Archive for August, 2017

July’s assignment was landscapes. Woo hoo! My favorite. We were challenged with picking a scene that we see daily, in our neighborhood or town. I chose a photo I took on an evening dog ride.


Summer temps reach the triple digits where I live, so we find it is bearable just after the sun sets, to get outside for a little bit. I love this image because it captures so many things that I care about, my family, my dog, where I live, and the mountains. I especially like the way the setting sun caught the tips of the mountains turning their colors orange and pink.


This assignment focused on learning how to simplify a photograph to its main elements, and to not be afraid to add or move pieces to make the composition better, or to take pieces away. It also emphasized adding in to your artwork the piece that grabs you and makes your heart sing.


After going through the process of making my first sketch, modifying it, enlarging it, choosing where values would go, I was ready to select fabrics. I made two decisions for this quilt, to use fusible webbing and to dive in and use my ice dyed fabrics!


For the sky, I selected a piece of fabric I painted at a Road class many years ago. I’ve been going through a bit of a use-what-I-have kick, pushing myself to stop treasuring the fabrics and just use them! Many have been sitting in my drawers and cabinets for many years. The result – I’m loving the process of using them, and I can always dye more!


Here’s my piece almost all blocked out, as I continued to make fabric and value decisions. I missed mid-July deadline for the blocked out submission, so at this point I was standing in for myself as critique.


Quilting the piece was playful and fun. I followed the shapes of the clouds in the sky, the topography of the mountains, and tried to add some patterning in the foreground to represent the sage brush we have here in abundance. I finished it with a no binding facing. The quilt comes in at 11″ x 17″.


I am super pleased with how it came out. I’m glad I jumped in and used my ice dyed fabric. And I am inspired to paint more skies.


Do you think I captured my love of where I live and the glint of the setting sun on the mountains? I think the pink and orange of the fabric makes the mountain tips glow.

P.S. You might have noticed a flurry of blog posts and finished quilts recently! I am just finishing up a two week staycation that has been absolutely lovely. It is a great feeling to finish a lot of items on my to do list. I’m all caught up with my master class, and well on the way to completing gifts for friends and projects for myself. Thanks for reading!

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For May, our assignment was to learn about depth. How to make a flat quilt scene look more realistic. The first assignment was to draw our chosen scene twice, once using the new depth tools we had learned, and second making it flat, ignoring all those tools. I chose to capture a moment when my mom and I walked the Cotswold Way in England last summer.


We were challenged to use at least four tools to indicate depth. I chose to use foreground interest (making the foreground more detailed), overlapping shapes, road perspective (wider the closer it gets), and size relationships (shapes in the background are smaller).


After the first sketch, I made a second to incorporate the suggested changes from Elizabeth. These included moving the post left, working on the road in how it meets the horizon and the way the edges curve, and adding more interest to the bottom right.


For this class, I also wanted to challenge myself to use only print fabric from my stash. I made value decisions on my sketch, and sorted and selected fabric to match.


I enlarged the sketch and started to cut out the fabric shapes, pulling together the scene. I chose to try the glue method again, skipping fusible webbing (I’ll go back to my fusible webbing on my next quilt. Jury is still out on which I prefer, they both have their positive and negative aspects!).


From this round of critique, Elizabeth suggested I crop down the sky, double check I like the position of the post, switch up some of the tree trunk fabric as the patterning was distracting, add more fabric to the post to make it look more realistic, and adjust the small tree at the end of the road. Back to the drawing board and cutting mat!

Once I had it all where I wanted it to go, I glued it down, quilted, and bound it! I decided to go with a double border to give it a framed look.


The Cotswold Way markers became very dear to us, as they let us know we were on the right track. There often wasn’t a good trail or road to follow as we crossed forest and fields!


I really like the act of making a quilt of a treasured memory. I can just see my mom ahead of me walking down the trail past the large oak trees, before we stop in the next village for a cup of tea.

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I am so lucky! My husband built a dye studio space for me in our garage. We were gifted old counter top from a neighbor who was remodeling their kitchen. He rearranged some cabinets for the counter to sit on, and built some additional shelves above.


The area is almost six feet long, and is adjacent to a large industrial sink (perfect for rinsing), and our washer and dryer. Of course, I was impatient to move in.


I felt very gleeful as I unpacked my supplies from their bins they had been sitting in, to arrange in the space of the new cabinets. I am so thrilled to have a designated space for dyeing, with all my supplies ready to play with at a moments notice.


Of course, once I had it all arranged, I immediately wanted to try dyeing in the new space! Having just completed a small mountain quilt with some of my ice dyed fabrics (more on that coming soon!), I was inspired to dye more ice dyed fabrics!


What a pleasure it was, to pull out all the materials, set up the fabric and dye, and be off and away, new fabric in progress! No worrying about interfering with activities in my kitchen, or contaminating the food area. All I had to do was wait for the ice to melt!


