The creative and spiritual journey of a (textile) recycler. . .

I have thought about starting a blog for a long time now. I just couldn’t seem to get started. I thought. . what would I say, what would I do and really . . . . . who would care.

Last year I had the great fortune to witness a ‘happening’. As a spouse at a reunion (I know, groan) I was both an observer and participant. This reunion was attended by some of the most creative and talented people on the face of the planet. Really, no exaggeration! But many were holding onto life long insecurities. They didn’t think they were talented enough and embarrassed to perform in front of each other for fear of . . who knows . . . finger pointing, whispers, laughter, ridicule of some sort for sure. Once it was revealed that many shared the same feelings, the healing began. And I was the lucky one. I got to witness it all and benefit as well.

So, the message is that we all think we are not good enough compared to someone else, but we are. Don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you. We can’t measure our own success by someone else’s talents.

This revelation and the kindness / support of strangers has propelled my creative journey to a place I had given up ever getting to. Tho I thought my creative juices were dried up forever, they have merely been reawakened. Many thanks to all involved in my process, including in-part . . Victoria B, Mrs. W., Charles Mc., Claudia H, Mary B, Cindy G, Sandy B, Traci B., Kat C, and my IAA family. So, thank you. I dedicate this blog to all of you!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ok Ok Universe! I get the message!

Well. I got an other kick today from the Universe. I need to get my butt in gear and start creating more work and do it more often. Again, life gets in the way and it's so easy to put the creative stuff on the back burner. . .

Well, thanks to that well placed kick and a call from a friend this morning, I'm going to get the Universe off my back and go make something fabulous. . .

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chance meeting

I always marvel at how people and things are placed in our path when we need it. . . whether we know it or not. The key is being able to recognize what is happening and being able to process the message.

My creativity has been sidetracked lately. . by life. It happens. I've learned not to push it or force anything, but I feel that the longer it takes me to get back to creating, the harder it is to be creative. Through a chance meeting and subsequent conversation with a like-minded stranger today I think that my spark has been renewed. Funny how that happens. . . and even funnier. . . I think it worked the same for us both. . .

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekly Quilt Journal Project: week 7

Sometimes I get in my own way when it comes to being creative. I get blocked. Ideas flood my brain and won't stop. Sometimes it goes on day and night for a day or so, but most of the time it's weeks or months at a time. There's no relief. When that happens, I become unable to pull one little idea out of my head and start working on it. Getting better at directing and channeling the ideas is part of my journey. Tho I keep sketch and idea books, it doesn't help. There are just too many ideas . . .

One of the many images that has been gnawing at me is a photo taken by my buddy and wonderful singer, songwriter Anne Hills. It has called to me for over a year now and I just have to do something to start the ball rolling.

So today I said the heck with it and just grabbed some fabric and started painting, stamping, screening. When done I took the one that a dried first and started playing.

After tormenting the fabric, I stitched the bird and tree outline image from Anne's photo.

The fabric that that I used wasn't a very tight weave. Normally that wouldn't have been a huge problem, but my 'batting' choice made for a bad combination. It was from an old mattress pad that had seen better days. While doing the free motion sewing, I had trouble with stretching because the piece didn't have enough body. I see where I went wrong and will definitely make adjustments in the future.

Shortly after starting this weekly project, I decided that it made sense to create a binder of experiments. That way I can play with fabrics, techniques, images, etc. in small quiltlets rather than mess up an already almost finished quilt. (been there, done that) Good thing because this week was chock full of lessons!

Enjoy a song from Anne Hills:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recycled memories?

Last night while driving home in the rain, a song from the 70's shot out of the radio and straight into my heart. 'It's Raining Men' by the Weather Girls. I quickly began recycling old memories. Can you recycle memories? I think so. I think we have our favorites that we recall on a regular basis, but every once in a while something jogs our memory and a long forgotten one pushes to the surface. That's what happened to me in the car. Hearing Martha Wash belt out that "It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! - It's Raining Men!" I started to smile and bop my head to that driving beat. 

