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.

Five New projects.

This is Jane

I am coming to you from an unseasonably hot Spring in California. How I know this? Its because daily I check on our current temperatures as I have started making a Temperature Quilt. If you have never heard about these do a google search and you will find many examples. It was something started by members of the Modern Quilt Guild and they will be having an exhibition of Temperature Quilts at the next Quiltcon in February 2022.

Chosen fabrics sorted for my temperature quilt.

Project 1. Temperature Quilt

I started by figuring out the range of temperatures at my home over the year. Using one fabric per 3 degrees seemed right, so from my stash, I chose about 20 fabrics to use. I also decided to use the Drunkards Path block and made them 4”. Now each day either taking data from our weather station or Weather Underground online I choose the correct fabric for the high and low temps of that day. Getting the right data has been my biggest issue but now I have settled into it. I just have to remember to make one block each day.

I did decide to add data for rain days or nights by using grey through black fabrics. So far we have just had one rain day since I started on April 1st. This will fun to see the progression of this quilt and how many days of rain!

SJSA Quilt of Rememberance

Project 2. Social Justice Sewing Academy Quilt

As a volunteer for the SJSA I was asked to make a Quilt Of Remembrance for a family in Minnesota. The person being memorialized was Matthew Tuhkanen, a dad of five kids who lost has life by law enforcement. I was given some photos to print onto fabric and details of his kids names, favorite colors and activities he liked.

As I had no clothing to work with I started by printing the photos and photos referencing his hobbies. His favorite colors were blue and grey and I pulled orange from the basketball reference. I gathered my fabrics and began making smaller blocks and rows using Maria Shell’s book Improv Patchwork. You will see in the photos my progression as the quilt came together on my “design floor”. I think the quilt was colorful and will be a wonderful memorial for the family. Here is their email.

Making memory quilts is special to me, I think that is why I make so many Quilts from Clothes.

Purple version of Tilly by Jane Haworth

Project 3. Pet Portraits

Finding time to work on my pet portrait collage quilts is hard when I am working on making custom quilts and teaching online. Recently I got a customer order form a man who had watched me on Quilting Arts TV and wanted to buy the purple and yellow Tilly Quilt. This quilt was used on the cover of the Quilting Arts magazine so I couldn’t sell it! I am now in the process of making another one. It’s fun to make it again and since I don’t have all the same fabrics it will be slightly different.

 Anyone wanting to sign up for my Mark-making and Fabric Collage workshop at the Zephyr retreat in September is welcome to bring a photo of their pet or favorite animal and work on that. We start by making the pattern, choosing fabrics and then working on the collage. It really is an addictive and freeing technique. I have plenty of space available in the workshop and I’m looking forward to getting away to Lake Tahoe in September.

Gathering pieces for my Vignettes Quilt

Project 4. Vignettes Quilt

I am a member of the MQG Modern Quilt Guild and have never yet attended a show but this year as it was online I did sign up for a workshop. I really enjoy improv piecing so the class I found was taught by Heidi Parkes and was called a Vignettes Quilt. Th idea was to make a quilt focusing on using the Elements of Art, the Postmodern Principles of Art and Art Vocabulary. This meant we had to include line, shape, color, texture, value, space, form, economy, appropriation, text, representation, gazing, obsessive, juxtaposition and more. 

It was perfect for me as I was able to use many of those saved textiles, quilt blocks, clothes and fabrics that I already have. Heidi Parkes hand-quilts all her quilts and I am proud to say I stitched half and hand stitched half.

Pieces of my Life Vignettes Quilt

I love this quilt and am already planning a couple more.

A few examples of my hand painted wildflower cards.

Project 5. Watercolour Painting

Finally my last project to share is watercolor painting. I tried to do the 100 day project by doing a small painting a day but only lasted about 5 days! I have all my supplies out and have been drawn to paint some of the wildflowers in my yard this Spring. We have lovely lupines, blue dicks, fairy lanterns and more. I did challenge myself to paint some of these using my non-dominant hand which takes away some of the fear. This would be my excuse if it didn’t look so good! Actually I was quite pleased with them. I am now working on making these with fabric or including them in my quilting.

Work-in-progress Wildflower table runner!

I hope I have inspired you to try a new project or have a go at a non-dominate hand painting. And don’t forget to sign up for the retreat if you haven’t done so already. Having had my vaccine I am excited to get away and share my time with other creative friends.

Online Teaching and our In-person Retreat

This is Jane. For my blog post this month I am reflecting on what I like about teaching my collage classes. I’ve been thinking about how I have survived 2020 by teaching online and enjoyed the experience. But now, although I am still teaching via Zoom, I’m excited and looking forward to our Artistic Alchemy retreat in September .

Ready to teach Hens and Roosters via Zoom

 It seems a long time since I have gathered with quilters or traveled to visit a quilt guild. I have kept busy presenting and teaching classes to quilt guilds and taught at many online quilt shows. I think this platform is great for sharing information with students, demos are successful because students have the best front row seat and working from home they will not run short of supplies. Also I can set up the day before and be ready at my laptop 30 mins before class starts.

