Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Here's my latest work, and I thought some might be interested in seeing it as a work in progress. It's called "A BIRD IN THE HAND..." (It's 27 x 22.5)



STAGE 3, and then came adding "the poop."


If you've gotten this far in my blogorama, I thought you might be interested in a picture of Dave (and me)...above. (30.5 x 24)

I took a one-day course in "wonky log cabins", and tried to use some of my "african" fabrics. I called this " EYE OF THE TIGER." (32 x 26.5)

This little quilt was done as a study in negative space. (8.5 x 10.5)

A little piece to echo a very dramatic picture taken of my mom when she was in little theatre work as a young woman. [9 x 11]

This long skinny quilt was a personal meditation on two years of my life, as seasons in fabric (get it?)

This long lapquilt is based on a model taught in a mini-course by Donna Radner, so I call it my "DONNA RADNER KNOCK-OFF QUILT." [50 x 72]


Sue's dying and death not only knocked a hole in my heart, but knocked me on the head: time's a-wasting. While I loved my private practice work, I did find myself looking at my watch and saying, "OK, three more hours and then I can get back to my studio." And then it hit me: I'm too old and life's too short to be pushing away hours like that. So I gave myself and my beloved patients four months to wrap it all up, and find everyone who wanted one, a new psychotherapy home. In January of 2007, I hung up my "Doctor" hat.

Of course, right after that, my hip went out on me, and off I went to get my first bionic part, a new right hip. The living room became a hospital room, and we never did return the hospital bed because my hubby Dave did exacatly the same thing with his left hip right after me!

It was almost two months before I got back to my studio, which I had carefully tidied up before surgery. I sat down on my sofa and looked at my wall 'o fabric, my two sewing machines, my boxes, drawers, files, and said to myself, "WHAT WAS IT I WAS DOING DOWN HERE????" I felt overwhelmed. Lost. Where was my muse? My passion? OMG.

So I picked up a book on loan from a friend; it was the museum catalogue showing the work of Ayako Miyawaki, a Japanese fabric artist whose work always made me smile. She's one of my quilt-idols. Look at the cover picture and see if you could resist this fishface?

Ayako's work is so elegantly simple, so graphically strong, and so charming. I had seen a little black and white film of her at work in her living room. She'd bring back something from the market -- a fish or two, perhaps -- and would lay them on her table, reach into her scrap bag by her chair and begin to free-cut a fish.

Remembering that, I decided I would go to the spring farmer's market and buy something beautiful and make a fabric picture. Of course, I was drawn to a Japanese eggplant! Well, one week led to another, and before you know it, I was making a series of Spring Veggies. Here they come:

Three red peppers chatting among themselves:

two strawberries (13.5 x 19.5)

spring onions (note silken strings from unravelled fabric as roots)

a beautiful radish

bok choy

and last, A Fennel and A Scape


I had a dear friend named Sue, one of those warm, welcoming, huggable ladyfriends that you only find every once in a while. She too was a psychotherapist,and we kept discovering common tastes in clothing, decorations, jewelry, movies, just about everything except opera, which gives me shpilkes ("restless leg syndrome" for those again from a different village).

So Sue was going to redo her bedroom and make it entirely blue and filled with built-in cupboards theoretically big enough to hold her vast collections of clothes and shoes. In honor of this venture, I tried my first attempt at a crazy quilt, using blue fabrics which were piling up in my stash. So, here's Sue's Blue Quilt.

One day, several years ago, my friend Sue told me that the doctors had figured out why she'd been having such bad back trouble; Sue was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. She was so courageous,so uncomplaining as she did battle with that dreadful illness. And Sue, who'd always been -- like me -- kinda chunky, began to lose weight, and as the weight dropped she told me over and over again how beautiful she felt. She went out almost every week and bought something lovely to celebrate her increasingly slender figure.

