Tag Archives: fiber art

Quilts Stored in Bathtub. What could go wrong??

Sometimes I look at people and the awkward or unfortunate situation in which they find themselves and I think, “Really? You didn’t see that coming?” Well, this week I’m saying that again while looking in the mirror.

Quilts in the bathtub.

Quilts in the bathtub.

As we moved into our new house, I was just stashing things wherever I could find space. My new studio is a spare bedroom with a full bath. That’s how my rolled up quilts ended up in the tub. After a few days, I decided it was the perfect storage place. It’s not like anyone was going to be taking a shower in there. I removed the handle so the water couldn’t get turned on, stood up about 20 quilts, and pulled the curtain. Five weeks went by and all was well…

Then, last weekend, the power went out. Our water now comes from a well, but the pump is electric. In time, we used water until the pipes ran dry.  When the power came on, the faucet began to drip.

Two days went by before I happened to look in the tub and see that it was now filled with 3-5 inches of water. YIKES!!!! Quilts came flying out of the basement. Cloth storage bags were stripped off and every surface in the back yard that wasn’t dirt was covered with a quilt. There were wet, dripping quilts everywhere. What a mess!!!

Wet Quilts 1Wet Quilts 2

Next, every towel in the house was brought out to soak up as much of the moisture as possible. Most of the quilts were OK, but several had colors that had begun to run, including: Bamboo, Running Commentary, and Turkeman Mother with Children.

What now??

Bamboo was the worst; a piece done in green fabrics, red dye from the backing fabric migrated to the front.

In a panic, having nothing to lose, I filled the tub again with cool water and poured in some Synthropol to capture the color. I submerged the quilt and let it soak for about 20 minutes, pulled it out, and rolled it in dry towels. This seemed to do the trick as most of the red color was washed out. What remains is faint; probably not noticeable if you don’t know what happened. No time for the “Before” photos, but here is the “After” shot.

The red is gone--almost.

The red is gone–almost.

Next was Running Commentary. There were multiple colors on the runner’s white shirt, but worse, were dark streaks across his neck and chin. My runner became a “batholete” and went swimming in the tub. He, too, was restored except for some faint areas on his white shirt. Again, only a photos of the end result.

Extra dye is out of the face.

Extra dye is out of the face.

Some unwanted dye remains.

Some unwanted dye remains, but it looks like shadow under the numbers


Out of time, I’m off to Kansas City with Turkeman Mother in tow. I’ve still got to deal with the water damage to her. Stayed tuned.






Puppy Love, Part 2

Oh joy!!! I’ve finished something in less than a month; 2 1/2 weeks actually.  It’s such a thrill to jump into a project and just breeze through to the end.  With this piece, I took a break from thread painting and just did some dense stitching.  The new challenge was to establish some designs that would fit with each element of the composition.

The blonde hair of the girl was easy.  I used various values of yellow threads in long, undulated lines of stitching.

PL hair

Next, similar, but shorter, wavy lines were put down with some variegated threads in a pattern that alluded to the hair of the dog.  Several times I had to stop and pet my dear Coco’s face in order to really understand the changing direction of her hair.  She didn’t mind too much.

PL dog

Stitching the face was a leap of faith.  It is so tricky to stitch the face!  If you try to recreate the actual contours, and the lines aren’t just right, it throws off the perceived shape and makes the face look distorted.  I decided to go in a completely new direction: loop-d-loops.  I covered the entire face in a small repetitive design that had nothing to do with its shape or contour.  I still varied the threads, letting the values do the work.  I’m really pleased with the results.

PL face

The background was the most troublesome decision, just as with choosing the fabric.  The print was complex and busy.  Afraid that it would become too strong and overpower other elements, I didn’t want to stitch the printed design.  I came up with a wandering ribbon design with a tiny meandering stitch to fill in the spaces.  I feel like the 2 patterns of the fabric and stitching sort of neutralize each other and take away their power to dominate.

PL background

Finally, here’s the finished piece.Puppy Love


Fused Applique Portrait Class

My Fused Applique Portrait class at CraftU begins March 7. There is still time to sign up. Here’s a link if you are interested:

Fused Raw-Edge Applique Portraits


 Here are some samples of portraits done with this technique:

portrait-Jim Lea applique portrait


Is Your Face in the Right Place?

