“The answer is always yes.”
Sandra Brownlee

photo studio

I took a shot.
One shot
among many
that flashed

I took a shot
a year
like a flash
still crisp in memory.

I took a shot
and in a flash
I remembered something.
“The answer
is always yes.”


Panning for Gold: Part II


I may have lied a couple of posts ago or at least need to explain.  When I said           “I have no words,”  I didn’t then, and for a good month beyond.  But I wasn’t referring to single, free-standing nouns…words that creep into my mind as I sit and stitch on projects and then capture on paper…single words that nip at a sense or the emotion of a moment, another word, word-waiting…


The words I’m referring to “not having”  are the cohesive strings that coast on the promise of knowing, that fill me with purpose and reinforce my belief system.

2015-08-07 bird nest close copy

This dichotomy of language happened, as expected, when I returned from a workshop this summer, where permission was given to wander capriciously behind imagination without having to explain or name…just do, freely.

Clouds from Plane

Not that I returned to my studio idea-less. I felt quiet and calm but thoughts were messy, like junk in a pile and a month passed before I could arrange them into collections.  Emotion and heart had disconnected from logic and concept, and strings of words that make good “blog” were absent.

Enter gold.  Third Thursday.  Roy-G-Biv.  And one single, shiny appelation began the untangling.  I presented my only gold photo,  the image of a shard of broken beach glass and a thought…
Gold is not the treasure I hunt.

shell and threads1

I consider myself an explorer of the ordinary. I covet shells etched by sand and time, a rare round stone, but mostly the imperfect ones.  A feather no longer necessary to one bird’s flight or a rusty nail, its neck at breaking point from holding its head against old wood and weather for a hundred years.  These objects lavish my imagination with honest tales that stir my memories on a journey of stitches.

feathers and shells

Stories rich with energy, memory, triumph and trauma.

Savannah Texture2014-09-25 15.29.02

I’m a survivor, like the old nail.  And generally positive, so I have been stitching until now on the high end of my stories, the outcomes, the triumphs, the half-full lessons.  But without planning too much, I left my “homeland,” dug a garden, set to grow something worthwhile.  I slowed a bit, embraced solitude and because I can,  I’m following the root way down.   


Then, I cut deeply into the center of my onion skin-bundled cotton like I was tending a wound.

Making Do with Materials on Hand: Part 2

The search continues in Week 6.  Cloth, mark making and meaning.   A real adventure because work defines work in art.  Working turns surprises into ideas.

2014-11-17 10.03.49

My beachy paradise has been struck a chill for the past week,  but most days are at least in the 50’s. The storms coming across have blanketed the patio with leaves and pine straw. (Gotta collect those for later.)  It’s perfect weather for continuing my junk hunt around the rental house.

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The obvious stuff  on counter tops and in drawers- safety pins, paper clips, and steel wool – have all been pilfered in an effort to make marks on cloth.  Plastic baggies, tea bags, hydrangea blooms that dried on its stem.

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It has become a game to imagine what shape or color of degrading metal will occur when set in vinegar.  A ball of string, soaked in coffee yielded soft asemic curls on cloth.  Caligraphy through a dryer sheet with my precious walnut ink.   The orange tissue paper didn’t bleed a bit.  While lots of experiments fail, the game is getting harder but more interesting.

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While I wait for new discoveries, I’ve spent time taking small cues, making small stitches, taking pictures and learning some new things.

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I started a wishbone trapunto,  got muslin through my new printer,  dyed newsprint, experimented with a counterfeit detector pen, considered white-out as paint and used flower seeds for beads.  No cheese doodles  but… gutterradyeing.  And  Textile Art Center  has some thoughts on the topic.

2014-11-18 18.15.40

Happy hunting!





Wedding Prep

The wedding dress project continues with lots of prep – just like a wedding.

I took the dress apart at the seams – which was pretty easy because the thread is reaching the end of its life.  The stitches broke away with no fight and a gentle crackling sound.  There are sixty-plus years of wrinkles to press flat before cutting the patchwork.  This takes quite a bit of steam.



I took part of the project home, trying to stay on schedule and knowing that we would be snowed in. Nothing better than being by a toasty iron and an indoor project anyway.


Strips were cut, based on my design: A center panel, taken from the bustles.  I could only get a 24″ square from that piece.  So I cut 6 1/2″ strips to bring the center/monogram panel up to 36″ square.


Sewing  satin is a challenge.  I use a pinning combination that reduces slippage in both directions,  when right sides of satin are facing one another.  The pins are very close together as in “over-pin.”


The pins stay in the whole time.  Some slip out, but the result is better if you can keep them in while sewing.DSCN2113

I’m pretty happy with the seam.  DSCN2114

I chain pieced anything I could.  This is a 12 1/2 piece stitched to a 4 1/2 strip.  They will be sub cut into a brick-type block that will give a woven effect when I’m finished.


Press the seams open.  I’m really surprised at how well the satin takes the heat from the right side with no major adjustments to iron temperature.  I can smell 1946 in the fabric as it heats up.


While I was pinning another strip for the center panel, I noticed how beautifully the satin draped over the edge of my sewing table.  Stopped to enjoy and take a picture.


The finished center panel is draped over the back of a chair in my studio while I continue piecing.


So far, I’ve gotten the basket weave patchwork laid out for sewing.

DSCN2131I will continue the process until the entire quilt top is completed.  Stay tuned a few more steps and the reveal.