This may look like a crazy amount of fabric but its enough for this fabric collage of Ruby the Cow

I do miss cruising the classroom and chatting with my students, monitoring how their work is progressing and offering tips along the way. When I teach online its harder to see the progress they are making and with collage its tricky to pick the piece up to show on camera. But recently I have received photos via email of finished students work. It makes me feel happy that they have enjoyed the process and then spent their time working and completing the project.

When I am teaching I like to say to my students “Value = Contrast = Dimension”  These words are especially important when making collage and other art practices. I encourage students to” look” at their photo. If you spend 5 minutes really looking at what is going on in a photo your brain will see things that you do not expect. Sometimes when we work we make things as we think they are. By showing what is really going will result in a better and more successful design!

Looking at contrast in a photo

In the photo above I see contrast between the color families of the two types of succulent. I see contrast when looking into the shadows between the leaves of the succulents and I see contrast between what is in focus in the foreground against the blurriness of the background.

Ruby 24″ x 34″

To achieve this I encourage students to exaggerate what they see for a successful piece of work. Where you see the shadows or the areas that are layered this would be where you need to add your dark or black fabrics. For those light reflections or highlights, use your lightest fabrics even going to white or off white. The rest of the time we can use the medium value or our fun fabrics.

Enough of this lesson!

At the 2021 Artistic Alchemy retreat in Lake Tahoe, September 6-10th, I will be teaching collage quilting starting from a photo or you can use one of my patterns.

Little succulent designs in blue and white pots

We will spend time learning to make a pattern, choosing the right fabrics to use and then jumping into my technique for making fabric collage. If you are unfamiliar I don’t use pattern pieces or use fusible on the backs of the fabric but trace the shape onto the fabric and cut it out. It is a little more freeform with fewer rules. Resulting in a finished piece that is fun and unique. I don’t want students to stress over this process as its just “small bits of fabric!”

As well as the fabric collage in my workshop we will be spending the first day playing with surface design and mark making. I love to do this when the opportunity arises. What is better than using your own handmade textiles in your collage. 

Lino Cutting and printmaking

I like to use textural print fabrics in my collage and if I’ve made them myself that is even better. I use paints, fabric or acrylic paints and a number of simple tools to create unique patterns and textures. For my workshop there will be a small fee for materials. I will provide paints, a gel plate, fabrics and other materials. You will have the opportunity to paint on fabric, make your own stamps, lino-cuts, cyanotype prints and monoprints. 

Spring is on its way in my garden.

Now looking at this photo, and I am really looking, I’m thinking about mark-making and collage. I could paint some fabric to make those beautiful violet and lavender petals. Also the texture of the sepal leaves could be created using mono-prints and then there is the blurred background to consider!

So if you are considering attending our retreat this September the registration is already open. Go to the Workshop page on the blog and you will find out more info about the pricing etc if you click on the registration button. Remember priority for lake-front rooms is given to those who sign up first.

My latest recommendation

After my post back in November when I reviewed many of the books that I had read over 2020 this is one of my newest reads. I’m over half way through and am really enjoying the narrative and the rich descriptions in this book. I believe there are plans for a movie in the works.

Let’s hope as Spring arrives we are all more optimistic. We can savor the days when we will be able to socialize and have fun together at the retreat. Keep creative as Heidi, Sandra and myself continue to do.

How Things have Changed!

This is Jane. A year ago (to the day) I was on Rhode Island visiting Newport and taking a tour of The Breakers. I was hosted by the Narragansett Bay Quilters Guild and taught two different one-day workshops. I keep thinking about all the unique opportunities that being a quilt teacher has given me. But now in our new Covid/Zoom world I am getting new but different opportunities.

Views to the mansions on the Cliff Walk

What a beautiful day, it was so unexpected. I will say my next three days were not so perfect as it rained, a lot!

The Cliff Walk at Newport, RI

Before my visit to Rhode Island I knew nothing of “The Mansions” and The Cliff Walk but was highly recommended by my host from the quilt guild. The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion built between 1893-95 and is worth $12.8 million today. The footprint of the building covers 1 acre and stands overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. During my visit it was decorated for the holidays and was just exquisite.

Workshop photo from my Travel Journal Quilt class.

See I really was working!

So now we are settled into our Covid/Zoom lifestyle I will catch you up on some of the things that I have doing and share some new opportunities open to us all. This morning at 7am I was the guest teacher for a quilt group in Massachusetts who usually host a Cape Cod retreat. I was honored to be asked and will be up bright and early again tomorrow, to continue my workshop.

My on demand workshop https://coursecraft.net/c/loveofpets/splash

My on demand workshop has had a steady stream of new students sign up and I am planning on putting together a new course in the New Year. I know Sandra has just released her workshop called Material Matrix and she must be feeling happy and relieved after all the effort putting it together. Her link is https://coursecraft.net/courses/z93eK I know Heidi is also working on one too. We know this does not replace an event like the Artistic Alchemy Retreat but it means our teaching is available to people who probably could never have attended an in-person event. Next years retreat will be Sept 6-10th 2021.

