Pillow Covers Fun

Contours pillow on the left with bias tape. Summer Prairie pieced in blues for they sky and greens for the grasses on the right.

The Art Demo at Brushwood last week was great fun. I set up a table with a donated Singer machine available for hire at Brushwood Art Supply Exchange (BASE) along with all my supplies. Before the art demo, I created an example pillow cover with a pieced pillow top in blues and greens reminiscent of our backyard prairie in summer with a bright blue sky above. I call it Summer Prairie.

First step during the Art Demo, I found bias tape in the BASE collection in colors to go with my green fabric I brought for the pillow top. I drew the basic design in my sketch book and started to sew. I wanted curvy vertical lines in different colors. To do this, I started at the top of the pillow top fabric and free hand curved the bias tape a few inches at at time and just sewed it down unto the pillow cover top. Bias tape by definition is stretchy because it is cut on the diagonal bias of the fabric so it was easy to make curves in any direction. I tried to mix it up with my directions of the curves to make it more interesting. Then I sewed the next strip of bias tape until I was at the edge of the fabric. I used a medium grey thread as a neutral to fade into the actual colors of the bas tape. I call this pillow top Contours.

I had a great time talking to the Open House attendees about creativity and the potential of using your imagination and the BASE supplies to get into the creative flow. We had people of all ages starting at 6 years old. She had already completed a sewing project at home. Impressive. 

My fellow Art Demo artists were fascinating and will offer interesting workshops as well, like Creating With Earthen Elements taught by Anni Schwabe.

I am even more excited about the potential of BASE after this Opening House event.

BASE will be a creative space to hang out and just get into the creative flow. 

BASE Hours: M 9-3pm · Tu 9-7pm · W 9-3pm · Th 9-3 · Sa 9-1pm · Su 1-3pm

Close up of Summer Prairie and Contours pillows and shown in place in our new Burrow couch (Yes, I ordered it online and love it!)

I plan to offer 2 different workshops opportunities for this upcoming Fall of 2019. 

  1. Easy 10-Step Pillow Cover Sewing Project

  2. Create an EcoMemory Artwork: a Tangible Reminder of Your Favorite Place in Nature

I created a document with 10 steps to make a pillow cover. Email me if you want a copy. 

Interested in hearing more about the workshops? Email me to make sure I update you on the upcoming workshops dates and times. 

Another exciting development: I sold the British Sunset artwork to a fellow quilter through Instagram, Jennifer of @jplasha. She saw the artwork in my post and said if I ever wanted to sell it, she was interested. I sent a PayPal link and it was so easy. We both share a love of sunsets. I offered her the opportunity to come up with a custom name for the artwork and created a label, packed it up and shipped it on its way. She did a great job with the big reveal when she received the artwork and shared it on Instagram. Click @jplasha to see. She is a long arm quilter so check out her Instagram to contact her if you need some help quilting one of your projects.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the artwork I show in these Studio Notes, it can be so easy to purchase. Send me an email and I will take it from there.

Art Demo Next Sunday and a New Creative Space

Corner Inserts, 10 “ square, Kona cotton, March 2019

The Chicagoland area is so lucky! We have a new creative space opening at the Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve in Lake County Illinois. The new creative space is called BASE. This is from their website,  

"Starting in March, 2019, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods will be opening a new materials exchange and creative reuse center called “BASE” – the Brushwood Art Supply Exchange. BASE will be a source of low-cost art materials with special discounts for educators and community partners. From professionals and educators to students, families and the simply craft-curious, we serve all levels of artists. BASE will also serve as a library of tools and resources, and an open workspace for artists of all disciplines and abilities to gather and create.”

The Brushwood Center staff decided they could help people be more creative and keep art supplies out of our landfills. Helping people and the environment. We can clear out our old supplies we no longer are using, (guilt free!) and purchase low cost items we want to use. And, even better, we can use this creative space to play and create art.

If you live around Chicago, click HERE to find out what art supplies they accept as donations.

The BASE Grand Opening is Sunday, March 10, 2019 from 1-3pm and I will be there!

Come see my Art Demo using BASE’s 1970's Singer sewing machine demonstrating how to make a Contour pillow cover, an easy-to-sew pillow cover project I designed with a graphic modern design.