"Humidity's rising - Barometer's getting low
According to all sources, the street's the place to go
Cause tonight for the first time
Just about half-past ten
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men."

Makes you want to giggle doesn't it? How can you be in a bad mood after hearing THAT?

I was quickly transported to that time when sewing (unless it was to make dresses for dancing) and being creative was less important. Not because there was no interest, but just due to time constraints. The music and dancing were the priority and sewing was a means of having something wonderful and comfortable to wear while doing it. My free time was filled by spending it with friends on the dance floor . . . at bars, parties, someone's house. . . where ever there was music. I loved life. . my friends . . and dancing. . . with that driving beat hitting my chest, pumping in my head and making my feet do magical things.

"It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! - It's Raining Men! Amen!
I'm gonna go out to run and let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet!
It's Raining Men! Hallelujah!
It's Raining Men! Every Specimen!
Tall, blonde, dark and lean
Rough and tough and strong and mean"

I'm still friends with all those dancer folks from days gone by. Tho we all live in different cities and states now, it's wonderful to keep in touch whether by phone, email, Facebook. . .  whatever.  We have all grown up together so to speak, and the individual journeys we have all taken is a marvel in itself. We've aged quite a bit. Most all of us have some grey hair and creaky joint issues. But hey, those memories will live on. I also thought about the people I have lost touch with and shouldn't have or those that have passed on. Again, it's all part of spiritual growth. Nothing stays the same. Every day is a new experience and a new set of rules. I'm thankful for everyone who has touched my life, good or bad. They have made me who I am today. A piece of everything and everyone shows up in my art work, my confidence (or lack of in some cases), and my creative energy.

Thank you Paul Jabara for writing this song and giving me such wonderful memories to recycle and reflect on. Your music brought a lot of people together, made us happy. (He also wrote thank G-d it's Friday with Donna Summer)

"G-d bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too
She took off to heaven and she did what she had to do
She taught every angel to rearrange the sky
So that each and every woman could find her perfect guy
It's Raining Men! Yeah!"

p.s. I still have fabric scraps from those dresses and have been using them in my art quilts. So how's that for recycling!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A gift of trash

You may be asking where the recycling is on this blog (remember this blog is also about my journey) . . .  Well, I have a friend that saves lots of stuff for me. She always sets aside her . . .  well. . . trash for me. There is always something of great value to me. 

A few weeks ago I was wishing I had a piece of foam core to start a quilt. The next day I stopped by for an impromptu visit and she pulled out amongst other great stuff, a wonderful piece of cardboard asking if I could use it. It was just the perfect size. What a gift! I was so excited that I'm sure she thought I was crazy. 

Well, I may be crazy, but I built my bird quilt on that very piece of cardboard! So, thank you dear friend. I love recycling anything and everything. . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Update: Bird quilt done!

I'm not completely finished with this quilt. I still need to add the binding and maybe it bit more paint here and there, but at least the quilting is done.

I really like adding bits of paint to accent or shade where it seems to it call out for it. On this one, I added paint to the top of the head, the beak, the side walls of the building, and on the side of body and under tree and bird for shadows.

UPDATE: OCT 28, 2011
Now it's done! And on laying on top of my cardboard gift. Sometimes it's hard to know just when to stop before you get into 'oh-oh what did I just do' territory.

As you will see, I added paint to the door and slightly increased the shadow to the wall near the door. I particularly like the very narrow binding around it, too. The longer angle at the bottom left is the quilt, not a poor photo taking. I tend to like things that are asymmetric and a bit off kilter. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quilt in progress

I get asked all the time how I create a quilt. The answer is that it's always different. It depends on the subject, style, size, mood I want to evoke. . . . and my mood.

Currently I have been itching to recreate a photo I took of a huge metal bird outside of a gallery in northern Michigan. So the following is the work in progress: 

I start by selecting an image, in this case the bird photo. I like to work small but decided to make it a bit bigger, 11 x 17 this time. After selecting a healthy dose of fabric choices from yardage and my all time favorites. . . scraps. . . I threw everything on the bed and settled in to make the piece.

