About artisticalchemy3

Artistic Alchemy: A Tahoe Retreat for Creative Sewists and Quilters, September 5-9, 2016

Featured Quilter—“Alchemist Emeritus” Christine Barnes

Greetings, Artistic Alchemy friends! Many of you know me as a former member of the group and teacher at the Zephyr retreat, but for recent followers, I—and my quilts—may be new. I’m posting today to invite you to the Pine Tree Quilt Guild show April 30 and May 1, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. The show will be open 10–4 each day. 

I’ll be the featured quilter, with 30 quilts and 6 wearables. Heidi, Sandra, and Jane will be in their booth, with polymer, patterns, hand-dyes, kits, and more. I’m really looking forward to seeing old and new friends—AND the 250 quilts made by our guild! Traditional, art, and modern quilting styles will be well represented. There will be vendors, a Country Store, raffle baskets, a silent auction, and a café—everything we love about a quilt show! 

To give you a taste of my display, here are a few of my quilts:

My newest quilt, “Jigsaw,” was inspired by a traditional block I had never seen. The plan was to use two colors per block, each color in a lighter and darker value. All centers are Kaffe Fassett prints. Below is one of the first blocks I made. The interlocking design is oh-so-modern to my eye.  (Later, I changed the black-and-white “plaid” squares to dots; the original squares will show up in a future quilt.)  

Sandra’s vertical quilting was the perfect choice; it adds texture without interfering with the straight-line piecing. 

“City Grid” came out of a series of blocks I had set aside and, honestly, forgotten. They began with centers cut from Elin Noble’s hand-painted fabrics, surrounded mostly by solids, and accented with B&W swizzle sticks.

I absentmindedly put a few blocks on my white design wall one day and decided they looked best “aired out.” The stripes and dots visually connect the elements.

Check out Sandra’s amazing quilting.

My quilts often start with a had-to-have-it fabric, but “Glacé” was inspired by a tea towel from France. Woven into the design are French words for ice cream and other frozen desserts. 

A few of the elements—appliquéd circles of Kaffe’s Promenade stripe, Kaffe and Tula Pink prints, a pastel ombré.

This quilt is a different take on my “Black Opals & Ribbon Candy” design, with some of the triangle blocks in the original replaced by the four-patch units.

“Cut flowers” is another example of blocks that got “lost,” then found. 

When I unearthed them, I thought that changing the woven-stripe centers by Kaffe Fassett for some of his newer stripes might perk up the design. With the painted stripe in the center, the colors seemed more vibrant. (You may prefer the original; such things are subjective.) 

Setting the blocks proved to be a real challenge. If you’d like to see the many settings I auditioned, check out my newsletter article. https://conta.cc/3EsxcYs  

Though I’ve retired from traveling to teach (20+ years seemed like enough) I’m still working away on new quilts and patterns. You can follow me on social media and sign up for my newsletter, “Christine’s Color Connection.” All can be accessed from my website. www.christinebarnes.com

Thanks so much for reading and looking. The four of us hope to see many of you at the 2022 “Springtime in the Pines Quilt Show.” And if you can come, be sure to stop and say hello!

2022 Begins With a Roar!

By Sandra Bruce

Greetings from a sunny and warm Grass Valley, California! As this is my first post of 2022 I wish you all a Happy New Year. On New Year’s Day we were on day 6 of an 11 day power outage due to a snowstorm that began on Christmas night. I must say….when it’s falling it’s so pretty!

Because we are in a drought which taxes the health of trees, along with no storms to speak of in the last handful of years this storm really did a number on the trees in our area. There were scenes like the one below all over town.

Here’s a funny shot of my favorite spot during the power outage, near the propane stove in our living room. Really near! Note my favorite pjs….that I made, of a Moda flannel printed with bacon and eggs.