For those of you looking for online classes that you can sign up for independently of a quilt guild, look up Global Quilt Connections. It’s a great resource, put together by Sue Bleiweiss and Lyric Kinard. Here you can see quilt teachers from around the world presenting via 3 minute videos online classes they have available. Yesterday I presented my Coursecraft Pet Portrait workshop. Its hard making your own videos about yourself but I guess this is one of those new experiences I’ve had to get used to!

This is my fabric sketchbook

Through social media I found out about a November sketchbook challenge presented by Laura Kemshall on a website called Design Matters. It contains a wealth of videos and tutorials on surface design, crafts and quilting too. Laura and her mother Linda have been making online art and craft classes for over 15 years and are from Herefordshire, England. The workshops are very reasonably priced and given the time I would love to try more of these. I did join the sketchbook challenge!.

Sketchbook Challenge by Laura Kemshall

As a full time quilter and teacher my days are filled with either making custom t-shirt or necktie quilts, collage quilts, or prepping materials for new online classes. Over the last few months I have managed to squeeze in time to make these quilts to memorialize this time.

6” Rice pouch hand stitched.

Another small project I’ve been work on in the evenings is making these Asian inspired bags, postcards and wall hanging (in progress). I find hand stitching calming and keeps me awake!

These pieces are made using the stabilizer from neckties, craft felt, linen, Asian fabrics and sashiko cotton threads in blue, navy and cream. My stitches are simple and repetitive. The Japanese rice bag is a pattern from Kzstevens

Sheltering in Place

Even during lockdown I have stayed involved with my local quilt guild, Foothill Quilters Guild who switched to a Zoom format in July. I am co-ordinating a group effort to make these house blocks for their opportunity quilt 2022. The pattern is Villages by Pat Sloan and if you search online the free pattern is available.

Daisey

This is my latest custom quilt order of a dog called Daisey. I’m not sure of her breed but my customer told me how she is known for lying in this pose with her paws crossed. I have since quilted it which gives a different look as it helps to blend the fabrics.

After no summer vacation I did get a short getaway with two of my children, James and Lucy during Fall Break in October. Pinnacles National Park has been on my radar for a few years after I read about it in Sunset magazine. From my home it was an easy 4 hour drive to Central California. It is an amazing, small National Park that has incredible vistas of beautiful colored boulders and rock formations at every turn. The weather was incredible for October. At the end of our 4 hr hike up to the Pinnacles, around and over the boulders, down the ‘high and narrows trail’, it was 92′. We even got to see Condors! I highly recommend a visit and during weekdays camping reservations were easy to secure.

My crazy family!

Finally, it seems covid lockdown is taking an effect on us! My families bi-weekly chat has grown quite hilarious as we try out the special effects on the messenger app!

From Heidi, Sandra and I best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I’m sure many of us will be celebrating via Zoom. Hang in there as it won’t last forever. Stay creative till we can safely gather together again.

Making an Online Course

by Sandra Bruce

Oh, my! WordPress has a whole new layout….can I do this? On top of learning CourseCraft?

Since my last post (and even before) I’ve been working on an online course on how to do Material Matrix. It will not, of course, be quite the same as teaching in person, but it’s definitely the next best thing. I don’t feel like I can teach on Zoom, but doing it this way I can really control what people see and do it with the detail I want to show. CourseCraft is the platform I chose to use….Jane used it for her online class and I liked how it looked. It’s pretty easy to use and the templates are simple.

I made a very specific “outline” of what I wanted in the videos, of which I knew there would be plenty…with thumbnails to show Gary (my trusty camera person) where the camera would need to be.

As it turned out my iPhone took good video and we decided to use it instead of a camera. In hindsight….there were limitations. The iPhone did get hot and had to be stopped after a long bit of filming. And since the mic connection was coming out of it instead of the charger it did run out of juice. Oh….and we had to put it so high up in order to see everything it needed o see that Gary couldn’t see what was being filmed. So we set up a TV to use as a monitor to view what was being filmed. That worked well. We had to configure a strange looking setup in my studio. Ironing board to the rescue!

Nice lighting was a must.

I can’t believe I did it but I had to make another sample of my “Wake Up Cup” piece, as that is the project I chose to demo in the course. I have made so many, and taught it so many times, which turned out to be a good thing, in terms of getting my cookies in a row to prep for filming.

The picture below is a lousy one but you can see what a problem it was trying to put my self-portrait behind me for the video…2 big eyes staring around my head! We switched to my Color Dance quilt, just for the opening sequence. Most of the video is shot from overhead so it worked out.

I wondered how to handle the script. I didn’t want to sound like I was reading it, but needed to to keep on track and not forget anything. In the picture below I tried draping the paper script in front of me….didn’t work. My son informed me that there are apps that turn written word into a teleprompter on an iPad…..voila! It worked like a charm. I went off script plenty of times but I had it when I needed it. This is one of the million pictures we took to find the right background and right thing for me to wear.