I first pinned the paper pattern at the top to prevent shifting, placed the background colors in the appropriate spaces, then proceeded to cut the large body piece and lay it in place
Then added the second largest body piece to the right of the red
Next the peach colored shading and beak

Now the top of the head and feet

It's starting to take shape. . . but wait. .  I had to change out the beak color. I like this better. I also added the eyes

(what the camera doesn't pick up is that the eyes are sparkly fabric and the top of the head and beak, shimmery)
Oh boy . . . now it's time to paint some shadows and highlights

For recycling at its finest, I'm using a plastic pie carrying thingy to keep the paint bottles organized (?) and to prevent spillage on the bed, plus an old script bottle for the water :) Perfecto!

So the shading has been added under the bird and highlights added to the top of the head, beak, body and legs

I think that'll do it for today. . .  I'll finish him up some time next week. . . .

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dye, dye, fabric dye - part 2

Here are part of the results from the very impromptu dye day a few days ago. (the balance are still in the dryer) Keep in mind, I did everything wrong. I did not use enough dye, batch it long enough or hot enough and oh yah, they were all dyed in the same bucket at the same time, one piece on top of the other, but I can't tell you in what order.

Starting from the top down:

1/ This fabric is all poly, a type of waffle pattern & dyed solid light blue, no mottling

2/ This fabric has slubby linen feel but has poly in it & dyed a nice solid mauve color

3/ This fabric is cotton with linen feel & dyed a nice mottled combination of blues, mauves, & green

4/ This fabric is poly but looks like polished cotton & dyed mostly blue with some pink mottling

5/ This fabric is cotton, somewhat gauzy & dyed blue, mauve

6/ These are 2 small pieces of fabric that feels like drapery sheers & dyed and interesting mottled brown color

7/ This fabric is linen & dyed a mottled combination of purples & blues with a touch of green

8/ This fabric is cotton & dyed mottled shades of orange, pink, mauve, browns and some black veining

The photos of individual pieces below are in the same order as the descriptions above:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dye, dye, fabric dye

I realized last week that I have not dyed fabric once all year. It's October already! Holy Cow! This is very unusual for me. I can not lie. It's been a crazy, crazy year and I have not had the time nor the interest.

This past spring with the volume of rain that hit most of eastern and middle USA, my basement flooded. Whatever was dry and on top of the pile, landed in the garage just so we could get the awful sopping wet stuff out of the house before the mold set in. So yesterday while I was going through the contents of house. . . which are still in the garage by-the-way, guess what I found? Yep, a bag, then box of white-ish fabrics plus some random bits and pieces. I brought them in to add to my pile of fabrics to dye. This was meant to be done sometime in the future. Then the next thing I knew, I threw a plastic table cloth over the washing machine and started filling my soda ash bucket. Hmmmm. . . somehow that got depleted. I always keep a bucket full of soaked fabric at the ready. One never knows when the mood will hit.

So, there I was filling the bucket and throwing all the random pieces of fabric into it. Then I mixed up some pinkish, blue, olive green, and orange dye (the exact colors escape me at the moment) and a smidge of black. I rarely use black. I really like the pure, rich colors I get without it, but I also like the muddy colors that add earthiness and richness to a piece. Somehow I always forget about them so happily today my synapses were firing. And I like playing the mad chemist. I guess since I am neither mad nor a chemist!

One of the things I like about dyeing fabric is that I don't feel like I have to keep recipes and exact measurements. Most of my friends do that and get fabulous results. I just have to do something fun without feeling like I have to control it. That is my journey after all. Sometimes it works. . . sometimes not. That is quite alright with me. I truly enjoy the surprise element. And let's face it, if it's really horrid, it can go in the pile of to-dye fabric for another round. Some of the fabric pieces felt like there was poly in them, I know I did not use enough dye, and I really experimented doing everything you're not supposed to do . . . so I wonder how they will turn out. No biggy. . . . I'll check out the results tomorrow.