My inspiration for this project is something I found at BASE, bias tape. Bias tape is magical stuff. Curves are a challenge to sew sometimes but not with bias tape. Stop by to learn some design secrets and versatile uses for bias tape. 

Why is BASE so exciting to me?

One of my dreams is to play with acrylics and watercolors and try different media. I don’t have the space or inclination to get all the supplies for this. Now, I can go to BASE on a Saturday morning or Tuesday evening to play on a regular basis. A lovely space and a set time to create, even better than a spa day.

There are many people who will benefit from this type of creative space. Curious creatives who want to try new things, like me and people who know they want to add more creativity into their life. Creative pursuits help balance out the stress of every day life. But sometimes it is hard to know where to start. BASE is the kind of place to start. It can give you the freedom to play with no fear of failure.  

To get people engaged, BASE will have monthly challenges and opportunities to share on Instagram. 

You can meet friends for a night out to create, have office retreats as a way to do an activity together. The possibilities are endless.

If any of my local readers want to meet me at BASE to create together, send me an email. Let’s do it!!

I will share photos of the Opening Day of BASE in my next article.

Here is the address. Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods • 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd. • Riverwoods, IL 60015 • 224.633.2424 • info@brushwoodcenter.org

Pieces, 10 “ square, Kona cotton, February 2019

In the Studio this week, I created a piece entitled Corner Inserts. I woke up one morning thinking about this design. I started with a square cut diagonally then added an insert fabric. Step two, I added two strips to the square like a half log cabin design and cut diagonally then added another insert fabric. Then repeated. This process was fun enough that I want to try it again. 

Last week, I created Pieces. Loads of color. Loads of different shapes. Improv sewing at its most fun.

In the Studio: Cotswolds Sunset

After two months, I went back into the studio. Holiday travel, work schedules and lack of motivation conspired to extend this hiatus from my studio for more weeks than I would have liked. It seemed normal to not be in the studio. For me, this felt very wrong. 

Cotswolds Sunset, Kona cotton, 10” square, February, 2019.

Even if I was not sitting in front of my sewing machine or cutting mat, I was thinking about the sunset photo I wrote about in the article British Landscapes. The day dreaming revolved around the colors where the shadows in the grass field made the landscape appear dark brown and the sky had about 1,000 shades of lavender, pink and magenta. How do I turn this into fabric art?

I really had no answers when I walked into the studio but knew I had procrastinated enough when I called the cable company and the repair man for our blinds. Time was up. Why DO people procrastinate doing things they really DO want to do? So I got myself into the studio.

First, I got out my fabric bins and looked at the sunset photo for inspiration. I selected 3 pinks, light, dark and medium. The grassy field colors were trickier. This was a fallow field where sheep had grazed. In other words, some dirt and some grass left over from the sheep uneaten. I selected an olive, a dark green and a color called raisin which is like a dark purple. Again, a light, medium and dark color. 

For the design, I wanted a horizon line and a lighter color on top of the line to represent the setting sun. As for the rest, these three colors for the sky and ground need to be interrelated but not horizontal lines. The old trick of sewing wedges of fabric together to make a rectangle appeared out of nowhere in my mind. 

Then I started cutting wedges and sewed them together alternating the colors for above and below the horizon.  Last step, sew the sky to the land.

One of my friends who reads these articles asked me once, “Why don’t you ever tell us how to sew together a project?” Reading the article makes her want to sew something but she doesn’t know how. A long time ago, I decided I would not write tutorials or step by step guides. I wanted to write articles to inspire people to create their own way in their own style. However, if you are looking for a sewing project that is fun to make, this could be it. I love process based projects. So I have outlined the process I used below.

  •  Pick your fabric - at least 3 colors, light, medium and dark colored fabrics for two groups. One group of 3 for the upper section and one group of 3 for the lower section.

  • Cut wedges of fabric- length can be whatever you want. I used 13” for the length and then the wedges vary from 2-4 “ wide. I do not measure but cut intuitively.

  • Sew 2 wedges together- stagger the wedges and sew the smaller side to the wider side so it makes a rectangle.  

  • Sew the pairs of strips together- make your project as big as you want.  