There was a lot of list making to keep everything straight. I made 10 “chapters” plus a “bonus”, and 9 of them contain video.

When it came time for “Show and Tell” we had to schlep everything downstairs to the living room to have the space to spread out the quilts on a rack with good light. Gary had to climb onto our roof to cover skylights with blankets to control the light sources.

We uploaded videos daily to my computer and reviewed them for boo-boos.

Editing in iMovie is not too difficult, and you can add captions and all kinds of fun tricks to make a video look professional. We did add a few captions, and used the fade feature.

I made a fun logo since there is a space on CourseCraft for it.

At this point we are uploading the videos and will be done soon! When it’s time I will be announcing on social media that it is ready to go. The way it will work is a url will get you to CourseCraft where you can purchase the course and have it to view whenever you are ready! In the course I cover a lot, including (but not limited to): how to do my technique, how to grid your own photo, what makes a good photo to use in this technique, Show and Tell of my quilts and shots of quilts made by my students for your enjoyment. There’s also a bonus feature on how to make a matching binding. Over 2 hours of video in all. If you are interested in a heads-up on the availability of the course, I have started a list (over 100 already on it!) of email addresses of people who are interested in knowing…..send me an email if you want to be on the list. My email is: sandrabruce@pacbell.net. My past students (guilds and retreats) will get a discount on the course if they would like to have it to finish their project that didn’t quite get done, or they wan to go on and make another one using their own photo.

I am motivated to be done so I can start another Matrix quilt, so stay tuned, it won’t be long!

Life’s not All about Sewing!

This is Jane. My post this week will not only be a catch-up of what I have been up to these last few months but I will talk about some of the books I have read this year. Normally I read about 6-8 books a year but looking back at my Kindle I was surprised to see I have already read 14 books.

I have been trying to get out and walk most mornings but with the California wildfires leaving us with unhealthy air and smoky skies it has been hard to do! This morning the sun looked like a red halo behind the smoke.

Smoky Skies in Christian Valley, Auburn, ,CA

Another nice thing about walking and exploring my neighborhood streets is that I get to visit with the local animals. A shortcut from my house takes me down a quiet irrigation canal, the NID and I get to visit with these goats and alpaca. They make me laugh.

Look at this guy, I think he is going to have to be in a quilt!

2020 has left me at home working on custom quilt orders, and lecturing to quilt guilds online and also teaching classes via Zoom. I really don’t have much free time to finish off my own work or even start new projects. This leaves me little time to spend on chores around the house 🙂 or reorganize and tidy, as I have a desire to do! My plan is to take December off from sewing which is something I haven’t done in years!

It seems like other people have the time to sort and gather old shirts ready for a quilt. I am getting plenty of people contacting me wanting to get these projects started. I enjoy making these quilts as they are all unique and its quite a challenge to unify this items into a lovable heirloom. I just don’t want to be kept so busy that I can’t work on my own quilts too!

This quilt was an interesting one. It combines a lot of items from the career of a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader. She sent me a knit hat, jean jacket, socks, fake leather booties and some small and shiny athletic clothing as well as a couple of T-shirts! It turned out great, totally unique and I got a nice thank-you note from the recipient.

Another challenge I have been enjoying is taking silk neckties, deconstructing them, then using a string piecing method to construct blocks. My daughter Lucy, who is not working right now, has been coming home to help me out. We spend a lot of time trying to make all these random colors and patterns blend together to make the perfect quilt!

Amazing sunsets happen when you get smoke filled skies!

Now I’ll get to share a few of the books I have been enjoying this year. I like to read but the only time I get to is before I fall asleep at night and then if I wake during the night. I think in my menopausal state I have trouble sleeping and rather than lie awake stressing about not sleeping I just fire up the Kindle and read. I love it for that reason!

Have you heard of Bookbub? Every Friday I receive a weekly email from Bookbub with ebook offers that show selected books that are on sale for that week. Either from Amazon or wherever you download your ebooks. Many of these I purchased, at the time, for $1.99 instead of $12-14. You just sign up and check all the genres that you like to read and wait to see what’s on offer.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. This story is set in England on the south coast of Dorset and follows the early life of Mary Annings. Growing up in England I was intrigued by her life as she discovered many of the early famous fossils in her home town of Lyme Regis.

Ruthless River by Holly Fitzgerald was real page turner. A true adventure of a newly wed couple who end up on a raft in the middle of the Amazon trying to survive.

The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. Having recently got into playing with Indigo and dyeing my own fabrics I was intrigued to read about an early history of this plant. The story of Eliza Lucas as she steers her way to running one of her fathers plantations in South Carolina in the early 18th century and her desire to make this crop successful is powerful.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi The story of two half sisters born in Ghana in the 18th Century, one will marry an Englishman and the other sold into slavery. They are not aware of one another but over the generations their lives twist and turn in different ways.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I loved this book. A story about family, love, tradition, tea farming and the bond between mothers and daughters.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. When I read this I hadn’t realized it was by the same author as the above and maybe that’s why I loved it so much. When we aren’t able to travel reading about places I’ve never seen makes me an armchair traveller. This one I highly recommend although I remember a very disturbing scene.