At one point, she asked me if she could give me some of her chubby clothes. She was particularly concerned about giving me her old Blue Fish clothes. Blue fish was a very expensive hand-painted line of clothing, made of cotton knits, easy to wear. Sue had 3 boxes set aside for me. I picked out a few tops I liked and then we tried to decide what to do with the rest, and Sue lit up with an idea. "You could make me a quilt", she exclaimed. "In fact, there's enough there to make two quilts, one for you and one for me!" I didn't have the heart to tell her I had never worked with stretchy knit fabrics.

So, I went home and began to cut up the clothes, putting aside all the painted designs, the funky labels, and the arty buttons, and cutting the rest into big hunks. Gradually, on my design wall, I built up a collage of these images, finding panels that had been skirt hems to be good border pieces. Eventually, with all the pieces backed with a non-woven interfacing, I began to sew and sew and sew. The back was constructed of panels of plain fabric and the quilting was done by tying, using the gorgeous buttons instead of knots.

I was able to give Sue her quilt and it made her very happy. She died about two months later. Here is Sue's quilt.


Several years ago, I decided to join a few guilds, and eventually began to enter the guilds' yearly challenges. In 2006, the Nimble Fingers challenge was to make a quilt based on the theme of A GAME. I had recently seen the Matisse show which had come through Washington, and bought a post card of one of my favorite Matisse paintings called "The Chess Game", which has lots of fabric-like elements to it. Here's my version of his painting, called HOMAGE TO MATISSE. (30.5 x 33)

That same month, another guild (PM Patchwork) issued a black and white challenge. What popped to my mind was an old black and white photo of my Zayde (that's "grandpa" for those of you from a different village!) that I'd always liked. Here's Zayde's photo, and below, you'll see my attempt to do him in fabric, which I call MY ZAYDE COMES TO NEW YORK. (23 x 28)

The following year (2007) the Nimble Fingers challenge was to make a quilt based on a song title. I was thinking about a new book I'd just been reading called "Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy" by Barbara Ehrenreich. What popped to mind was an old image I recalled of a group of young women dancing on a lawn, and that formed the basis of the following quilt, which is called "GOTTA DANCE." Several quotations from the book are embedded in the grass, and a longer quotation is on the back of the quilt. The girls and I won first prize for creativity this year! Below is also a detail from the quilt. [36 x 60]

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This year the PM Patchwork challenge was to make a self-portrait. Mine is called "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT...." and is based on my own little quilting studio. [30 x 40]

Finally, I even entered a challenge from a magazine (Quilting Arts). Compared to the wild and wonderful entries that were printed in the next issue, mine is a plain Jane, but here's what I submitted: it's called "MY LITTLE TREE HOUSE". [8 x 11]


One of my first important teachers was RUTH MCDOWELL with whom I took a 5-day class. I practiced for the class by making practice pieces from her books on flowers and veggies ("Pieced Vegetables"). In her class, I showed her a very old photo of my Great-Aunt Anna, around age 16, in the backyard of her house in a shetl in western Russia. It is a photo I fell in love with as a child, and which I've carried with me for years. First, here's the real Great-Aunt Anna:

With Ruth's tutelage, here's the wall quilt I made from the image: (26 x 44.5)

The next major teacher I had was JANE SASSAMAN, whose course was described as "for the drawing impaired and the hopelessly literal." That was for me! Having never had a course in art, Jane opened me up to the possibility of real creativity and to working out-of-the-box.
We were working from nature, and were asked to bring in flowers as models. The room by day #two was glorious with bouquets, but since I brought in wildflowers, they pooped out by the midday. My model, therefore, became a strange brown orchid depicted in a flower book. My resulting quilt is called The Ugly Orchid (although I love it). The two little orange squares were added as an afterthought because they "felt right". I had no experience with beads, so I just poured a few onto the flower and sewed 'em right where they lay. [20 x 25] (By the way, if you're as new to blogging as I am, you may want to know that to see any picture in larger format, just double click it.)