Even now, on February 14th, there are still some piles of snow around town. Amazing given that it’s been so warm and sunny, and not a drop of precipitation since this storm. Enough about weather! We got power back, internet back, and the leak in my downtown studio, where my longarm is, is being dealt with and things are almost back to normal. I’m so grateful my machine was not affected by all that melted snow that leaked down to the first floor. Phew!

A super fun event happened right at the beginning of the holidays, here at my house. My group Friends to Dye For (FTDF), which you have heard me speak of, had a sleep-over here. We’ve been meeting for 24 years now! Earlier in 2021 we did a quilt project. Each of us took a turn, giving instructions for what kind of quilt we wanted. When we were all assembled we sewed for that person’s quilt, and by the end of the day a top had been completed. (I wrote earlier in a post last summer when it was my turn). I had suggested this idea initially, and when I offered to quilt them everyone said “yes”! So, when we gathered in December we all brought out our finished quilts to photograph them. Here is the bunch of us in front of Marlene’s quilt. Woo-hoo!

I’ll show you each one. They turned out beautifully ;-). Here is Marlene with hers…yes, it’s BIG! She had me “write” into the quilting a list of some of the projects we have done over the last 24 years. She dyed all the fabric in hers too. The skinny strips of color are so effective, right?

Here’s a close-up of some of the “writing” I did:

Here is Michelle with hers. We had an indigo shibori dyeing day at her house one day, and these pieces became her quilt.

Robin’s is next. She also dyed her fabric. I love the gradation of the yellow into the blue strips. The back is as beautiful as the front!

Somehow I missed getting Chris in the picture of her quilt. She had seen a quilt on the internet that she liked, and we used it as a springboard to make hers. Lots of rotary free-hand curved cuts. The orange pops! Notice the edges and her irregular binding, nice.

I do have another photo of Chris, though…with another quilt she made that I quilted for her.

Last but not least, my quilt. This is a pattern by Villa Rosa Designs, called “Beaded”. I had a lot of black and white fabric at hand and love that yellow green as an accent. If you’re wondering about the top I’m wearing, (I get asked often about it) it’s printed with a quilt by Timna Tarr, by Zappy Dots, on a plush fabric. Available online.

In the middle of the meantime I made this quilt IN A WEEK. Long story as to why… I will spare you. Suffice it to say now I know I can crank one out that fast if I have to.

I’m just working part-time now on my longarm for a list of clients that have been faithful to me over the last couple of years. I’m still doing some custom work, some overall quilting, a little bit of everything. Here’s a customer quilt I recently did. Her appliqué is beyond perfect and such a pleasure to work on. It’s almost 80″ square. Inspiring appliqué!

You may recall my talking about the SAQA challenge “Prism Play” that I struggled with over the last few months. Prism Play will be a traveling show, where 60 or so 15″ by 45″ quilts will be hung side by side in a rainbow effect. Each participant picked a color and had to work exclusively in that color, only varying values. I picked blue-violet, not an easy color! There’s not a lot of commercial fabric in that color to begin with, so with the help of a friend I dyed my own, which proved to have it’s own challenges. The photo I picked to execute, which I took in Pisa, Italy years ago of a statue, proved to be too difficult to do in my Matrix technique. This is part of the photo I wanted to do:

As you can see, the edges are very soft….too soft! I’m not going to show you what I did, it just has too much angst attached to it. Lesson learned! So….on to a different image.

My left hand…I had to print it out in 2 sections since it’s so long. It was enjoyable to make, especially after my former failure, which, did teach me a lot so I guess I shouldn’t call it a failure. OK, I take it back. Here’s the finished piece:

The thread is hand-embroidered, and the dots on the thimble are French knots. I call it “Blue-Violet Hand”. If you look closely you’ll see I wrote “Blue Violet Hand” into the quilting. I hope it gets in the show!

Before I leave you, apropos to nothing in particular, I’ll share a couple more pictures. The first is a shot of me playing pickleball. It has become a passion and I am playing almost every day. It has helped me retain my sanity as of late, and it great exercise. I’ve made so many new friends too! If you’re not familiar with it I suggest you check it out. Good for the over 60 set! I play with people in their 80’s even. It is so addicting. (see what I mean about the weather, so warm!)