So as I leave my bits of fabric to batch (let the dye set into the fabric), I am suddenly aware of the jungle sounds the birds in my yard are making.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekly Quilt Journal Project: week 4,5 & 6

The last few weeks have been insane. I just couldn't find the time and energy to get my weekly quilt projects done.  . .  and worse yet, I haven't even given it a thought. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. An opportunity to step back and evaluate the areas of my work that I need to practice. I've been feeling a bit scattered and out of control with my free motion and a bit crazed sometimes adding lots of bits and pieces to get just the look I want. Maybe I should try for a bit of restraint . . . it's not something I have been good at. This could be an opportunity to try it. 

So partly to get caught up with the weekly project and partly to experiment, I made three pieces all from fabric scraps off of the 'free table' at one of my sewing groups. The small 'appliqued' scraps and free motion sewing are very minimal. This was not an easy task for me. I fought very hard not to use additional colors of fabric or thread . . . or go crazy with embellishments. I really wanted to add text and screened images but fought it off. There's always any one of the next 45 weeks of the project after all. I thought that the crisp black and white needed to stand strong and let the little bits of turquoise & blue shine. I like them. I stopped just in the nick of time!

Making small quilts is fulfilling. I try to challenge myself constantly. For me, finding the materials to use helps the end result and the satisfaction. I have recycled old cloths, fabric scraps, linens and whatever else into little art pieces. . . whether quilts, purses, dolls, clothing . . . . Try it. Challenge yourself. Make whatever moves you and makes you happy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fortune comes true!

No one really believes that fortune cookie fortunes come true. . . do they?

On September 11, I opened up a fortune cookie to find 2 paper fortunes. (see Sept 11 post). One of them said I would receive a small package. I didn't think much about it because I had not purchased anything. To my surprise last week I found a small envelope on the porch. Check out what was inside. . .

This vest was made by Virginia Avery! It turns out that Virginia is a good friend of my friend Maria. In a brief conversation about art quilting, Maria was excited when I told her that not only do I know who Virginia is, but I have her books.
Here is a bit about Virginia: 
'In her forty-plus years in the wearable art and quilt world Virginia Avery has amassed a considerable body of celebrated work, as well as a reputation as a teacher for inspiring and motivating her students in a self-affirming, creative learning environment, richly deserving being named one of the 1000 most influential women of the 1990s by Mirabella magazine; selected as the 3rd recipient of the 1996 Silver Star Award for Lifetime Achievement by the International Quilt Festival; and now for her selection as the 36th Honoree into The Quilters Hall of Fame.' 

Thank you Maria! Thank you fortune cookie!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweatshirts, scraps & more . . .

Another few days at the American Sewing Expo and more interesting people and projects.

Connie Spurlock whipped through showing her recycled sweatshirts. She had so many awesome suggestions and samples I wasn't sure she'd get through it all. She did. Now I just have to remember at least a few!

If you can't stand to throw out a scrap but not sure what to do with them. . . . check this out . . .

Floor cloths . . . .

Quilted chairs!

 Ever wonder how to use Tsukineko inks? Joyce from did demos all day long! and the pieces and projects looked sooooo good.

It was so easy an audience member did it too!

There was so much to see and so many great ideas.
I can't wait to see what next year brings!

Friday, September 30, 2011

More spiritual growth

On my path for spiritual growth is a crazy story I never thought I would write. At the Sewing Expo I saw my buddy Barb Callahan on Thursday afternoon. She asked if I could help her on Friday. Sure. I'm always happy to help Barb. She is fun and kooky and roles with the punches. My kinda gal. So, sure. I'll help her in her booth. I'm a former retailer after all. I can do that. Then something made me feel like I should ask questions. So, I did. I could not get any solid info out of her. Hmmm. What's up with that??

So this whole thing took on a life of its own during the course of the day and evening. It went from just a few minutes helping at the demo stage holding garments, then wearing the garments, then it turned out it was helping her on the runway. WHAT? Not me. I tremble and shake if I talk to more than 3 people at a time. Yipes. She hoodwinked me. In actuality she wanted me to walk the runway with her wonderful jackets  . .  for an hour! I was pretty nervous but tried not to think about it.