Last one. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This book, released this summer was on various recommended reading lists and book club choices. Another book of parallel lives. It took a little to get into the characters but once I did it was hard to put down, even at 4 in the morning!

I added the links to Amazon to make it easier, although I am not affiliated with Amazon in any way.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about these books and I do like receiving good book recommendations. Maybe in another post I will tell you about my all time favorite books. All of which I still own and don’t want to throw away.

My Coursecraft workshop

Just a short plug for the online workshop that I put together back in June, (seems so long ago now!). Love of Pets is available for purchase and you will have access to it 24/7 for as long as you wish and you get to work at your own pace. Through photos, videos and step by step instructions I guide you from the photo to collage to finishing your quilt. I know Sandra Bruce has been spending a lot of time working on her Material Matrix course, Heidi has started on hers and I know Christine Barnes is working on an online color course too.

Check out my website for any upcoming events I am teaching for online or look in my shop for kits and patterns that I sell. Although we can’t meet on person it is so good for Artistic Alchemy to still be able to share our creativity during Covid times.

Reflections on the Artistic Alchemy Retreat

by Jane Haworth

Lake view from Zephyr Point

We have reached the end of August and during normal times we would all, students and teachers, be prepping for the Zephyr retreat but these aren’t normal times. Sadly Labor Day weekend will come and go without the excitement of driving to Tahoe, unpacking, settling in and meeting all the students. Alas we will have to wait until September 2021 for this. My post this time will be reflections about the retreat and I am happy to share I have some guest writers to help with me this.

Fallen Leaf Conference Room

If you have never joined us for a retreat Artistic Alchemy is a group of of three but previously four teachers that host a selection of workshops from quilting, collage, upcycling, designing and making wearables and surface design. This would have been the 7th year for Sandra Bruce, Heidi Emmett and I to organize and host this retreat for about 40-50 students.

Early morning solace at the lake

One of my favorite things to do while staying at the Zephyr Point Conference Center is to take an early morning walk around the property, then sit on the dock and look out at Lake Tahoe. 7am is a quiet time and this particular morning unfortunately a smoke haze could be seen in the distance. 2020 I was going to do an organized early morning walk with those who felt the urge or needed the exercise!

Postcard circa 2018

I was lucky enough to join Artistic Alchemy in 2018 after Christine Barnes stepped down. I knew Christine, Sandra and Heidi from the local teaching circuit and the day we took this photo was the day I met Mary. I was honored to join these wonderful ladies and be able to add another creative thread to the retreat.

Guest post from Christine Barnes

“There’s something magical about Artistic Alchemy at Zephyr Point. I think it’s a combination of the higher-altitude air, the amazing “water colors,” and a simplicity like no other place on Tahoe. When you add in the energy of committed sewists and quilters, all happy to be a part of the collective creativity, the result is a very special experience. In each of the four years I taught color workshops, I came home tired but on a high, thrilled to be a part of AA and excited to go after new ideas that came from watching my students work with color. (Getting somewhere with color takes practice, but gosh, the result is worth the effort!) I confess to feeling a bit down the year after I retired, but the memories and the insights I gained stay with me. I hope it’s been the same for my students—you can’t see me, but when I look at my pictures, I’m smiling at what you did and who you are.” Christine

Our design wall was color on display!
A whole of of auditioning went on at the wall. Here is one of my students from the Dakotas working on her Spumoni blocks. I think this is Gail, or Laurie—sorry I can’t quite recall.:-)

Guest post from Mary Boalt

“I want to thank Jane for asking me to reminisce for a moment or two. About now it’s good to spend a few minutes thinking about some happier times. I have fond memories of our retreats at Zephyr. The camaraderie among the women was amazing. Whether a quilter, art quilter, or wearable artist, the relationships built during that week were undeniable. We all shared a love of creating. What could be more fun? To spend four days immersed in learning a new technique and adding it to your repertoire of skills feels like pure joy and indulgence! I think the most exciting year was the five year anniversary of Artistic Alchemy. What a testament to the vision that Heidi, Christine and Sandra had to create a retreat for like minded women and have them “play” together for a week! Additionally, that first week in September has the best weather ever to be enjoyed along with the best view ever! I hope by this time next year you will be able to have this pleasure again. In the meantime, be careful, be safe and carry on creatively.” Fondly Mary Boalt.

Gail showing off her vest
Mary and some wonderful painted canvases

Guest post from Heidi Emmett

“I will TOTALLY miss the camaraderie that is developed during this time with each of my students and how we become a cohesive group with ideas bouncing off the walls for something that’s upcycled or a new technique to try. Everyone is enthusiastic in their own way and it is so fun to be a part of. I will miss the “ahha” moments when it is discovered that they CAN make and ENJOY a garment that they sewed themselves using my Art to Wear patterns. AND that it IS O.K. to break some sewing garment rules. They finally feel free to get some creativity going and it feels mighty fine!” Heidi. 

Sunset over Lake Tahoe. This happened during our nightly program

Sharing the lake with others is what Lake Tahoe is all about.