Since today is Valentine’s Day, here’s a valentine for you, a photo of the cookies I made (another fun day with FTDF!)

Sending you all a big smooch and Valentine’s Day wishes for a great day! See you soon with another post.

A Tough Post to Write

by Sandra Bruce

Yep…this is a tough post to write.

Instead of packing and prepping for our 2021 retreat, I am unpacking things, and listening to the news about the Caldor Fire which has been approaching Lake Tahoe for a while now. We had to cancel our retreat in Zephyr Cove for next week. Zephyr Point is just over the California/Nevada border on Lake Tahoe, and only a handful of miles away from the fire. There’s been a bit of good news today with the weather cooperating a little more than it has for the firefighters who are working tirelessly to save one of the jewels of Northern California.

Zephyr Point Conference Center is one of the most beautiful facilities there is to hold a retreat. For 7 years we have conducted our retreats there, and marveled at the scenes outside our windows as we sewed: the pristine lake, mountains, and pine trees that smelled like heaven. Right now I shudder to think what the view is outside those windows. We hope and pray that the lake and all its surroundings are spared and the fire is extinguished in time. The Center is housing employees who live in South Lake Tahoe and have been evacuated. (I’m not sure if the Center itself has received the notice to evacuate.) If you would like to make a donation to the Center to help them during this difficult time, you may do so here:


We’ll be in touch, all of you who have faithfully followed our blog over the years. For now, we’re thankful to be safe here at home, as well as all our students who were so patient with us as this story unfolded. For now, I’d like to post a couple of my favorite Zephyr shots from past retreats.

Stay tuned, stay safe.

The Summer Indigo “Blues”

By Sandra Bruce

Hey, everyone, hope your summer is going well. Aside from really high temps that have me indoors more than I’d like, I’m still managing to play Pickleball, do a bit of gardening, and grilling on the deck. Pickleball, by the way, if you’ve never tried it, is totally addicting and great exercise. I needed something to counteract the hours I’ve been sitting lately, hand-sewing binding on some quilts 🙂

I did finish Maury and Maxine, as part of my bird series. The binding on it was some of the most complicated I’ve done, due to the color changes. This way of making matching binding is one of the techniques I’ll be teaching my students at Zephyr in September. I also have a mini-tutorial on CourseCraft on how to do it. (You can find it at https://coursecraft.net/c/matchedbinding). There are some interesting photos coming to my Zephyr workshop that my students have chosen to make their quilts from…..they have selected lots of animals! I do have a space left, (and I could stretch it to 2) if anyone out there wants to join us.

Here’s how it turned out, along with a closeup, and the back. It’s 24″ by 44″. The eyes are painted. Maury is the jokester!

Maury and Maxine

I never tire of making wonky blocks, and finally finished a batik wonky log-cabin quilt I started a while ago. I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s been fun taking a little break from Matrix to make some different and sometimes traditional-ish quilts. Here’s a closeup of it, showing the quilting. This has been my favorite quilting pattern of late. Smoky swirls!

I belong to a few groups, and the one that has been the longest running is “Friends to Dye For”. We have been meeting for over 23 years, less often now than in the first 15 years or so, but we still do get together when we can for fun days of different projects. In the past we have done every craft and sewing project you can imagine! Altered books, mosaics, polymer clay, prayer flags, paper collage, goofy hats, bedroom slippers…the list goes on and on. We decided recently to repeat an idea we did years ago that was very successful. Each month one of us (there’s 5) gets a turn, where we pick a quilt pattern and everyone shows up at your house to sew for you to get a whole top done in a day. I went first, and we had a blast sewing (inside where the AC was on, of course!). That was a 100 degree day, I recall, or close to it. I planned 2 quilts, as they were super simple and I hoped we’d have the time to at least start the 2nd top. The first, a pattern by Villa Rosa, “Beads”. In all black and white with chartreuse “beads”.