The next day, Friday, the day of the show, I'm thinking. . . 'This is a first. Something I never ever thought I would do. I am a behind the scenes kinda gal. .  not a center stage kind'. Well, I got pushed out on stage first. Luckily I saw a friend of mine sitting in the audience. Her big smile settled my nerves immediately. Then I saw a few others and I was ok. Let's not mention the fact that they were all taking to me, so I did what any great model does. I talked back . . . while walking the catwalk. Oops.

It wasn't soooo bad. Oh jezz, she asked me to do it again on Sunday!

You know, I really surprised myself. I never thought I could do anything like that - ever. So I guess being challenged without time to chicken out is a good thing. This was a real confidence booster for sure. Will I do it again. . . well, let's see if I get hoodwinked twice.

Happily there is no photographic evidence. Whew!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thank you Universe for the kick in the butt

This blog is about sharing my creative and spiritual experiences in hopes that you will benefit from my journey. So today's post is to say that sometimes we learn a lesson and slip backward. We get all ooey gooey and backslide. It happens. We are human. When it does, the Universe will come along and reinforce the lesson so it eventually becomes part of who we are. Here is mine:

While at the American Sewing Expo, sitting doing a Make & Take*, from my peripheral vision, I saw 2 ladies walking toward me. Didn't think anything about it. I was in an aisle wide enough for plenty of folks to shuffle along looking from side-to-side waiting for something to catch their eye. Then I heard a loud "you bitch" as a lady was coming toward me. At first I ignored it. It couldn't be directed at me. The figure kept coming closer, then stopped right next to me. I looked up and there was one of my long time buddies standing there giving me the evil eye.

As you can imagine, I was pretty stunned. What the heck had I done??? My mind raced and I couldn't think of anything that might have warranted that comment. So with my best quizzical look, I asked. 

Her response was "I had no idea how talented you are and how fabulous your work is". I was shocked again. HER work is fabulous and SHE is extremely talented. Then we both laughed and saw the horror melt off the faces of the strangers standing around us, who by-the-way took in a collective gasp at her original comment. 

You see, I'm in a number of quilting/fiber groups and rarely show my work to anyone. If I do, I select who I show it to and never ever on public display . . . or at least with my name on it. I am pretty shy even tho no one seems to believe that. And, am still growing as a quilter-fiber artist, so I feel intimidated most of the time to show what I do. Everyone in all of my groups are very talented and accomplished, some famous, some published. . . you get the idea. . . . then there's me.

All of my various groups have show n' tell and every so often I will show something, but rarely. It's that insecurity raising it's ugly head, then hearing the voice inside that says, 'everyone does better work than you. Don't let them see how bad you are and they might consider you an equal. Show your work and they will know you are not.'

So you say "yah yah yah, what's the lesson here?" As I said in my opening statement, measure your talent and success against yourself and be proud of what you do. We all have to start somewhere. I encourage everyone to join various groups of interest, even online groups. The support, skill building, and growth really take you on a path that you may not have walked otherwise. Your accomplishments and compliments are so much more significant when the praise comes from your peers.

Well, I had several such incidents over the long weekend with people gushing over my work and each time it was someone that I aspire to be as talented and prolific as. So the high praise was that much more meaningful. I was really choked up, almost to tears. I felt validated. Like I fit in. 

Thank you Universe for the kick in the butt.

~ Make & Take*, some vendors have little projects at their booth that you can make in just a few minutes and take with you. Sometimes they are free, other times a small fee. You get to try out techniques and products to see if you'd like to make a purchase. And they are usually fun!

This is one of my Make n' Takes, a metal embossed heart

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Metal Embellishments

This is American Sewing Expo week in Novi.  This is the once of year time where creative types can take all day workshops and one hour seminars to learn new techniques to add to their sewing, painting, designing arsenal. . . .  and of course, shop . .  all under one roof.