  • Get ready to display the final project-wrap it around a stretched canvas and staple or put in a frame.  

    Let me know if you try this at home.  😄

Upper Left to Right: Fabric bins, Wedges for fields, Sewing wedges together, Sewing groups of wedges together.

Lower section: Sky and land cut to 13” and ready to sew together at the horizon.

Anni Albers Exhibition at the Tate Modern Review

The exhibition poster byline for this Anni Albers exhibition at the Tate Modern says it all.

South of the Border, Anni Albers, woven cotton and wool, 1958. Close up.

An artist who changed weaving. A weaver who changed art.

I appreciate when people can summarize a very large subject matter into a few words.  The exhibition was superb. It was meticulously detailed following the chronology of her life, from the Bauhaus days in Berlin as a student (where she met and married the color theorist Josef Albers who was teaching there), to Black Mountain College in North Carolina after she and her husband Josef Albers left Berlin due to the Nazi threat and the closure of the Bauhaus school, to moving to New Haven as her husband taught at Yale art school, to print making as the loom became too physically demanding. The Tate Modern had glorious examples of each time period of her life.

I had heard about Anni Abers through reading quilt blogs over the years. For obvious reasons, many quilters have gravitated to Anni Albers’s work because of the similarities of materials and her busting out of the weaving traditions, just like the modern quilters have over the past few decades. Her work is geometric and colorful. Everything quilters love. She started thinking of weaving as an art form to put on the wall. Quilters went through this same process. Annie was an innovator who has helped bring weaving into the art world. She was the first weaver to have an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1949. How did she get into weaving? The Bauhaus (male) staff steered the women students into weaving as they thought that more appropriate (!@&!#). Luckily for us, Annie thrived in the so-called “Women’s Workshop.” Once they got to Black Mountain College, Anni started teaching weaving. Some of the wives of the professors, like Anni Albers, taught classes but were never paid as staff. Anni Albers, like Josef Albers have influenced generations of future artists.

Top row: Study for DO I, DO V, and DO II, Anni Albers, Gouache on photo paper, 1973.

Bottom row: Left- Sunny, Anni Albers, cotton and linen, 1965

Bottom row: Right- Intersecting, Anni Albers, cotton and rayon, 1962.

She was an original thinker and innovator. She played with new ways to weave using the thread as sinuous lines, knots as part of the design, using different types of materials for different effects like silk for a sheen. She envisioned using textiles as divider walls, sound protection in auditoriums. She was a thinker who often thought outside of the box. I find that inspiring.

The Tate Modern has an exhibition guide with all the written material from the exhibit walls. If you like Anni Abers, this is a must.  Anni Albers Exhibition guide

The Tate Modern has Seven Life Hacks from Anni Albers. You should click that link and read it. Here is a quote from the life hacks to entice you to read it.

Well you all know how great art can affect you, you breathe differently.

Anni Albers, 1982

If you still want more, you can purchase the Anni Albers exhibition catalog which has all the images of her art from the exhibition.

Why am I adding all these links? I only touched on a few highlights of the exhibition in this article. If you are at all interested in this fascinating artist, I want you to be able to find this info. There has not been a lot of info available about Anni Albers in the past. I know because I have googled about her in the past. This is a treasure trove of insights into Anni Albers and also just how to be an original artist.


Upper row: Left- Drawing for a knot, Anni Albers, Goache on paper, 1948. Right- South of the Border, Anni Albers, woven cotton and wool, 1958.

Bottom row: Left- Red and Blue Layers, Anni Albers, cotton, 1954. Right- Black, White Yellow, designed by Anni Albers in 1926, rewoven in 1960s by Gunta Stolzl under direction of Albers since original destroyed in WW2, cotton and silk.

What inspires me?

Her use of color and texture.

Her original thinking.

Her geometric designs.

I have included some of my favorite images of the exhibit in photo collages. If you click the image, you can see a larger view. I particularly love the colors and design of South of the Border. I included a closeup to show how she bundled some of the strings together. As someone who gravitates to horizontally trending abstract landscapes, I have been thinking of how to use this piece as inspiration for my own fabric art sewing cotton fabric together. This will be fun noodling around the studio on this project.

