2019 Zephyr Retreat Report

A few years ago a student requested that I teach a week long class about painting on fusibles. She wanted the full amount of time to design, embellish and complete a project. I hemmed and hawed and didn’t think it was a good idea at the time. But times change and, at the urging of others, I decided to go for it. To my surprise it was a hit and I was thrilled to have a full class with many ambitious, creative and hard working students.

It was wonderful to occupy Inspiration Point, one of the largest rooms we rent. It allowed us plenty of space for painting, designing, cutting out, sewing and ironing. All with a fantastic view of Lake Tahoe and perfect weather.

The ladies quickly settled in to paint. The first things they painted, just to get the feel of the products, were turned in to me to be used on the last day as a surprise project. Stay tuned.

Then they started to design their projects. I was so  impressed with such a wide variety of ideas. I learn so much from my students whether its color combinations or design style. Everyone brings something valuable and I love helping them accomplish their vision.

And then they embellished with machine stitching.

Followed by more embellishing with beads. Here are some finished and almost finished projects.

Friday morning was the surprise project taught by my sister, Patty. In a former life she taught paper arts classes with a focus on card making. We found a way to incorporate painted fusibles with window cards. Each student was handed their previously painted fusibles and here are the finished products. I love the way they turned out and everyone could take these home with them.

On Thursday afternoon we welcomed the students from the other classes to come and see what we had been creating all week. The room was full of curious ladies wondering how this unique embellishment is done.

With such a successful class accomplished, I’m offering it again next year. Stay tuned for our class list. It will be announced around the first of February. And don’t forget we have Open Studio, an opportunity to work on and catch up on your own personal  projects. Please join us at the most beautiful place on earth during Labor Day week 2020.

After our week at Zephyr is complete, we gear up for the next year with a photo shoot for new postcards. Here’s an out take to make you smile!

It’s Countdown Time!

The last couple of weeks in August always prove to be our busiest time of the year. We are bustling with putting the final touches on the annual Zephyr Retreat. We’ve been brainstorming over figuring out the daily schedules, making room assignments, creating cute items to sell in our store, making the final payment to the Conference Center and getting our supplies ready. We happily do this so our students can have the best retreat experience we can provide them. We will have close to forty women joining us this year. Some have enjoyed this special week many times before, some are attending for the first time. We’re are so excited to welcome them back or meet them for the first time. It’s a great creative week to just play and create together!

Having purchased way too many new stencils from Stencil Girl, ( hey! they were having a sale!) I got busy painting and sewing reusable journal covers. These have been a big hit when we participate in shows. The first one is made with a stencil designed by one of my fellow Sew Sistas and artist, Daniella Woolf. I love that it says nothing but gives the idea of script. There’s a word for that; asemic writing. Who knew?

Here are a few more made from my new stencils.

I’ve really enjoyed making these journal covers. They can be personalized to suit your needs.

Here are some lighthearted pictures to make you laugh.

There are these nifty tools to take care of dust build up.

But this is what I use!

My husband and I were recently at a museum where we saw this. It is the same exact serger my mother handed down to me many years ago. The prototype to all sergers!

And a clever new use for your tool caddy.

Every year my husband and I run in a six mile race, from Santa Cruz to Capitola, and after Zephyr I collapse into fall when I hope to start sewing for myself again.

I hope everyone is having a terrific summer creating clever things, having picnics with their families and enjoying vacation time. See you after Zephyr!



Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard

Who’s up for some bathroom cleaning? Yard work in the heat?

Having only scant material for this blog, these tasks have gone to the top of my to-do list.  I’m sure you’ve been there. There’s something you don’t want to do so you’ll do almost anything else. It’s followed by the inevitable procrastination! The excuses! The denial! The bathroom gets cleaned! Yup! It’s blog writing time and I’m dry!  I got nuthin’!  My cupboard is bare!

To help, my husband referred me to a blog he reads written by Seth Godin. On this day, the subject is how to become a writer. How to catch your readers attention in the first ten words. So, “who’s up for some bathroom cleaning?” will now be the first words seen in the caption every time anything from this post gets reposted, such as on Pinterest. Sigh!