One of the many many classes offered was learning to make metal pieces to wear as jewelry or add to any variety of quilts or artwork.

Check out the trees! A little twist here and a little twist there. . . here a twist, there a twist. . .  poof. . . it's a tree.

Every tree in the room looked totally different. The right piece of metal embellishment can really enhance your art work.

Then there were some woven options. Weave it tight, weave it loose, push, pull, bend, twist and look what you can create. . . .

Then there was Barbara Callahan and her way cool knitted jackets. As I walked passed the room I was invited in to see what was going on. Wow! Each and every jacket looked spectacular. Barbara offered precut pieces of knitted garments to her students to play with resulting in a composite of colors, textures, patterns . . just-a-mixin' & matchin' away. The ladies all left the room with the biggest smiles I have ever seen.

Tomorrow is another day at the Expo. Let's see when I find. . . whatever it is, I am sure it will be colorful and creative.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inspiration from art fairs

Today was day two for 2 art fairs in town. Art fairs are a great place to find inspiration, whether it be color, texture, or subject matter  . . . and it's great for people watching, too. For me it's always a time to run into and catch up with folks I haven't seen in the last year. 

First I started at the DIY fair which is basically a Motor City 'pride' show. It focuses on all kinds of cool items recycled and upcycled from lots of different materials, such as silkscreens, beads, torn, graffitied, hand dyed and more. I love this new show because much of the work is crazy creative, well done and affordable. Ideas are fresh, use of materials creative, colors are bold. What more could an arsty craftsy person ask for??!!

Then I went across the street to the the fine art-fine craft show. There was glass, lots of wonderful 2D art: paintings & photography, some awesome mixed media stuff, some dolls, and of course our fave - jewlery!

The ladies from Detroit Dollface had some of the coolest from both fairs. Their handmade jewelry and clothing were way cool, kooky, boldly colored and highly graphic. Two thumbs up ladies!

I liked to bold use of chick images. Who can't resist Elvira or Vampira after all!

And check out the diva necklaces!

Next time you are noodling around on Etsy, look up Detroit Dollface.

Then I saw my buddy Kenyatta. He has been a fixture at the high level shows for more than 25 years. He has spent a lifetime traveling the world, shooting photos, and creating some of the finest art work you will ever see. I particularly love his Afrocentric themes. 

If you ever have a chance to see his work, I highly recommend it. You will surely want a piece to adorn your walls and/or give as gifts. Plus, he is just a cool guy to talk to. . .

Here is a link to find out where Kenyatta will be next:

Kristen Barr is a fantastic illustrator (no relation to Glenn Barr by-the-way). Her work has a whimsical look with depth and layers of color, something that everyone who works with fabric can understand. The backgrounds all look like manufactured and hand dyes!

I especially liked the eyes in her pieces. Everyone is wide or sleepy eyed. I shared with Kristen that I have been doodling those eyes for many many years. I guess that was why I was drawn to them.

She shows her work occasionally at the Rust Belt in Ferndale, Mi. Look up her website to see the vast selection @

Flossa's handwoven accessories were pretty fab too. I especially loved the shredded hanging things off all the scarves. The pops of color and earthy colored flowers applied strategically to scarf ends and hat sides added a nice touch.

Check out this Zentangle inspired art. It is way cool!

Maria Oliva Tyra adds shapes and images into her Zentagle type art then puts the cherry on top with a wash of color. The work has a lot of depth, is very clean and sometimes meditative.

See more of Maria's work @

I just have one word to discribe Nicole Ray: sweetheart. I love her work because it is fresh, clean and whimsical. It makes me feel good when I see it and brings a smile to my face. What more can you ask for . .

Her work can be seen on Etsy and her website:

Sadly, the crowds seemed down this year. Much more so than in years past. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's that fact that promoters are now taking anyone with booth fee, whether they have good art, bad art or manufactured items. This is so bad for the future of events. The event looses its credibility as the junk starts creeping in. It has happened to some of the finest over the years, so I hope the current promoters get it together before it is too late. . . .