It went together super fast and we had the top together by lunchtime.

In the afternoon we worked on 144 of these little black and white squares (below)…the squares were made by the end of the day and I pieced them all together later. This also is a Villa Rosa pattern, called “Split Charms”. I ended up putting a mixed partial border on it, I’ll post it when it’s done 😉 The photo below shows the blocks loose on my design wall. Lively! I think scrap quilts are my favorite.

A few weeks later it was Michelle’s turn. She wanted squares made from dyed indigo to make a quilt with. We first spent time at Michelle’s kitchen table, with a box of assorted items such as wine corks, rubber bands, string, thread, twine, clamps and other trinkets. We used these things to tie up the stack of white cotton squares before us, in differing configurations, before throwing them in the dye bath, outside.

After coming out of the dye bath, the pieces needed a bit of sunlight. Interesting blue blobs.

Then we sat and untied/cut the rubber bands and such from the squares, to reveal the patterns we created.

Oh my, did they come out beautiful, or what?!

The clothesline filled up as the day wore on, it was such a delight to watch them appear.

Here’s a couple of my favorites…

I have to say, typically this blue is not one of my favorite colors, but I have to admit I love these and can easily imagine making something using this technique. Michelle will put this quilt together, and I will quilt it for her. Can’t wait to see what she puts together!

Coming up, I have a rather complicated Matrix quilt idea in the works, it’s still in my head but I want to start it before summer’s over. Looking forward to making a summer garment first. Then I will have Artistic Alchemy prep to take care of, as the retreat is around the corner! Happy sewing, and stay cool and safe.


by Sandra Bruce

I hear that word a lot from my son….. “whatsup”?

Well, summer is here (sort of…we’re having a rare chilly spell) and as we roll into the summer season we here at Artistic Alchemy are turning our thoughts and efforts to the retreat this Fall. I want to let everyone in our reading audience know, we traditionally have the deadline for signing up for Zephyr to be the beginning of July, but with this being our last year together teaching (after the year that we’ve all had!) we’ve decided to extend the deadline for those who might have been on the fence about coming. If this is you, please contact one of us for more information, or go ahead and send in your registration form. Having said this, we do have workshop size limitations, and the lake front rooms go first, so don’t hesitate to contact us for further info ASAP. At this moment I have a couple of spaces left in my Matrix workshop…hope you’ll join us! Over the last 8 years it’s been a privilege to work alongside Christine Barnes, Mary Boalt, and of course, Heidi Emmett and Jane Haworth. This fall’s workshop will be special, without a doubt.

I am a Juried Artist Member of SAQA, and am making an effort to be more involved with the local chapter and keeping up with some of the challenges and exhibitions they do, of which there are many. Twice a year a request goes out to make a 12″ by 12″ piece as a donation for an auction. I took an image that I had made before, you may recall seeing it, where I pieced blue squares together and painted an image of 2 pelicans onto it. I realized then that I like to paint on fabric, but it is piecing that I want to focus on. A bit of paint is OK especially to define something that is too tiny or difficult to piece, like eyes. Anyway, I took a portion of that image and reproduced it in Matrix for the auction. It was interesting to me to make a repeat image in a different method. Here’s what I did. Working small is a challenge to me for sure.

Recently, with life returning somewhat back to normal, I got together with my Friends to Dye For, for an outside dyeing day. We began this group about 23 years ago and we still get together, but just not as regularly as we used to. It was so fun to be with these ladies again! I found a stack of white fabric I was saving for a dyeing day, including a piece of velvet. I haven’t been sewing clothes much in the last few months, but now I have a stack to do some clothes sewing with. I came home with my pieces in buckets and pots. Yummy colors!

The velvet came out to be the best surprise, it’s a greenish gold that is one of my most favorite colors.