Actually, I hope to do more ice dyeing. It’s been awhile, and I’m not sure if I used enough ice and/or dye. The picture above was the first round. When I rinsed out the fabrics, no dye had reached the bottom portion. So I attempted a second round, putting the fabrics in upside down (their un-dyed portion near the top) and I used more ice and dye.


However, the second batch didn’t sit overnight. You can see in the final fabric, the bottom half is more muted. I still like the result! Just fun to experiment and note results. I can’t wait to try more! Hmm, maybe I need to order more fabric …

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Among my family and friends, I am so blessed to get to help welcome into the world many little ones! I love giving a baby blanket to each little.


I remember starting this quilt back in winter, when snow piled up outside and storms raged. The outside temps are quite different now, but I was lucky to have some free time to finish up the quilt this summer.


I love using printed fabrics for baby quilts, with all the cute and modern prints available now! I made simple large rectangles for the front, and used some bicycle fabric for the back, as Zylvanio’s parents love to ride bikes.


For quilting, I did a cursive loopy line. I picked a bright green-blue fabric for binding. I love the feeling of pulling the freshly washed quilt out of the dryer! It’s so crinkly and soft. Perfect for baby!


I promptly shipped off the quilt, and was so pleased when mom shared of video of baby Zyl hanging out on the quilt. Love! I can’t wait to meet Zylvanio myself. In the meantime, there are a few more little ones who will be arriving in the next year. Time to play with more fabric!

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In Memory of Margaret

On Sunday, I received news that a dear friend had passed away. She had been fighting an illness, but it was still a surprise to hear. Since then, I’ve been thinking of her often, sifting through my memories and trying to understand. I’d like to honor her here, as she was such an enormous influence on my creative path, in addition to being a true friend.


Self Portrait, Quilt by Margaret Phelps

Margaret was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Eastern Sierra in 2008. I recall very vividly the first time I met her. I started volunteering with an outdoor education program, and my first day was helping with a second grade field trip in Fish Slough. Margaret was leading the talk on petroglyphs and archaeology. She had a confident way with the kids, alternately inspiring them and keeping them in line. She had boundless energy, leading group after group through her talk. During a break, we discovered we both liked to quilt, and Margaret invited me to join the local quilt guild. I think some part of me knew, in that moment, we were going to be friends.


My Mountains, Quilt by Margaret Phelps

Margaret had an unending curiosity and boundless enthusiasm. She had more energy than ten people combined, and used every minute of every day to make things happen. She was a Master Gardener, instrumental in starting a community garden, and worked with a local nonprofit to grow vegetables for a local soup kitchen. Margaret and a friend started a Children’s Day of the Arts event, and continued hosting it for many years, exposing youth to fun and crafty projects. She walked every day, rescued and loved countless dogs, cats, horses, and mules. Margaret was a volunteer steward of petroglyphs, where she would hike and observe a set site of petroglyphs, and report on any illegal activity observed. Those are just the pieces I can think of right now, I’m sure there were countless more!


And then there was Margaret’s crafty side, which is where we had so much fun together. Margaret wanted to try everything. She was curious, adventuresome, and brave. If she saw a technique in a magazine, she’d try it out. If she saw a class that looked interesting, she would go. And she would often bring back those skills, and share them with us. Which in a way is what started our Out of the Box group. In 2010, a small group of us interested in art quilting started to meet regularly, to share techniques and encourage each other. Over time, we started to host challenges and work on group quilts together. Each person brings so much to our small group, and Margaret contributed her love of learning and enthusiasm.

PicMonkey Collage

For example, after she attended a shibori dyeing class, Margaret shared what she learned at one of our Out of the Box meetings, and we all spent the day learning and making our own fabrics. Margaret gave. Margaret gave of herself, every day, in every way she knew how.


Margaret loved all animals. Here, her panel in our Mountain Quilt, she added two mules. When we lived in Bishop, my husband would walk our dog each morning before work. His route would pass by the community garden, where he would often see Margaret working in her plot. She loved our dog, and he loved her. She could scratch his ears in such a way that had him melting. Each time he would see her he would run over to say hello. She had this affect on all animals.


And Margaret and I had our own adventures together too. We attended Road to California together twice, taking a long two day workshop, the first time to learn to paint on fabric, and the second on color landscapes. Sometimes we would meet up to try out a new technique we saw in a magazine, like this time with dyeing fabric using silk ties. And we would also teach workshops together, like this time sharing with our guild on how to ice dye.


While much of the time quilting is spent at home alone, Margaret was a part of creating a community of women working together and encouraging each other’s passions. Margaret pushed us out of the box to try new things. She did it with energy. She did it with heart.


Margaret you will be truly missed.


I hope you always have lots of fabric piled around you to make stunning quilts with.

Good bye friend.

All quilts in this post by Margaret Phelps.

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As the note shared in the July package of scrumptious fabrics, summer in California is hot and dry.