Guest post from Sandra Bruce

“One of my favorite parts of being at Zephyr with Artistic Alchemy is the shot we get of everyone at the end, on the last day. We don’t always get every single person, some ladies have to scoot early to catch planes, for instance, but it is so fun to gather as a group one last time for this picture. Friendships have been made, stories told and shared, and the week has been diffused with lots of creativity, learning, and laughs! Here’s the collection…2015 is missing from my photo library, but the rest are here.” Sandra

Group Phot0 2014
Group Photo 2016
Group Photo 2017
Group Photo 2018
Group Photo 2019

What a great look back over the years! Unfortunately Sandra couldn’t find the group photo for 2015. It is nice to see so many friendly, familiar faces and returning students too. Has anyone been to every retreat!

I remember in maybe 2015 looking at the Artistic Alchemy website and contemplating signing up for Open Studio. I joined the group in 2018 and it was my first retreat, first time at Zephyr Point and first time in this group. For the Artistic Alchemy 5th anniversary I contacted various quilt companies and individuals to see if they would donate some free swag for giveaways and I was totally surprised how generous people were. Thank you sponsors. It was so fun each night at the program/show and tell to be able to share all this swag!

Everyone looks happy with their free swag!!

I was looking forward to my workshop this year it was called Mark-making and Collage and would have included a day of playing and printing with fabric paints. I started to put together a fabric journal with some of my samples but I suppose now I have another year to work on this.

Working to combine the pages of this fabric Journal

Best wishes to you all for following along with our journey and although we won’t be at the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center this year we can all dream about it. We are planing to return next year September 6-10th 2021. Keep safe, keep well and keep creating.

Jane, Sandra, Mary and Heidi Sept 2019

The (not so) Lazy Days of Summer

by Sandra Bruce

As I write this it is National Lefty Day (Thursday the 13th) so I wish all you lefties out there a happy year ahead. I imagine many of you are, since creative types tend to be lefties. It is also the day before my son Matteo’s birthday, and I always think back to this day that should have been his birthday, but he was hesitant to come into the world and worked me for 22 hours, so it ended up being the 14th instead. Having kids sure does make you mark time, in so many ways!

In this post I’m going to show you 2 Matrix pieces I’ve completed since my last post. The first, a SAQA challenge, was to create a 12″ by 12″ piece that deals with what you are doing in your studio during the time of Covid. I have never attempted a Matrix piece that small, but decided to do it. I took a selfie that was in color and turned it into black and white.
I painted the circles on the mask with ProFab pant, the mask I was wearing did have those circles and this was an easy way to portray them. Everything else is pieced. There’s to be a show at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville in November, hopefully, that will have 40 of these pieces. I haven’t named it yet….

Speaking of selfies, my son Matteo took one that I have been really taken with. I made a Matrix quilt of him when he was a little boy, another when he was a teenager, and I thought it was time to make one of him as an adult. He grew a wonderful mustache that would be fun to do. The photo is intense and moody, just like we have all been feeling since Covid came into our lives.

I love all the value changes and cool colors. I knew after doing my RBG quilt that the transitions from light to dark would be tricky.

I blew up the gridded photo (2-8-1/2″ pieces taped together) and attached it to a piece of foam core.

I like all the dark sky-looking blues. Started here…

I started out going vertically instead of horizontally, to complete all the blue on the right hand side.  I stayed with all solid black in the darkest parts, which I don’t usually do….and ended up changing a lot of the squares later to textured blacks. What was I thinking?

You all know how I love doing eyes, this one proved to be fairly simple and straight-forward. It was the other eye, the one you hardly see, that was tricky.

In progress…

See all the pins, below, in the bottom 1/3rd. I usually sew together blocks of 16 but I was so undecided about the neck area, that I put all all the 2-inch squares in place there before sewing anything together. I reworked it a couple of times, and just was not happy but couldn’t figure out why. The purple is pushed to an extreme from the photo. I then decided the problem was there was too much neck showing. It was too much purple and too distracting, and just…unnecessary, so I took off the bottom 3 rows. Voila! That solved it. (hold your hand over the bottom 3 rows and you’ll see what I mean).

Once the top was together it went downtown to be quilted. The first thread I pulled out to use was my favorite Omni thread, “Tapestry Taupe”. This is a wonderful color that I use all the time and it looks good on almost everything (in the foreground near the bottom of the photo).
I matched the binding like I usually do. It is 39″ by 47″Here’s the finish, and a couple of closeups:

I named it, “Matteo in the Time of Covid”, since the photo was taken and the quilt made during this time. Not to mention, Matteo had Covid and was pretty sick for 2 weeks. I’m so thankful he was able to overcome it as he did, being strong and young. His test was negative but we are sure he had it from all his symptoms. He’s fine now! 

Matteo looks so much like my dad, especially now that he is grown. My handsome dad….. here he is at Matteo’s age. I see my dad, who is gone, when I look at Matteo.