When I last wrote a post I was working on the big “scrap Vortex” piece that took up most of the length of my longarm, at 130 inches. It was a blast to put together, and no, I didn’t put much of a dent in my scrap bins. I counted the other day, I have 30 Sterilite 16-quart bins full of pieces that are fat quarters on down, in size. I think I could easily make a few more of these.

It made sense to quilt in as many different quilt patterns as I could think of…good for showing customers. I put in lots of words too.

Here is the finished piece on my studio wall. I matched the binding, natch. I have a short video on both IG (sbruce1955) and FaceBook (https://www.facebook.com/Sandra-Bruce-Creative-230949376954447) if you want to take a peek. People who have never seen a longarm doing its thing have been especially interested.

Back to my Matrix bird series….I’m working on a piece of 2 macaws. The photo, which I found on royalty-free Pixabay, made me laugh out loud. In progress:

I have 2 rows of 3 done (not sewn together), I can see I’m going to have to add a bit of paint to help distinguish some areas in the beaks. They don’t have eyes yet…they’ll be painted as well. I lightly drew them in for placement. Stay tuned!

That’s it for now…off to finish this top (hopefully) this weekend, in between my latest passion for Pickleball. Stay safe and happy weekend to you.

Artistic Alchemy 2021- Here’s Something You Won’t Want to Miss!

by Heidi Emmett

If you have considered coming to one of our retreats before, but delayed for one reason or another, thinking one day you would, THIS IS THE YEAR!

From the left Heidi Emmett, Jane Haworth, and Sandra Bruce.

If you have had a desire to take a workshop from Jane Haworth or Sandra Bruce, THIS IS THE YEAR TO DO IT! 2021 will be the last time Jane and Sandra’s “in person” workshops will be available through the Artistic Alchemy Retreat. Heidi Emmett is at the retreat as acting liaison for the whole retreat as well as being in Open Studio.

Both Jane and Sandra are teachers in demand; don’t miss this opportunity to have one-on-one attention and guidance from these two pros.

For more information on pricing of workshops which include all food and lodging, go to the registration page (on the home page).

This year marks our 7th year of Artistic Alchemy Retreats with workshops. Many wonderful memories have been created along the way. What’s better than time spent with amazing creative people and of course all the new friends we have made on this journey. We are making all efforts and planning for this retreat to be as good or better than previous ones. From short evening programs, to giveaways, show and tell, and “break out sessions”, we aim to please.

Ladies, this doesn’t mean that Artistic Alchemy Retreats are ending, just the “in person” workshops. We are already pondering ideas for 2022.  If given the opportunity for a 2022 Open Studio Artistic Alchemy Retreat, would you want to attend?

Here are a few pictures of Jane’s workshop.

Jane Haworth has a fresh approach to teaching fabric collage to create fabulous pet or animal portraits.
Start with your favorite picture of your pet. Awww…that’s a good dog.
Jane offers some very fun ways of “mark making.” Check out her complete workshop description on the home page under workshops Jane Haworth.

Open Studio is another choice. Read on.

Linda is one of THEE MOST productive people in Open Studio that I have ever seen. We still have spaces left. I, Heidi Emmett, will be your facilitator for your Open Studio experience should you choose that.
This is a great time to work on whatever you want to. Sew, and sew some more. Take a walk. Do your own yoga on the dock and of course, MORE sewing. Make new friends all with sewing creativity galore. Whether you want to sew “Art to Wear”, Quilts, hand stitching,or jewelry making, it’s all up to you. Everyone will have a six foot table of their own to use and plenty of irons and ironing boards are available.

Sandra Bruce teaches Material Matrix. Check out some of her students work from past Artistic Alchemy Retreats.

A Material Matrix quilt, “Josaphine”, by student France Courteau.

This student is showing great progress. Check out Sandra’s workshop particulars. On the home page, open the drop down menu labeled, “Workshops.”
Another of Sandra’s students transferring details for fabric placement.

For pricing on the workshops, which include all food and lodging, go to the registration page.