My goal is to make you curious to learn more about Anni Albers and you have many places and links above to start your curiosity meanderings. Have fun.

British Landscapes

Pink sunset in the Cotswolds, 2018.

Abstract landscapes always inspire me. I selected two of my favorites from the British country side in the Cotswolds area northwest of London.

Both of these images were taken on my iPhone and I did not use any filters. This is what I saw. The top image makes me like pink. Normally, it is not a favorite color of mine. However, this electric pink moving towards a lavender as your eye moves up the image is spectacular. Now, how can I find a fabric that color? I guess I have a challenge set out for me. Since we were out at dusk, the grass is a very dark evergreen. The contrast between the bright pink/lavender and the dark evergreen and the trees in silhouette gives me a lot to work with for both color and design inspiration.

The next image fascinated me because of the different shapes of the trees. First, the trees behind me are in shadow on the grass in the foreground with the branches flinging out in such organic shapes. Contrast that with the very tidy little tree shapes along the horizon line with their mounded shape. I guess it is all about the scale. Up close the tree branches are going all different directions. But from afar they look all tidy like gum drops on the hill.

This exercise is how I keep my “design mind” happy. I look at an image and design it out of fabric in my imagination. Some pieces I will actually create with fabric. Some I am just playing with. Both of these images are intriguing enough, they may appear in fabric form soon.

Next time, I will continue the Museum Meandering Part 2.

Trees and shadows in the Cotswolds, 2018.

Trees and shadows in the Cotswolds, 2018.

Museum Meanderings Part 1

Aicular crystals in talc-schist from Tyrol, Austria: Australian Opals: Ladies slipper shaped pyrite from England: World’s largest topaz from Brazil. All from the Natural History Museum in London.

We spent a lot of our time in London walking around museums. In particular, I was looking for interesting color combinations and some new inspiration for designs for my art. I found something to inspire me at each museum. The Natural History Museum had a spectacular wildlife and nature photography contest exhibit. They used a lightbox technology for the display of the top photos where light comes from behind the photograph displayed in the dark room and everything is very dramatic.  Most of the photographs that I really liked included a lot of negative space around the main focal point. For example, a close up of a duck swimming in the water where the water is white reflecting the fog and it looks like a line drawing of a duck on white paper. One artist used drone technology to photograph seals lounging on a small iceberg with dark water surrounding the iceberg. It was very geometric and graphic with simple colors of blue, black and white.  Right now, I’m in the “less is more” phase. I love that inspiration can come from a totally different media. Click to see a print of my favorite one, The Midnight Passage.

The other highlight of the  Natural History Museum is the ROCKS. The opals were magnificent and I will remember all those colors for future work. For design inspiration, I saw some of the rocks with long curved crystals immersed in a grey rock. Somehow I want to incorporate this into a future artwork, as well. In included other favorites in the photos in this article.

Next up is the British Museum.  The curators have created such wonderful displays. I love how they displayed the African pottery. They had a large exhibit on African cloth, both old and new cloth. Another interesting thing about the British museum is they had contemporary art next to historical artifacts in the same exhibit from the same places. I was fascinated with this modern piece of art based on Ghanian kente cloth but made out of wood by artist El Anatsui.

Kente Rhapsody by Ghanian artist El Anatsui. Full artwork upper right plus closeup on the left. African pottery on the lower right. All from the British Museum in London.

Great design and great use of colors. Here is how the museum described his work called Kente Rhapsody,

“Ghanian artist El Anatsui highlights not only this reverence but also the damage inflicted on tradition by mass consumerism. The chain saw, which scars the wood from which it is created, symbolizes this erosion.”

The other inspiration was for the color combo of garnet and gold form the Sutton Hoo excavation. Gorgeous.  I also loved the medieval helmet they dig up within this burial chamber. I have included photos of the pieced together original helmet and an artist rendition of what it would have looked like. The text around the exhibit said the poem Beowulf was shown to be more true than just just an allegory based on this archeological find.

Sutton Hoo ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon grave dated early 600 AD. Purse lid of gold and cloisonne garnets and shiny reconstruction next to original helmet found on the site.