That’s it for now…I hope you all are well, and stay well. We are nearing the time that our Artists Alchemy Retreat would have been happening, in normal times we would be gathering supplies and goodies for our Zephyr retreat. Next year will be twice as good for all our waiting! Take care, everyone, and I hope you are happily sewing.

Going Virtual is our “new normal”

This is Jane. Can you believe it is July! When I think back March, April, May they all seem to have blended into one. Last week I released the online workshop ‘Love of Pets Fabric Collage’ that I have been working on for the last six weeks. In my last post I had just started working on this project.

Being a creative person, used to making and using my hands it was hard to be on the computer for much of my time. I was craving just to sit at my sewing machine and work on making a T-shirt quilt!! There was one week where I worked on my samples, took photos and didn’t actually work on the class.

This is Duncan who is featured in my workshop in a timelapse of his construction.

Right now the workshop is on sale at an early bird price of $50 and will be going back to its regular price of $65 at the end of next week. Below is the link for the workshop.

Love of Pets Landing Page This is the page where you can see a welcome video, details of what you will learn and table of contents for the workshop. This would be at least a 3 day workshop and is divided into 10+ lessons, 80+ minutes of video and then descriptions and photos.

Have you tried the Layout app? Its a must for a quilter. How you may be asking?

You can take one photo or a number, up to 9, and make them into a grid or other layout. Using 4 you get a four-patch or 9 a nine-patch. Then you save that layout block and then use it again to make another layout grid. Above I selected 4 photos of pizza our friend Zac made us, then I repeated the image 8 times using a mirror image layout. You can also rotate the photos.

Here I took a 5” string pieced diagonal block and made a four patch with it but I rotated two of the photos so it produced a diamond. Then I saved this image. For the next photo I repeated that same block nine times, as in the nine patch and saved it again. Then below I used this same image that I saved and made a four-patch. It is great to see how if you just make one block you can see how a full size quilt will look as it is repeated.

This whole repeat began with one 5” string pieced block in the Layout app.

I usually use this app to show photos of my work or students work so that I can just upload one image which features nine pieces of art. The image below I combined nine different eyes and was a very popular post when I shared it on social media. Its also in the “Its all about the eyes!” lesson in my workshop.

Nine different pet eyes combined into a nine-patch.

This week I presented at a virtual Meet the Teachers event that the Northern California Quilt Council put on for teachers, quilts guilds and quilt shops. NCQC has done an excellent job during these difficult times for quilt guilds to help them to adapt and continue using Zoom. They have put on a number of virtual events of education, sharing and connecting guilds and teachers. I have heard from other teachers on the East Coast and there is nothing similar and guilds are just on pause with teachers being cancelled. What is nice now is that guilds can invite teachers nationally and internationally to share and teach without any of the travel expenses!

This is my teaching/demo set-up for filming and Zoom.

Next week I will be doing a studio tour and trunk show of my latest work to my guild, the Foothill Quilt Guild and also sharing my trip to Dubai. Then the following day will be my first online class which will be a practise run for other virtual classes I’ll be offering via Zoom. I have been invited to teach at the Mancuso Virtual Quilt Show that runs August 12-15th. The classes will be announced mid July.

I call this workshop Pink Cosmos Fabric Collage and is about a 20” quilt that could be used for a wall hanging, bag or pillow.

We spent July 4th weekend up at a friends cabin in Serene Lakes, CA which is up on Donner Summit. We spent 3 days exploring trails, hiking and generally relaxing, which makes a change for me! The wildflowers up there are incredible, the trails around the Royal Gorge Cross country ski resort quiet and well maintained.

Incredible wildflowers on Donner Summit right now.

Finally I almost forgot last week I took my son James and Zac for a hike in the Auburn Confluence area. We were hiking the Lake Clementine trail to the left of the American River and there we noticed down across the river a mother bear with her two cubs playing in the water. It was a true David Attenborough moment! We watched for a long time as the cubs exited the river, climbed up onto the trail on the other side and then disappeared into the tree growth. A once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

Black playing with her cubs in the American River

Check out my workshop if you are interested since sadly no retreat this year and keep inspired and creative.

Changing Times. Embracing Technology!

This is Jane. My blog post this week will start from a message from us all.

 It is our utmost desire when having our retreats at Zephyr to give you the optimum experience….where you are able to learn, laugh, and enjoy the company of the other sewists in the beautiful setting of Lake Tahoe. We three, Jane, Heidi and Sandra have been in constant communication with Zephyr, and between ourselves, about the fate of the September retreat in light of the Covid virus. We want, more than anything, to be able to go forward there in safety and assurance of a positive experience for you all. When we were in discussion about this issue we came to the ultimate conclusion that we cannot assure these objectives. In many ways it is out of our hands and for that reason we are postponing our September retreat until 2021. Your safety and positive experience are our primary goals.
  
We know how disappointed you are, as are we, but you surely understand where we are coming from in postponing the retreat. Please email us for any questions you may have. This is unprecedented territory for us, and we pledge to be fair and equitable going forward. We want 2021 to be a fantastic year with a retreat that is the best yet.