To escape the heat, we head to the mountains and lakes to cool off. This past weekend we tried stand up paddle boarding with friends!


It was such a pleasure to be on the water, hearing the sounds of the paddle dipping in the water and the birds calling.


Maybe that is what is so magical about color and fabric, we can evoke the beauty of the natural world, reminding us of our favorite moments.


Moments like this, eating and sharing the largest piece of cherry pie you’ve ever seen, in a lovely garden as the sun sets overlooking a beautiful lake with good friends.


I think I just might have to use these fabrics to make a cherry pie quilt 🙂

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This quilt was started in March, where the assignment for the month focused on lines.


I chose to select a photo as my inspiration of a view up South Fork of Big Pine Creek, a hike up the watershed in the mountains above our home.

PicMonkey Collage

I managed to (almost) meet my first two deadlines, the sketch on the 10th and the (almost) blocked out quilt on the 20th.


The delay was partly life, as March got very busy. But also it was the size of the quilt. I went big! Elizabeth encouraged me to go larger, and so I did. (I don’t have the measurements, I forgot to take the final size before hanging it in the show! But I would guess around two feet high by four feet longish). This is definitely the largest art quilt I’ve made so far.

PicMonkey Collage2

The quilt sat on my design wall, waiting, for almost another month and a half, until, motivation struck again. As I’ve shared before, deadlines are wonderful motivators, and I had a deadline looming, but not a lot of free time. So I again fit in quilting whenever I could, in little 20 minute chunks, every day.


The second motivator for me was Instagram. Working in such small amounts of time, it was hard for me to feel like I was making progress. But each evening, I took a photo of whatever I had accomplished, and posted it to my Sierra Oak Threads account. Slowly, piece by piece, the quilt came together.


This quilt was unique (for me) in my construction method. Usually, I use a raw edge applique technique with my art quilts. Again, encouraged by my teacher Elizabeth, I pieced this quilt. For any of you who aren’t familiar with quilting, piecing straight lines is simple, piecing curves gets … interesting. I had no idea how to do it, if I could, or what it would look like. But I dove in head first. And it wasn’t too bad. I used a lot of pins. And a lot of steam pressing. And sometimes, I just let the crinkles and wrinkles be.

PicMonkey Collage3

The second unique construction piece about this quilt was the lines. On top of the challenge to piece the entire quilt, I also had the challenge of piecing in skinny lines between mountains. Again, lots of pinning. And lots of acceptance of crinkles and wrinkles.


Additional encouragement from Elizabeth was that all the lines in the quilt didn’t need to be the same color. So I had a dye day to make varying shades of black and gray fabric to use for the lines. I started with the darker color fabric in the foreground, working toward the lighter colored fabric for the background mountains.


One of my favorite moments in making this quilt was appliqueing the skyline. Okay, it is the only bit in the quilt that wasn’t pieced. The skyline had so many sharp angles, and was quite thick with layers of fabric, so I decided to not piece and applique instead. I really wanted this line to be clean and crisp. I like the texture that the fabric thickness made against the sky.


There is a texture to a completely pieced quilt that is so right, it is hard to put in words. No raw edges. One smooth surface. It was such a thrill to run my hand over the top, and feel the bumps and ridges and lines.


And then suddenly it was pieced. I hung the top on the design wall, and took a minute to just enjoy. And then promptly continued on, the deadline for the art show looming! Quilting and binding came together quickly, and I finished just in time to take the quilt on a hike.


It was a beautiful spring day with amazing wildflowers blooming. And it was so much fun to see the view that inspired the quilt after spending so many hours thinking about the view. I intimately knew the view, every mountain curve and point.


The next morning, I hung the quilt in the Mountain Perspectives art show at the Mountain Rambler Brewery. It will be there until October if you would like to see it in person!

I took so many pictures as part of the process, I thought it would be fun for you to see the quilt come together from sketch to finish. I used the pictures to get a sense of color selection, even switching out colors at the very last minute! And am so glad I did. There was one piece that had really been bothering me, and making the switch at the very end felt good. I wonder if you can spot the change?

It is a surreal feeling, to put so much effort and time into a project, and then be done. When I see the finished quilt, it is familiar, but strange too. In some ways, I know every millimeter of the quilt, inside and out. But in other ways, the finished quilt is a stranger that I am still getting to know, finished and on the wall. Sometimes when we go to the brewery, it’s like seeing an old friend after months apart.

I am excited to make another large sized quilt. There are unique challenges and opportunities to working bigger that I would enjoy exploring more. I would also like to try piecing another quilt. It does take longer than applique, but the result is different, and for some quilts, that might be the effect needed to achieve the vision. (I kept track of my time piecing, while in short 20-40 minutes bursts, took 16 hours to piece!! That doesn’t count the design or quilting process on either end, which probably added 4-6 hours).


Time to go for a hike and be inspired anew!




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