So here goes……

Our presentation for the ASG in Roseville was a huge success. We led the morning with a show of wearables and quilt art. We were then treated to a lovely brunch followed by an afternoon of demonstrations by each of us. To accommodate the 80 women present, they came by our tables in four rotating groups of 20 people. It was quite the challenge to repeat four to five different painting, stenciling, stamping and silk screening techniques in 12-15 minutes! Stop! And do it again! And again and again! Whew!I managed to take a couple of early pictures before everyone arrived.My demo table before the explosion of activity.

Afterwards we all had items for sale. I brought some painted canvases, bags and journals with reusable painted covers. Here are some canvasses I painted before the big day.

Here are some journals.

These reusable journal covers have been an unexpected pleasure to make. Each one is different, a little jewel of ideas. They all have elastic page holders. Some have extra pockets and a slot for a pen. They make great gifts. I’ll have more for sale at our Zephyr retreat.

In the meantime, my project for this weekend is to have a garage sale. But it just might be time to clean the bathroom again.

I hope you’re all having a great summer and creating marvelous things.


Are you a pluviophile or a heliophile? To all of you pluviophiles, your ugly days are nearing an end! And I will be rejoicing! To set the record straight, lest you think I’m some sort of morbid freak, pluviophiles are people who love the rain and heliophiles are sun seekers. I am so happy to have spring around the corner after these many, many, many weeks of clouds and rain…and snow. What a long winter this has been. Here are some pictures around my house.So in my effort to find the humor in it, I share these thoughts with you.I will finish this weather rant by saying that this cloud-induced-lack of creativity slowly came to an end as two garments were finally finished. Whew! 

The first source of inspiration was Heidi’s Rods and Reels Pillow featured in the Winter 2015 issue of Stitch magazine. Here’s a picture to remind you.

All of the fabrics for this top came from that Great Fabric Source: My Stash. It included men’s ties, scraps of dupioni silk and some polka dot fashion fabric, all set on a mystery blend of lightly corded black fabric. Rayon embroidery thread was used in a triple stitch to make the cardiac stitch over the strips of silk.

Always on the lookout for clever new detail treatment, channels were made in the collar for a drawstring made from the polka dot fabric. It loops around two stacked buttons attached with embroidery floss.

You know that little strip of fabric that keeps the back part of men’s ties in place? Here is a new home for it.

This pattern is an Issey Miyake from Vogue #1476. It is no longer in print.

Again, after scouring my stash of freebies, donations and scraps, I went back to my roots of wearable art. I sold pieced garments for about ten years and still am drawn to them. This piece includes linen, silks, men’s suiting, light weight upholstery fabrics and brocade. I love the mix of incongruous materials, all in grays and pale yellows.

This is a ”Franken-pattern”.  The same Issey Miyake pattern as above was used for the body but the sleeves are changed, the neck is made into a V shape and the front band is triangle shaped with the buttons placed down the center.

A huge thank you to Heidi for the pictures and our friend for the use of her beautiful yard on an unusually warm 72 degree day!  And then it dropped thirty degrees and rained!   Sigh!

And now for an update on our September retreat at Zephyr Point. I am overwhelmed, pleased and grateful for a very full class. Thank you. There are still a few spaces left in the classes for Heidi, Jane and Sandra. Be sure to read their class descriptions and be inspired. Click on Workshops under the home page banner.  We would love to have you join us for five creative days in the most beautiful place on earth where the weather is delightful.

Carry on creatively, Mary


There’s A Whole Lot of Piecing Going On

My fall sewing retreat took place in October. The autumn group is called The Hauties. The spring group is called Sew Sistas. Many of us attend both. It always amazes me how many new ideas spring up from twenty women who have taken classes or tried something new in the previous six months. We come together to share these marvelous fiber adventures, new patterns, purchased treasures and unconventional ideas in this safe environment with others of like mind.

This year seemed to be the year for piecing fabric together. Some random. Some planned. All embellished! Most of it made and layered with raw edges and meandering stitches. A delightfully freeing exercise for using up those precious scraps and seeing them come to life in a new way. Hang on for the barrage of pictures….50 of them!

I’m going to begin with Helen because, well, Helen is awesome! A diminutive dynamo of creative energy. She can and will use everything and anything to express herself. She can take a man’s suit vest and give it nine lives. We love her.