To the right in the picture are 3 stories of rooms reserved for the Artistic Alchemy Retreat. And it’s just steps to the outside lawn, and to the conference rooms where we hold the workshops, the dining room (Zephyr hired a NEW chef) and the shore of Lake Tahoe. You will never find a more reasonably priced venue than Zephyr Point anywhere else on Lake Tahoe.
There are always special goodies to purchase.

Don’t miss a single sunset this year, September 6-10th.

There are still a few spaces left in Jane and Sandra’s workshops and Open Studio. So don’t delay- SIGN UP NOW! Make this year, 2021, YOUR YEAR to get away, relax, learn something new, enjoy the views, and be with friends, in person. Any questions you might have, don’t hesitate to email any of us: Sandra Bruce, sandrabruce@pacbell.net, Jane Haworth, janehhaworth@gmail.com, Heidi Emmett, hmemmett@gmail.com. Let’s all get CREATIVE at Lake Tahoe this year!

Happy Friday

by Sandra Bruce

Happy Friday, everyone! The sun is shining and everything is blooming (achoo!!) I sure hope we get more rain before summer hits. My household is fully vaccinated now, so we celebrated by “going down the hill” (to Sacramento) for a fun day of shopping. In one day we managed Costco, JoAnn’s, Trader Joe’s, Ikea, and Target. To be back in the world! Life’s little (big!) pleasures.

Quick update: the Empty Spools registration is up and running, my workshop is in Session 4, if you are interested.

I want to show you a quilt made by one of my past Zephyr students, France. She came 2 years ago from Canada to work on an image of her dog, Josephine. She recently sent me a photo of the finished piece which I share here…..great job, France!

“Josaphine”, by France Courteau

In my last post I had just started a Matrix quilt of 2 budgies. The background was black in the photo. As it was progressing I felt like the black was…just too much, and not sure what to do. Take off a row? Here you see it in progress:

A blob of black, what to do? The solution was to “unsew” a bit, and insert a few blue pieces. It makes all the difference. Here’s the finished piece, “Beau and Bella”.

My next Matrix piece will be 2 macaws, in my continuation of the bird series I’m doing. But meanwhile…just to shake things up, I like to switch gears once in a while. I have a huge amount of batiks given to me by a friend, so I made 25 blocks of a wonky log cabin which I will make into a quilt. Wonky log cabin blocks are so easy and satisfying.

Meanwhile I continue with my longarm business. I get such an array of quilts to do. I so admire those who have the patience to do paper piecing. This customer makes big ones, they are always perfectly sewn, and not a speck of paper left on the back. How does she do it???

So…I realized recently that I’ve been doing long arming in my little studio downtown for 10 years, it’s unbelievable that that much time has passed. I wanted to do something to spark up my studio space. I’ve had the same 4 quilts hanging on the wall behind my longarm most of that 10 years, and I’m pretty tired of looking at them. Hmmm…maybe a new quilt where I can use up some scraps? What if I made a quilt that is the length of my machine? I was inspired by “MadgeMakes”, whom I follow on Instagram, by this quilt she had posted:

I really liked this idea. Similar to my “Color Dance” quilt I liked the concept of showing a rainbow scheme of colors. Without missing a beat I took the wonky batik blocks off my display wall and pulled out my yellows.

I made a quick sketch and decided to make 13 10-inch by 40 inch panels using the color wheel as my guide. I pulled out Cristine Barnes’ color wheel just to keep me on the straight and narrow, and to have a quick reference for opposites, which I inserted here and there for sparkle.

It’s going to end up being 40″ by 135″, and will just fit on my longarm 😉 It was super fun to watch it grow. I had to overlap the panels on my design wall for the sake of space.

By the time I do my next post I will show you the finished piece on my wall, I hope! In the meantime, I’ll start on my Macaw quilt. Keep on sewing, everyone. And don’t forget to take a look at our offerings for the Fall Retreat at Zephyr in September. I have 3 spaces left in my class 😉

Rainy/Snowy Days

by Sandra Bruce

As I sit at my computer writing this post I can hear the rain outside which is a happy sound, for sure. This is the time of year for us to get the bulk of our precipitation. Since my last post we have had a couple of snowfalls and some much needed rain as well. We need more, but whatever we get is appreciated.