The masterpieces of our human history shown in these museums from all over the globe is inspiring in itself. The colors of the rock specimens or the design of the ancient Greek friezes from temples in Athens are all inspiring. It comes down to color and design. The fun part of thinking creatively is to take two totally different ideas and combine them to inspire something totally different. Museums are a great place to let your mind wander and think up new combinations that have meaning for you in your art. 

So why am I sharing this with you? Hopefully you find this museum meandering interesting. But most importantly, I hope it inspires you to look at museums differently, as a way to get inspired to create your own art in your own way.

This year I want to spend more time in the studio. To help free up more time to do this, I will be writing my Studio Notes every other week. So look for my next post January 23. And get ready because the next Studio Notes post is all about the Annie Albers exhibit at the Tate Modern Museum. She was a weaver and associated with the Bauhaus movement. Loads of inspiration and hundreds of photos later, I’m still being inspired by her.

Happy Holidays and Yearly Review

There are 2 more Sunrises: Nos. 3 & 4!

All four in the series are available for purchase. Art makes a great gift for those who may be difficult to shop for or who like unique gifts. Be a gift hero😁

Sunrise No. 3, 2018.

Each piece is 6 inches by 6 inches with a wide base of 1.5 inches so they can stand up by themselves.

This is a Limited Offer just for my Studio Notes Readers.

Please make your decision by 12.10.18 so your Art has time to arrive safe and sound.

Each piece is $65 including shipping to the continental USA.

Click either button below to pay with Paypal or ask me any questions.

Be sure to let me know which Sunrise you would like and where to send it in the Paypal link.  

Interested in letting your loved one choose their own art? I have gift certificates available. Just click the CONTACT ME WITH ANY QUESTIONS button below.

It is that time of year again… Time for a Yearly Review. In the past I’ve written about end of year reviews, here and here. This week I was reading a recent blog post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits where he wrote about a process he calls the Sacred Bow involving a yearly review done in a very interesting way. He describes the process here. 

Sunrise No. 4, 2018.

I was so inspired that I have signed up for his monthly program of habit challenges through his program called Sea Change.  I’m very excited to start. He’s one of those people that everything he produces and creates, I find very helpful. So I am happy to start this year long process of focusing on a new habit each month of 2019. The cost is $15 a month and you can stop anytime you like. 

 An end of year review makes you appreciate all the progress you’ve made and help you solidify any lessons you learned from some challenges. This perspective helps set you up for thinking about what you really want to do for the next year. Of course, sometimes things change along the way but thinking about how you want to spend your time and how much you can actually focus on, is always a valuable lesson. You learn a lot about yourself. It is an opportunity to pause, stay the course or make a detour. I am looking forward to spending time doing this high level life review for 2018 and planning 2019.  

Lastly, some good news. I am going to London over the holidays. I am super excited about visiting the Tate Modern. Looking for suggestions from you all for museums to visit or must see places. Let me know!

Honestly, I am in need of a creative reboot. A holiday break will do me good. I will soak in all the inspiration I can find over the next month and return refreshed. 

So I will be on a holiday break until January 9, 2019. 

If you really miss me and want to read my Studio Notes, here is my archive of all my weekly articles for the past 3 years, over 150 articles. Hopefully you will find something to inspire you.


Sunrise No. 1 (on the left) and No. 2 (on the right), 2018.

Sunrises For Sale 🌅🦃🦃

Looking for a unique gift for the holidays?

Sunrise No. 1 (on the left) and No. 2 (on the right), November 2018.

In keeping with the Holiday spirit ❄️, I am offering Sunrise No. 1 and No. 2 as affordable gift ideas to show someone you care.

This is a Limited Offer just for my Studio Notes Readers.

Please make your decision by 12.10.18 so your Art has time to arrive safe and sound.

Each piece is $65 including shipping to the continental USA. 

Click either button below to pay with Paypal or ask me any questions.

Be sure to let me know which Sunrise you would like and where to send it in the Paypal link.

I’m taking a holiday vacation this week for Thanksgiving.

To all my readers in the United States, have a wonderful holiday full of things to be grateful for.

Last year at Thanksgiving, I wrote an article on the Power of Gratitude. Still one of my favorite ones. Click to read it.

Sunrise No. 2

Sunrise No. 1

Sunrise Over Lake Michigan Series

Sunrise Over Lake Michigan No. 1, November, 2018.