My most recent major teacher is NANCY CROW. I spent a week at THE Barn, which is probably the most amazing group studio space in the country. To prepare for this week, I really studied Nancy's latest book, poring over the pictures and not really understanding how her quilts were made. Once again, I practiced. I made a very small sample and hand quilted it. I call it Mini-Crow. (8 x 12)

Then I picked out my favorite of her quilts in the book and just tried to replicate a portion of it, which caused me to realize how subtly she uses color. Having never done string-piecing myself, and therefore having no idea of her construction work, I just patched along happily, using some new fabrics I'd ordered as a grab-bag from Cherrywood Fabrics, and what emerged I call "A Crow At G-Street" (my local fabric store). (29 x 32)

I'm still working on the quilt that was the Final Project of a week's worth of sweatshop hours of string-piecing, making what Nancy calls "new fabric". I'll publish that in a later chapter of the Trunk Show.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Here's one of the first patterns I tried (the pattern is Third Weekend in October, but I call it "For Marilyn, whose favorite color is Orange.") This was all hand-quilted and took forever to do; it's a good thing I love my sister! (The pattern is by Ruth Powers)

Here's another shot of it before it was bound:

This pattern is Ami Simm's Doggus pattern, which was great fun to do, especially as I am a fan of her dog Madison's column in her monthly newsletter. It now hangs in the playroom in my daughter's house. I hope they don't notice the BIG MISTAKE in the block below!

Let's see: what other patterns did I do? Ah yes, this was actually from a kit for a Lone Star preprinted on a sheer fabric, which made the process much easier, I'm sure, than doing one from scratch, but it was still a challenge. (Pattern by QuiltSmart)

And this one, which I called "Da Bronx Bears" or sometimes "Boids and Bears" was my challenge to myself to try writing with my machine in free motion on the quilt. I did have to go over it with a sharpie, but I wanted to make sure some of the silly sayings my sister and I thought up were visible. For example: "he ain't heavy, he's my boidie" and "Boids make the best buddies." (Pattern by Carolee Pollack)

Then, I did this small quilt from a Malek pattern in honor of a friend's lovely Golden Retriever who died; it's called "Reve du Bolton."

More recently, for a break between larger projects, I worked on this lovely flower arrangement pattern, which I decided to quilt by hand. I call it "Hey, echo quilting is FUN!" (26 x 22)

Finally, here's my attempt to do something creative with a pattern by Caryl Bryer Fallert. I call it "IT WAS AN AWFULLY PLAID DAY!"

Well, I guess I'm making progress on learning to do this blogging stuff, but I do seem to be having trouble lining up my words with my photos. These older photos are also not so great in quality, but I think the newer ones to come are a bit better. It's also kinda frustrating that I'm trying to lay out a story of development and blogs are lined up with the newest things first. Oh well.


Dave and I married about 3 years ago, and I decided to make our chuppah. I had found a number of exquisite japanese embroidered panels, each purchased in its own cellophane wrapper. They were so beautiful I was afraid to cut them. Then I found a pattern in one of Kaffe Fassett's books (Glorious Patchwork) for fabrics you hate to cut, and thus emerged our wedding canopy.

Over the next two years there were wedding quilts for my daughter Audrey (the Red Quilt from the same Kaffe Fassett book) and my son, Alec. These, and several baby quilts and charity quilts helped to hone my confidence. Here are a few of those I remembered to photograph:

This one is from a pattern by Studio 55.


It all started with my second grandchild. George was going to be born without a diaphragm. He was taken out by C-section many weeks prematurely and rushed to the neonatal ICU to be put on life-support systems.

That night I woke from a dream that all the people from both sides of the family were covering the baby with their hands to keep him alive and make him better. I knew I had to make a "hand blanket." Then I REALLY woke up and remembered that I didn't know how to sew...AT ALL.

I went to my computer and typed in something like "quilts.com" and typed out my story, and the most amazing thing happened! Women from the ether began writing to me, teaching me how to begin, and then what to do. So I had every family member send me outline drawings of their hands, while I went off to the local fabric store. THAT'S WHERE IT HAPPENED. Instant addiction! I've not been the same since.

George, now 5, is off oxygen (his "nose medicine"), has a belly feeding tube, and is of a charming and happy disposition. He loaned me his quilt for this Trunk Show.