My Matrix online course continues to be popular. I’m getting photos now of the finished course project from students, and even photos of Matrix quilts that have been made as further work. Here’s one that came my way, by Judy B, of poppies….good job, Judy! (she OK’d my sharing)

Anyone who missed my post about my online course in Matrix and is interested, you can view it here:


So far this year I have made 3 Matrix quilts, with a 4th in the works. I’ve been making smaller pieces which, obviously, go faster than the bigger ones…which I’ve been wanting to do. First I made a “commemorative” quilt for a friend who lost her dog Hoochie last year. I didn’t want her to know I was making it so I had to work with a photo of Hoochie that I took a couple of years ago. I would have chosen a different image had I been able to, but I made the one I had work with my process. I mailed it to her in Colorado and she is so happy to have it.

Hoochie had very soulful eyes, that I knew I couldn’t get just right by piecing, so I used ProFab paint to make the eyes just right. Sweet Hoochie!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am teaching at Empty Spools in March 2022, and I had to quickly produce a class project. I started out with a wonderful image of a pelican, only to come to the conclusion about 2 days work into it, that it was a bit too challenging for that purpose. So I put it aside and turned my attention to another image, of a seagull. I named him “Seamus”, and here is the finished piece. I think it will work nicely for Empty Spools. I love his feet 😉

In executing the eye area, I could not resist using a piece of fabric that had the word “bird” on it. After finishing I realized it was too prominent and took away from his eye….so I got out my Profab and painted a fairly transparent layer of white over it, just enough to kick it back a little bit. It’s fun to use fabrics that contain words. The eye is painted over the fabric in yellow with black definition around it. The painting was done after piecing but before quilting.

Here’s the back:

After finishing Seamus I brought the pelican back out to finish. I named him “Petey”. The image is all pieced, with the exception of his eye, the purple in his upper beak, and a bit of yellow in his wing. I used to think painting on my quilts was “cheating”, but it really allows me to create a bit of detail that otherwise would be too difficult to do by piecing. Believe me, I piece every possible place I can, so I have convinced myself that it’s OK to use a speck or two of paint. My work continues to evolve and this is just part of that process. Here is Petey:

And the back:

After doing 2 bird quilts and enjoying it so much I decided to continue and do a few more “smallish” quilts of other birds. Now I’m doing a pair of budgies, such little cuties they are! Here’s the photo I’m using:

I remember seeing a photo of my dad right after I was born, with me in his lap and a budgie sitting on the frame of his glasses. He would like this quilt.

Other birds waiting in the wings on my desktop are: macaws, puffins, toucans, and cockatoos. Oh, and I’m hoping for a good photo of flamingoes, one of the most interesting birds there are. I’ve got my eye out. I’ve had great luck with Pixabay, a site where you can find royalty-free images to use. Jane turned me on to that great site! I want a mama and baby flamingo.

That’s all for now….I’ll sign off here and wish everyone a productive and safe end of Winter. After having both my vaccine shots I’m breathing sighs of relief, as I know many are. I’m keeping positive that by September we will all be vaccinated and life will be truly be getting back to normal. Gathering at Zephyr with other sewing-sisters will be so gratifying! Check out our page on “Workshops” if you’re thinking of joining us, we’d love to have you. As of this writing I have 4 spaces left in my workshop.

Bye for now!

Announcing Our 2021 Retreat!

by Sandra Bruce

Greetings, Sewists! Jane, Heidi and I are pleased to be going forward with our 2021 Artistic Alchemy Retreat at Zephyr Point on Lake Tahoe, September 6-10. If you go to the “Workshops” page on this site it will take you to the information. After a year “off” we’re hoping you will be eager to come to this beautiful place, to gather with other like-minded creatives…..to sew, create, laugh, renew and make new friendships. If you’re new to us, and unfamiliar with what we’re about, be sure to look at our past retreat photos. We always have a blast!