Artistic Alchemy retreat Zephyr Point

Lake view from Zephyr Point

It makes us sad to have made this decision but I feel we can all now move forward and focus on the retreat for 2021. As a traveling quilt teacher I have just about written off 2020. I still have a few things on my calendar but I shall have to wait and see if they go ahead. As I said in my blog title, even I am now having to jump on the technology bandwagon, something a few weeks ago I just wasn’t interested in doing.

Mark-making and Collage Jane Haworth

Fabric Journal, one of the samples for Artistic Alchemy retreat

As for technology I recently presented my lecture ‘Living a Creative Life’ to the San Francisco Quilt Guild using Zoom! My Power Point lasted 30 minutes, followed by Q & A, and went down well, I believe!  We had 138 attendees and all stayed till the end. I will say I did miss the audience reactions and participation though.

Pet Portrait Fabric collage Jane Haworth

Precious

And I am now working on putting together an online class called Love of Pets Fabric Collage. This wasn’t something I had considered but as time goes on and reality sets in I know I won’t be teaching in person for a while. When I think about the opportunities that this opens up, its pretty good. Quilters from all around the country and world will have the chance to take my class.

Fabric Jane Haworth

Fabric selection ideas for Love of Pets online class

The good thing that has come out of this pandemic is reconnecting with family, and friends using either Messenger video groups, Instagram Live or Zoom. I come from a large family, all of them in the UK and for the first we have been catching up virtually. Pokey Bolton has a daily chat with quilters and artists on Instagram Live at 1pm pacific time and I was on with her a few weeks ago talking about this very subject, teaching cancellations and ways to move forward. Then lets not mention the funny glasses my close friend Ronnie and I found on Messenger video!

Hanging out on the porch May 2020

Porch time during lockdown

Staying at home I think is made easier by creating routines. I will work in the morning, have a family lunch and play Yahtzee on the iPad, listen to Pokey’s 1pm chat, work the afternoon till about 5 when its “Beer O’clock”. This is our family time for a beer on the porch and daily card game challenge! Our favorites are Wizard, Knaves and Phase 10.

Big Frank Jane Haworth

Big Frank 46″ x 69″

Now that I have had more time for sewing I will share what I’ve been working on over the last couple of months. With the deadline to enter the World of Beauty quilt competition at IQF Houston coming up, I decided to make a couple of large quilts. I always think a quilt needs to be big to look impressive hanging in a quilt show. So Big Frank was created! I’m pretty happy with him and am now working on Little Frank and perhaps pattern I can share.

Big Franks Eye Jane Haworth

Detail of the eye, approx 9” x 6”

Here is a detail of his eye and really I don’t think it looks as impressive close-up as you just see the different fabrics I included. Some are pretty random! When I started this quilt my intent to use scraps and those old fabrics I have but never use. Pretty much the ugly ones! I started with a grey, brown and blue palette but as the quilt grew I would get bored with using these same fabrics and so I’d look through my stash and grab a bunch in another color. So now as he progressed I added those greens, ochres and even pinks!

Notes of Hope Jane Haworth

Notes of Hope 81” x 61”

This is the other large quilt I have been working on and just finished.  I made it in response to the Mountain Art Quilters Spring challenge. The category that spoke to me was ‘Colors of Emotion’

Forestall Bridge

Small ‘messages of hope’ attached to the railings on the Foresthill Bridge, CA

The story behind this quilt. In 2018 I remember hearing on the news that a lady from Auburn, Brittney Hendricks, organized for volunteers to make ‘Notes of Hope’ that they attached to the railings on the Foresthill Bridge. This bridge is located just outside Auburn, CA is the highest bridge in California and fourth highest in the USA and has been the scene for 90 suicides since it was built in 1947. These ‘messages of hope’ attached to the bridge are an attempt to convince people that life continues to be worth living. I walked the bridge with my son James in the new year and took many photos.

These photos I printed onto fabric sheets and then Improv pieced everything together. Starting with the words, the dark black fabrics around them, included a small colorful border and then more black border. I will say it was a little tricky to square it up!

This little ‘Yorkie’ quilt is one of many samples started whilst demoing in the classes I teach. Having more time now I want to work on these. Once the collage was finished it was time to choose the background. I put these photos on my new Facebook group Fabric Collage School asking for opinions and although I love the busy background on the left I settled with the more restful blue one on the right. Its so fun to get peoples ideas and opinions while you are still working on something!

Dirty Machine Jane Haworth

Time to clean this machine!

After spending a month making masks, and sewing everyday I finally decided it was time to clean out my sewing machine. I have a Juki 2010Q which is a straight stitch semi-industrial machine and I love it. Its a workhorse. Everyday I oil my machine and clean out around the bobbin but it has this little hatch underneath that was last cleaned out around Christmas. I think it was time!

Now its time to get back to sewing, video taping my work in progress for my online class and entering my quilts into World of Beauty. Although sadly we won’t be holding our retreat I do want to devote some time to fabric play and mark-making and come up with some great samples for next time. Out of interest is anyone up for some kind of virtual Artistic Alchemy event?