A bounty of buttons and a boa on her blouse.

Do you have some old gloves you’ve inherited? Want to give yourself one continuous hug?

Now let’s head on over to the hardware store for some cables and flexible tubing.

And now one last piece from Helen. It’s still in the “pinned” stage in these pictures. What a great way to use up those precious pieces of ribbons and trim.

Sharon always brings good examples of her workshop projects. This simple pullover vest is a creative way to contain disparate pieces from your stash. Here is the front.

Here is the back.

And here are some close ups. It made me wonder how many sample and practice pieces of screen printing do we have tucked away? A logo from a beloved t-shirt? Or what if you screen printed over a t-shirt logo?

And there’s cardiac stitching everywhere to hold it all in place.

Heidi’s Terrific Tabard would be the ideal pattern for this surface design. Here’s another super creative vest featured in an older Threads magazine. It’s a Vogue pattern, 8430, without the sleeves. It’s been raw edged pieced and it’s reversible.

Gayle is our cashmere queen. She eco dyes recycled cashmere sweaters, cuts them up and pieces them back together with hand stitching. They are gorgeous to look at and even better to touch. Here she displays a large throw. Can you imagine cuddling up under that?!?

This darling little vest is from Diane Ericson’s Faultline pattern.

Don’t you love that running stitch throughout the whole piece? The little squares of cashmere are sewn onto a backing of netting. It was so soft and drapey.Gayle’s next top is a dream for any of us who like black and white and red. There were so many clever little places to look on this piece, I had to share them all.Front


Tiny running stitches!Cardiac stitching!Striped piping!All three! Be still my heart!

Here’s Sarah making easy work of embellishing. Buy printed fabric and just take a black marker to it with random abandon. Why didn’t I think of this?

Daniella modeling her kantha jacket.

A true artist, Daniella brought some silk she had “embellished” at home by BURNING it! Yup, those are burned holes. Cool, eh? Can’t wait to see what she makes with it and what she chooses for lining.

Gwen quietly sits and hand stitches many of her projects. They are absolutely gorgeous and thoughtful. She chose to work on a tea cozy pieced together with random fabrics, mostly decorator pieces. Then she began embroidery embellishments to tie them together. 

Some more of her work with leaves.

Using duct tape and plastic, Gwen created this rain coat and shared it with us. I know this is a Marcy Tilton pattern. I’m guessing Vogue 9287. If someone knows differently please let me know.

She also brought another rain coat made from a taffeta type polka dot. Embellished with simple tulle donuts, I must put this on my list of things to try.

Jenny attended a wool bead jewelry class in Mendocino. They made the beads themselves, beaded the balls, threaded them and built the necklaces. These are just so cute and colorful.

Vicky looked so put together with her purchased necklace and her repurposed men’s shirt top. Excellent creative vision.

 If you want to try this piecing idea on a small scale, this journal cover is perfect. Cute and clever.

Wynne, Helen’s daughter, spent her time embellishing onesies. We affectionately called them Wynnesies as she gave each one a new and different personality.Another small but effective detail that I want to try are these tiny tiny strips sewn on in a series of stripes. 

And this fabric necklace reminded me of Heidi’s necklaces. Cute! These could be made with scrapbooking paper too.

And finally, a nod to the freebie table. No one had any idea what this was but I thought it was amazing. I felt I had won the jackpot. Just look at all those treasures on it! Who knows what could be done with those! Dice, mah jhang tiles, scrabble letters and pieces of yard sticks. 

Outside of sewing machines and sergers, these tools get plenty of use.

Keep creating!


The four of us, Sandra, Heidi, Jane and myself all belong to extra groups outside of Artistic Alchemy. These groups continue to teach us new techniques and keep our creative juices flowing. My local wearable art group, Sierra Wearable Art Group is once again joining with the wearable art group in Lincoln to hold another pop-up sale. The spring event was a huge success and we are grateful to everyone who came to visit and shop with us.

If you live in the area, my apologies to those of you who do not, we would love to see you this Saturday at the Lincoln public library. There will be 15-20 artists selling their treasures, both for personal use and for gifts. Hope to see you there.