I’ve just finished a new piece titled “Simple Pleasures”.  It features a young boy named Indigo who is celebrating his 6th birthday and is thrilled with his new plastic horse.  How wonderful to find such pleasure in something that has no bells, whistles, screens, login, or even batteries.

In this weeks video, I show you how to check the size, location, and dimensions of facial features so that the face looks realistic and well proportioned.

Golden Mean Calipers Pt 3: Facial Features

This piece was a chance for me to try a bolder color scheme.  I like the energy and vibrancy of it. Below are process photos to show how the piece came together.

Face and Hands

Face and Hands

Shirt and shorts

Shirt and shorts

Horse in Hands

Horse in Hands

Thread-painted face

Thread-painted face

Finished piece

Finished piece




Life Imitates Art.

deck view

View from the deck

Often we think that our quilting is just a hobby, but I’m here this week to tell you that it is more than that.  It is rehearsal for life.

Just the other day, I kiss my husband goodbye and send him off to the airport, then step outside on the back deck to breathe some fresh air, absorb some vitamin D, and appreciate the storm clouds building over the mountains.  I’m glad to see it’s going to rain because it’s pretty hot right now.  My bare feet are getting scorched on the hot planks.

A storm brewing

A storm brewing

I turn to go back inside and find that the slider has locked behind me.  After checking the windows and finding them all closed tight, I give a “you hoo” to my neighbors, but no one is there to hear.  This deck sits a mere 10-12 feet off the ground with no steps to get there.  Also, the spot with the least distance between deck and ground happens to be the place where we have stored some extra landscaping rocks, and a bucket where we put bags of dog poop until the trash man comes.  A sense of panic would like to rise up inside of me, but NO.

I stop and think, “What would Quilter’s do?”

deck drop

No good place to fall.

The answer: I must save myself.  I need to take stock of available resources and get creative: see what is in the stash, and find new uses for available items. I find chair cushions and drop them over the side on the spot that I determine is the best place to land. Unfortunately, cushions bounce.  I manage to create a ring of cushions that will soften my landing as I fall over after hitting the ground.  I climbed over the rail and hung from the lowest plank until I lost my grip.  Apparently, I too, bounce when dropped from the deck.  With some minor scrapes, a nasty gash on the ankle and a modest amount of swelling, I am earthbound once again.

Limping up to the front yard brings the new realization that I am still locked out of my own home.  We had installed a new garage door opener the day before, but didn’t get around to programming the keypad. Damn procrastination!!

Once again, thinking like a quilter, I knew that sometimes you have to rip things apart and put them back together. I can’t give further details on how exactly to break into my house, except to say that, that particular option no longer exists.

I’m going back to my studio where there is nothing to break but a needle and thread.


See Me on The Quilt Show

I recently taped an episode of TheQuiltShow.com with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  Subscribers to that website got to see that episode last week.  Many thanks to those of you that sent kind words through email and Facebook.

sitting talking

Photo by Gregory Case

Now, I can share a link to that show with the rest of you. Click on the link here and you can watch too.

Watch The Show

This link will work until May 11, so make a cup of tea and sit back to enjoy.

Let me know what you think Also, for those of you that subscribe to The Quilt Show, I have a new series of lessons in the “Classroom” section of the website.  This course is on “Contemporary Batik”  If you’ve ever wanted to try batik, but were afraid of the mess, check out this class.  It will be FUN, and EASY!! http://thequiltshow.com/learn/classrooms FTI: you have to be a subscriber to the website to access this class.


Embracing Limitations

I shake.  Most notably, my hands shake.   Some days are worse than others.  I have a condition called “Essential Tremor”. The diagnosis came back in the 90’s and after trying a couple of medications with side effects that were worse than the condition, I’ve resigned myself to live with it.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

My photo of nephew Jake at his commissioning ceremony.

The condition has been both a curse and a blessing in my art. The tremor makes it difficult for me to take good photos.  I have a new camera that has an anti-shake feature, but some days, it’s just not enough.  I like to work from my own photos so that I don’t have to worry about copyright issues, but am finding that increasingly difficult.  This is a contributing factor to my working from historical photos.

stitching oops!

stitching oops!

