it's considered the hardest type of crazy to make, so she might have been practicing for that with this piece.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Repair Job -- Tea-Dyed Lace

Quilt conservationists always try to preserve a quilt maker's original work when doing a repair job, and the most popular "fix" for a crazy quilt with shattered silk patchwork is to applique a piece of lace over the shreds of the old patch. A lot of us joke that this is just making a net bag for the old silk to collect in, but it does contain the damage and preserve the original fabric.

Note: you should not attempt to restore any antique quilt before you have it professionally evaluated and appraised by a quilt restorer or conservationist. However, if you have an old crazy quilt laying around the house that is only of sentimental value, or find a piece on eBay or at a rummage sale that you want to play with, this can be a fun project.

Most of the yardage lace I buy is pure white so I can dye it myself to match a project (old dressmaker's trick.) For old quilts I usually tea- or coffee-stain the lace to give it an aged appearance more in keeping with the antique piece.

To tea stain lace, first cut the amount you intend to use, then immerse it in lukewarm tea made from tea leaves or bags and water (I let mine soak at least 45 minutes; the longer it soaks, the darker it will stain.)

Most teas will stain lace and other light fabrics with a soft golden look so many old fabrics acquire over time. This is called "yellowing" just as with pages in old books. Regular coffee, on the other hand, turns white lace more of a taupe color, like true ivory (and you can use leftover coffee to stain lace; I usually save and reheat whatever my guy doesn't drink in the morning.) If you're not sure which you'd like to employ, experiment with both and see which you like best.

Here's the stained lace against my white marble cutting board:

I use silk thread to do most of the repairs on silk crazy quilts. It's expensive (I use Gutterman, which runs about $5 per hundred yards spooled) but nothing glides as cleanly through the old fabric unless you wax it, and I hate the residue waxed thread leaves behind. Also, if you want you can tea-dye silk thread to match your lace.

If you have a finished edge to your lace, you don't have to turn it under before you apply the patch (see mine next to the dark blue velvet patch below.) Because seams show through lace repair patches, you should keep the edges you turn under modest; if possible no more than 1/4". Also, the busier the pattern of the lace is, the more you're likely to notice the edges that are turned under:

Next up: repairing with harvested patchwork.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hell Was Full

Friday, August 21, 2009


The surface of my workbench out in the garage. I admit it, I am a slob with paint.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Latest Acquisition

I found a lovely little watercolor I wanted for my dining room on Etsy, and bought it as a reward for finishing the last book:

"Lilacs...Whoa where did that come from 5.7.08 8.40am" by Sally Mara Sturman.*

Little did I know that the artist also works in the industy; Ms. Sturman has also painted some some beautiful cover art work. She has two shops on Etsy; one for ceramics and one for her watercolors.

*Web site home page has some music/sound effects, in case you're at work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I lightened the exposure on this photo to see if I could better define the orb spider in it, but for better detail click on the image to see the larger version. This critter is about the same size as the palm of my hand, and overnight he built a four-foot web in my daughter's tree swing. She still uses the swing, so he'll have to be (carefully) relocated to the trees at the back of the property.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Repair Job

A guild swap brought me leftover pieces of a silk, satin and velvet crazy quilt someone cut up for crafts. I could weep; the patchwork is mostly intact and the piece is about forty or fifty years old:

I don't have enough pieces to reassemble the quilt, and its fragile state makes it unusable for anything but display, so I'll make some art out of it. This is the best piece of the lot, with only a few shattered silk patches, as you can see from this detail:

Judging by the colors and patterns it was probably made of scraps saved from silk garments and linings.

Another interesting thing about these pieces is the backing. Although the quilt was tied rather than quilted (most crazy quilts are tied) the maker picked out some quilting patterns on the pale blue satin backing to make it appear as if it had been quilted. I don't think I've ever seen that done before:

Oh, and it smells awful -- like it's been sitting in a moldy closet for a few decades -- so I've got to do something about that, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Every time I see one of these things I imagine trying to clean it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Belt Me

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rag to Bag

I made the stitch collision/rag quilt piece into a simple gift bag, using some sheer ribbon for handles and the backing fabric as the other side of the bag:

I've had this medallion forever and have never found a use for it, but it just seemed to go with the bag:

When I go by the mall I always stop by the Godiva store to see what they have on sale. Right now they've marked down a lot of merchandise to make room for the upcoming holidays, so I snagged one of their prettier egg-shaped gift boxes that comes with two truffles for only $4.99 (and the truffles are regularly priced two bucks a piece, so this was a steal.)

Because I used a rag along with the medallion, fabric, thread and ribbon I already had on hand, the only thing I paid for was the egg and chocolate. So for $4.99, I have a nice gift for one of my chocoholic quilting pals. Here's the back of the bag:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Illegal Alien

Don't tell anyone, but he's living in my garage.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Accidental Quilt

I finished quilting the rag:

I liked the texture I got with this experiment; the plastic-icky feel fabric paint gives to material was altered by the grid stitches. It feels a bit like snake skin now. Here's a detail shot of the hand stitching, which didn't turn out quite as horrible as I thought it was while I was doing it:

I liked the effect on the back, too.

Now to make it into something usable/useful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Characters Painted #2

The vral from Rebel Ice and Plague of Memory.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dragon Rose

Here be dragons. Okay, dragon. We'll call him Bud.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stitch Collision

This month's issue of Quilting Arts magazine had an interesting article on a gelatin monoprint process (which I did try, with mixed results.) While I had out the fabric paint to experiment with printing on a plate of Jell-O, I decided to use a scrap to mop up the excess paint, which resulted in an interesting swatch of amethyst/dark green/silver fabric.

Since I didn't have anything in mind, I decided to quilt the rag with an experimental stitch pattern I want to use on a larger piece:

It's like plaiding -- I used three different colors of thread in a X overlap of the straight-line stitching:

It looks especially nice on the batik backing fabric, too:

I don't know what I'm going to turn it into (probably a gift bag) but it's definitely fun just messing around with a small project on the spur of the moment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009


I've been trying to photograph this reclusive beauty for a couple of days, but the sun was never at the right angle to illuminate her web before today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spider Condo

It's nowhere near as massive as these spider condos in a Texas park, but it's the first I've seen this dense in our yard.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Extend or End?

I originally planned this photoblog as an art project I'd do for a year before I closed it down or let it go static.

A question for my visitiors: would you like to see it continue? Please let me know in comments.

Graphic credit: © Yellowj |

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baby Kat

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kat Phone

Even back in 1996, Kat was always on her phone.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kat's Desk

The caption here should read, "Mom! Stop taking pictures of me!"

And my reply: "Sure. Soon as you clean up your desk."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sleepy Kat