These past weeks I have been wrapping my 25 day series around 24” square canvases. As I was rooting around in my stretched canvas frame inventory, I found some frames I bought just as a lark. They are 6” square frames with a width of 1.5”. This means they can stand on their own, like on a shelf. However, I did not know that at the time. I figured this out just when I had committed to try them out with some new artwork and opened the package. The possibilities are intriguing. 

Following up on last week’s article about how I love the artwork you see on the edge of the wrapped canvas, this is a supersized edge that really stands out even on a smaller 6” square frame. 

Sunrise Over Lake Michigan Nos. 1 & 2, November, 2018.

For my design, I still wanted to play more with the idea I started in the Skyline series back in 2017. This time I wanted a color palette to reflect the Sunrise over Lake Michigan. Hence, the name of the series. I researched images online of sunrises over water. I love the contrast of the warm colors in the horizon atop the darker blue for the lake and slightly lighter sky above the horizon. I used my technique I wrote about over the past few weeks discussing the Four Seasons series. I layout the fabric pieces on my cutting mat to fill in the design and then sew them into bigger blocks and finally sew all those blocks together to make the final piece. After I decided the blues for water and sky, I turned to the warm hues for the sunrise along the horizon. I went into my deep stash of small scraps of fabric. Some may think it is weird to keep small scraps 1-3” big. But I get loads of inspiration from playing around with these small shapes and building them up into a more interesting whole. 

I have two more in the series planned out but may continue. I have more of these funky frames and more ideas to follow. 

What is an Inverse Series?

This past week in the studio,  I finished framing the Inverse series: Windows and Trees from my 100 day project of 2017. It has always been one of my more cerebral series. I will try to explain the idea behind this series below and hope that once you read my thoughts, it will be more clear why I used the title Inverse.

My original two ideas for this 100 day project series were vertical lines of fabric representing trees and a square representing a window, the two pieces on the right in the photo. Since I wanted to make four pieces in total for the series, I thought about the inverse of each design. For the original Trees, I used different colored strips of fabric within the trees inserted into a solid grey background fabric. Then for Inverse Trees, I decided to have cool tones of colorful strips of fabric as the background and just have a solid colored inserted grey line for the tree.

For the Window piece, I started with one gray square of varying sizes. The next step was to add warm colors in squares and rectangles around the square to look like crazy wallpaper around the window. The Inverse Windows has a grey solid background where you’re looking out the square window at sunset with warm colors.

I wrapped all four pieces around 24” stretched canvas frames. They are hung as a series. When they are all together, you can envision their Inverse concept easier than I can explain it in words.

The rolling to-do concept from a past Studio Notes article was super helpful last week because Monday and Friday are my usual studio days but I had made a doctor appointment on Monday and then went to a local quilt show at our Botanic Gardens with my Dad on Friday. These were important and I was so glad I could do them without worrying about missing studio time. So I rolled my studio time to Saturday afternoon. I powered through ironing all 4 pieces, lining up the frame accurately and stapling the pieces of fabric art to the back of the frame.

I had an experience that holds a valuable lesson for me. I wanted to use existing 30 inch sewn 25 day pieces and the largest standard size square frames are 24 inches. That means 6 inches of the 25 day pieces will not be visible and seemed “wasted” to me.  I knew I need 1.5 inches extra fabric on the edge to wrap around the canvas. So I was worried about 3 inches of wasted material. Some very interesting pieces of the daily squares are not seen on the back side of the frame. I had to let it go and move on. But lo and behold, I saw so much movement and more interest in these pieces because some of the design elements stop unfinished right at the edge and keeps you guessing. It makes the whole design appear like it is expanding rather than closed in like in a frame. You imagine the rest of the design. As a bonus, the interesting design on the edges of the frame look even better than I thought. I have included pictures of the edges of the art and how the design wraps around for you to see for yourself.

So sometimes circumstances that you think may not be ideal can take an unexpected turn and may be even more interesting than what you originally thought. I guess it helps to be open-minded.

If you are thinking about holiday gift giving, I offer gift certificates for items in my shop or custom EcoMemory art.

Let me know if you have any questions. Just click the CONTACT ME button below.