Kiki’s New Clothes

Kiki Part 3-1

Vintage Hankie
Vintage Hankie

I’ve pressed the hankie into a bi-fold front after measuring it around Kiki’s torso.  It is just shy of fitting her.

I solved the problem by inserting a piece of silk ribbon to make it about an inch larger in circumference.

Kiki Insert Ribbon1I overlapped the adorable scallops, so they would remain a feature of my dress.

Kiki Insert Ribbon2Only the gold will be visible through the front opening.

Pin hankie to ribbon
Pin hankie to ribbon

The rough ends of the ribbons have been folded back to
wrong side.

Topstitch hankie to ribbon.
Topstitch hankie to ribbon.

The stitching is moved to the left, just enough to keep the the scalloped edge free.

Sewing the second scalloped edge to the ribbon is a bit trickier.  Sewing this edge turns the “dress” into a tube and the fabric tends to get in the way of itself.  The best way to handle this is pin the other edge of ribbon to the hankie and then turn the tube inside out.  Sew slowly for more control of the fabric.

Kiki inside out second seam

It’s like sewing inside a bag.  The dark edge is actually the bottom edge of the “dress.”  If this technique proves too difficult, you can sew this side by hand.

Creating the gather.
Creating the gather.

Start by pinning the elastic into place.  I set the end of my elastic at one edge of the ribbon, so that it doesn’t close in the center of the front.

With the elastic in position, set it under the sewing needle.   Make a back-tack stitch to secure before you begin sewing.

Drop sewing machine needle into elastic and remove pin.
Drop sewing machine needle into elastic and remove pin.

To get the fabric to gather, you must stretch the elastic as you sew it into the “dress.”

Kiki Pull elastic
Pull elastic toward you.

It helps to pull on the fabric behind the needle to keep the fabric moving forward.  A specialty elastic foot can be used if available.

Sew around the entire top opening and overlap elastic.
Sew around the entire top opening and overlap elastic.

Secure end of elastic with extra stitches.  Cut away excess elastic.

Finished Dress
Finished Dress

The original Kiki wears legging shorts in the story book.  This dress is long enough to not need leggings.

Enjoy the process.  We’d love to hear from you and receive photos of your Kiki dolls.  Would you like a tutorial on how to make Kiki’s leggings?

Kiki: Part 2

Kiki Part 2-1

Missed Part 1?  Visit the last post on Make Your Own Kiki Doll
 Kiki and Coco in Paris by Nina Gruener and Stephanie Rausser

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Use a chop stick to turn right sides out and ease the filling into the body, arms and legs.
Use a chop stick to turn right sides out and ease the filling into the body, arms and legs.

2011-03-16 19.43.27

Take small amounts of fiberfill at one time and gently push to furthest part of doll from opening.  Continue until the doll is firm, but still soft. The neck should be especially firm, so that the head does not flop.

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The legs and arms can be filled “almost” to the top.  Leaving a bit empty at the opening makes it easier to fold over and/or attach the arms and legs.  The legs are inserted into the opening of the “dress.”

Pin legs in place and pil remaining "dress" closed before sewing.
Pin legs in place and pin remaining “dress” closed before sewing.
Sew close to edge of  "dress" opening.
Sew close to edge of “dress” opening.
Legs are securely in place.
Legs are securely in place.

Add arms by hand sewing with doubled thread or embroidery floss.

Pin arm in place.
Pin arm in place at shoulder.
Replace pin with threaded needle.
Replace pin with threaded needle.

You should stitch through the arm and body at least two times with heavy thread.  Then use the same thread to add the button.  Make several knots in end of thread to secure button.

Kiki Add Button to Arm

You need three or fall small pieces of wool fabric or felt.
You need three or four small  (4″-5″) strips (1″) of wool fabric or felt.

The longer piece wraps around her face and is trimmed to length.

Pin first strip of wool into place around face.
Pin first strip of wool into place around face.
Take tiny stitches in and out of wool and scalp to attach.
Take tiny stitches in and out of wool and scalp to attach.
Keep adding strips until back of head is covered.
Keep adding strips until back of head is covered.

Trim hair into preferred style.  Make a face!Kiki Sew eye 2

I start with one eye by sending the needle through the back of the head to hide the knot.  It comes through the face and the three stitches are drawn before moving the needle to the other side. I went over the main stitch three times to give it prominence.

Stitch in other eye in same manner.

Kiki Sew eye Other

Cut a tiny heart for Kiki's mouth.
Cut a tiny heart for Kiki’s mouth.

Use light-colored thread to attach mouth with a tack stitch.

Stay tuned for How to Make a Dress for Kiki: Part 3.

Move over…

October 24th was a big day here.  The long arm took a ride to the new shop.  It’s up and running – tested before our technician left the building and ready for the first project in its new home.  I must admit, the corniness of my photo narrative was exceeded by the butterflies I got realizing how much my little big machine means to me.

2011-01-06 20.03.16Going for a ride with

2011-01-06 20.03.26Said I’d give them a shout-out.  I couldn’t have done it without them.

2011-01-06 21.19.54Bare naked, but not for long…

2011-01-09 00.16.49It’s kind of like camping out right now and hard to be in two places at once.

2011-01-09 00.44.54Borders go on the next quilt up.

2011-01-09 02.03.06Quilt’s on…without skipping a beat.