This was the view a couple of years back from my classroom, can’t beat it! I will be teaching Matrix, and will have returning students, I’m happy to say. I hope you’ll consider joining us!

Since we’re hoping you’ll go peek at the offerings for this year, I’ll keep my post short and sweet. What have I been up to? I’ve been asked to teach at Empty Spools in 2022 (March 25-30, Session 4) and I’ll be doing a 5-day Matrix workshop. I wanted to make a good project for the students to do in that time frame, so started an image I loved of a pelican. Alas, only a few hours into it I realized it really wasn’t the right amount of challenge for beginners, so I switched gears and the pelican became….a seagull! The photo: (I love his feet)

I’ve named him “Seamus”, and here’s the top pieced, still a WIP, his eye still needs to be added, and it still needs quilting and finishing, of course:

Because of the size, the eye needs to be painted in. It’ll be good to have a new creative addition to my teaching, I’ll show students how to add the eye. My next post I’ll show the finished piece. Here’s my painting, in progress.

My CourseCraft offerings have been doing well, I’m slowly adding new things. I have so many ideas in my head for new quilt patterns and projects that I want to execute and add. Right now, I have 3: my Material Matrix course which can be viewed here: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK

Also, I pulled out the chapter on “How to Do a Matched Binding” from the Matrix course for those who are not interested in Matrix but would like to know how to make a matched binding, it’s a stand-alone quick course, and it can be viewed here: https://coursecraft.net/c/matchedbinding

Last but not least, a quilt pattern I made a while ago, called “Hugs and Kisses”, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s super simple and you could do a version of it even before February 14th, if you hop to it ;-). It can be viewed here:https://coursecraft.net/c/XXOO, and it looks like this:

Lastly, I wish you all love, hugs (and good chocolate) for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, and hope you will look at the offerings we have for this year’s retreat. We 3 are excited to be with the talented and fun ladies we always attract to our event!

Wrap-up 2020

by Sandra Bruce

As you may have read here in the recent past WordPress has totally changed the format for making a post, much to my frustration …my last post seemed easier, for some reason. All the photos I wanted to use popped up as you see below, but when I saw this configuration I kind of liked it and decided to leave them as they are and let you enjoy them as a “collage”. I went through my photos from the year and was determined to pick out photos that represented positive elements of my year. I must admit it wasn’t easy! But there were bright spots which will remain as good memories for me.

Please note, we are in the planning stages for our Fall Retreat at Zephyr Point, September 6-10, 2021. How wonderful it will be to be able to gather together for this event that will be our 8th year together as Artistic Alchemy. We’ll be making announcements soon regarding details.

My online Matrix course has been very successful and I hope it continues to be so. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:


I wish for each of you reading this blog, a happy and safe 2021, when we can put this year behind us. There is plenty to be thankful for, and reason for optimism. A truly new year is upon us, let’s make the most of it. (at the bottom of this post is a listing of the photos for those interested).

Left to right, top to bottom:

My outline for my online Matrix course, the intense but rewarding editing done on the computer, closeup of my Matrix entry for a SAQA exhibit “Wear Your Mask”, how it is possible to play Banangrams in the Covid times by each player using their own game tiles, first most-welcomed rain in November, my quilt of a trout made and given for a good deed done by a friend, enjoying my Featherweight, quilt pattern by Elizabeth Hartman made with Christmas fabrics, food in Israel January 2020, a student in my last Matrix in-person class February 2020, mask making makes you feel usefu!, my son Matteo is my mask tester, Zooming Zumba, social-distanced happy hour, a clean studio, watching “Hamilton” safely outside, enjoying being on the deck in the warm weather, perfecting my pizza making skills, working on a Matrix quilt, “Matteo in the Time of Covid”, Sardinia selfie 1993, fabric selecting for mask making.