Another reality is that I have difficulty sewing a straight line when stitching with my longarm machine.  If you ever see my work on a traditional quilt design, you would not be impressed.  The up side is that it led me to thread painting.  My style of free-motion stitching doesn’t rely on the same kind of precision.  When it is necessary to be precise with details, I must slow down.  Sometimes, I make one stitch at a time: needle up, needle down, needle up, needle down. Sometimes, I despair, wondering what will happen to my art if and when the conditions becomes worse.

I just found an inspiring TED talk by an artist with a similar condition.  It applies to anyone on a creative journey and I want to share it with you. Phil Hansen TED talk



Judging a Book by its Cover

Panning CoverAfter working on my new book all summer: sewing samples, photographing the stages, and explaining it all with text, it came time to design the cover.  I thought that using a photo of my work, “Panning for Gold” would be great since it has won a couple of awards this year.  That’s when I discovered the benefits of having a great editor and designer looking out for me.

It was pointed out to me that the cover I proposed was drab in color and portrayed an old, poor man, working hard in an icy mountain stream–No joy there!!  I was also forced to consider how the cover would look on a website where it would appear only a few inches high.  Details are lost, and colors blend together.  A cover has to work at full size and in miniature.

Another consideration is how the book will be displayed in a shop.  Often books are stacked on shelves that allow only the top 2 inches of the book to be seen.  This means that those top 2 inches are prime real-estate.

Finally, I didn’t want to add a subtitle.  Sometimes those seem to go on forever.  I like short and sweet.  Again, my team showed the value of using this opportunity to further define my book topic for those who are not familiar with my work.

I can’t say enough good things about Janice Brewster, editor, and Karen Sulmonetti, designer.  They are The Creative Girlfriends.  If you are thinking about writing a book, click on their link and get started.

With all of this in mind, it was back to the drawing board, and sewing machine, for a new and improved cover.  Here is what we came up with:


Bloopers-Part 2: Know When to Walk Away

As I blog about my bloopers, my plan was to start small and build to the big one. However, the really big goof up is like an elephant

1st Lt. Jacob Wright

1st Lt. Jacob Wright

in the room. There is no space in my head to process words about anything else, but coming clean on this is embarrassing and it has taken me 2 weeks to decide that I have the ego strength to share this.

If confession is good for the soul, then here goes…

The hardest thing about thread painting faces is getting a big beautiful smile to look right. My nephew, Jake, graduated from college this spring and was commissioned as a US Army Officer. This was a huge achievement and I wanted to honor him with a portrait in my book. Here is the picture from which I worked.


I know, I know, he is right in the center, directly facing us, with a great big smile. I should have walked away, but pride wouldn’t let me.  The only thing that could make this more difficult would be facial hair.

"The mouth is weird."

“The mouth is weird.”


When I finished stitching, I sent a picture to my sister Hope, who is tactful, yet, brutally honest and she called me out, “Great! but his mouth looks weird.”


Can't get it right.

Can’t get it right.



I tried several times to do some corrective stitching: add highlights, adjust accents, but it just got worse, and worse, and worse, until the piece was so thick is created a muzzle. I’d show various attempts, but I’ve already destroyed the evidence.

Hmmm, pondering life's challenges.

Hmmm, pondering life’s challenges.


Sometimes, it is best to accept defeat. So I gave up and started over… with a profile shot.



Bloopers and Out Takes-Part 1

Too dark too soon

So, about my book, The Thread Painted Portrait… Just talked with my editor and it on schedule to be available by the end of October.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, getting there hasn’t been without its challenges.  The creation of several new portrait pieces was a necessary part of the process.  Each phase or step was photographed to illustrate my process. The book, of course, will only contain the successes, but, to be honest, there were some bloopers and out takes.  While it is uncomfortable to reveal ones flaws and weaknesses to the world, thre is some learning to be gained from it. I’m going to share some of those with you in the blog over the next few weeks.

replacement thread choice

replacement thread choice

One of the pieces that caused me some heartburn was the Turkeman Crone.  All went well until the stitching.  I attempted to simplify the process and work her face in just 5 threads.  My mistake was with these thread choices where I went from light to dark too quickly.  The result was that she appeared to disappear in shadow.

Original photo

Original photo

You can see from the original photo, that this was not the case.  I was able to do a bit of course creation by over stitching with a lighter thread.  Of course, had I intended to create the shadow effect,  this would have been a brilliant move.

Finished portrait

Finished portrait

Hmmmmm, I like being brilliant, so perhaps its time to edit my version of reality.