Thursday, April 17, 2014

My prayer flags

My prayer flags hanging on a door in our home.
Last week, I made my first prayer flags. Haven’t heard about them? Prayer flags are small pennants or banners, made as invocations – hopes, questions, requests, prayers or wishes. Prayer flags probably originated in Nepal or Tibet, and are still found in the Himalayas, and are often associated with Buddhism. You can make prayer flags as a religious statement, or simply as a way of expressing your spirituality or mindfulness. They make lovely gifts for friends or family who are going through difficult times, helping to remind them that you are thinking about them.

I made mine as a form of meditation. As I worked, I thought about the attributes and personal qualities I am working on cultivating: Compassion, Patience, Peace, Acceptance, Trust, Forgiveness, Love, and Comfort. Each of the flags I made represents one of these qualities. 

First, I got out my favorite paints and stencils. The paints are transparent textile paints by PRO Chemical & Dye. (They come in small lidded containers; I pour mine into bottles to make it easier to use paints in the classes I teach.) I mixed the paint with some of PRO Chem’s Transparent Base Extender to make them even more transparent. 

Most of the stencils I used came from Artistcellar. I really love the ones I just got by Jill K. Berry that feature calligraphic lines. I used a Moda Banner Set that contains 8 banners made of 80% linen and 20% cotton:

If you'd like to make prayer flags, but need some ideas, here’s a great resource: Quilting Arts has a new 47-page e-book that is a collection of articles called Prayer Flags: Make Banners of Hope & Peace from Fabric Scraps and Fibers ($6.99 on the Quilting Daily Shop).

For a limited time, you can get the Moda Banner Set together with the Prayer Flag e-book from the Quilting Daily store for $24.99. 

On a few of my flags, I also used some acrylic inks by Daler-Rowney:

After the flags dried, I added a layer of interfacing underneath (I used Heavy Weight Shaping Aid) and machine stitched some of the stenciled pattern using white thread. On some, I added fabric circles and stitched them down. Next, I added some buttons and hand embroidery. On each flag, I used circles, which to me, symbolize wholeness and balance. The process of hand stitching is very meditative, and I let it take me where it wanted to go. 

I took my flags outside and hung them in my dogwood tree, and on our azaleas and phlox, which are in full bloom.

Want to know more and see some different kinds of prayer flags? The Prayer Flag Project blog shares some of the thousands of prayer flags that have been created since Vivika Hansen DeNegre, the editor of Quilting Arts magazine, started the project in June 2011.

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul.
It is daily admission of one’s weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words
than words without a heart.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart;
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.”
― Thérèse de Lisieux

The Prayer Flag Blog Hop
Make sure to check out each hopper’s post for a chance to see some beautiful prayer flags, and win prizes!
April 14: Jane LaFazio
April 15: Meg Cox
April 16: Deborah O’Hare
April 17: Jamie Fingal and Susan Brubaker Knapp
April 18: Carrie Bloomston

Quilting Arts is providing me with a copy of Jane Dunnewold’s Quilting Arts Workshop “Design & Print Your Own Fabric: Tips and techniques for successful online fabric design” to give away! If you live in the U.S., you can choose to get the DVD or the digital download. If you live outside the U.S., you will get the digital download.

Leave a comment after this post and tell me a little bit about why you’d like to win, or if you’ve ever made a prayer flag (and why). Please leave me a way to contact you. I’ll pull one name at random at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 22. The winner will be announced at the end of this post on that day. 

Note: If your comment does not show up right away, please don’t freak out. Please post only one comment. I now have to moderate/approve all comments, because I was getting a ton of Japanese porn spammers leaving comments and links on my blog!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Prayer Flag Blog Hop is coming!

Have you heard about the prayer flag movement? It is sweeping the art quilting and mixed media worlds. Prayer flags are small pennants or banners, made as invocations – hopes, questions, requests, prayers or wishes. I made some this week; they are pictured above.

Starting next week, several artists – including me – are participating in a blog-hop to help spread the prayer flag concept. We will be sharing our process and techniques of making prayer flags, and encouraging you to get involved. There will also be some great giveaways of DVDs donated by Quilting Arts/Interweave. 

The Prayer Flag Blog Hop
Make sure to check out each hopper’s post for a chance to see some beautiful prayer flags, and win prizes!
April 14: Jane LaFazio
April 15: Meg Cox
April 16: Deborah O’Hare
April 17: Jamie Fingal and Susan Brubaker Knapp
April 18: Carrie Bloomston

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A visit to Meridian Fibers in Charlotte

Colorful woven scarves by Laura Sutthoff

Today, members of Fiber Art Options, a group of fiber artists in the Charlotte area, met to tour a wonderful new facility in uptown Charlotte: Meridian Fibers. It is owned by artist Laura Sutthoff, who has created “a working studio and teaching lab for adults and children.”

 Classes for adults – some a few hours long, and some a few days long – include:
  • Stamp, Print and Foil
  • Knitting 101
  • Painted scarf using soy wax resist
  • Felt and ribbon scarf
  • Dyeing for quilters
  • Dyes and resists
  • Fabric design with digital printing
  • Felted ruffled scarf

Laura has a BFA in Textile Design from East Carolina University, and has designed fabric, owned an interior design shop, painted murals in large office buildings and homes, taught art to 2nd through 5th graders, and printed and designed custom fabrics for the design industry. Her work is just beautiful. She’s teaching classes, and lining up experienced teachers to lead other workshops. This place is just getting off the ground; I’m excited to see how it grows!

Laura with some pillows she’s created for the design industry

Screen printed napkins for sale in Meridian’s shop

Nancy G. Cook, a member of Fiber Art Options, will be teaching an embroidery class at Meridian soon. I’m also exploring the possibility, and will post again if we get something scheduled. 

Want to go?
Meridian Fibers
2304 Dunavant Street
Charlotte, NC 28203

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wholecloth painting with the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild

I taught a class in wholecloth painting today for the Charlotte Quilters’ Guild. Many of the students worked from their own photos; others worked from my photos and patterns. Some had never painted before. This is the first time I’ve taught students working from original photos in class for only one day. I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t have enough time to work on their projects, or that I’d be spread too thin, but they did great. Here are the results at the end of the day.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I have two Aurifil thread collections!

Aurifil thread has been my favorite thread for a long time, so I’m thrilled to announce that I now have two thread collections with them! In conjunction with Quilting Arts magazine, I have chosen my favorite colors for thread sketching. This collection will be exclusive to Quilting Arts/Interweave, so you can purchase them at, or from me.

Aurifil makes a lot of different kinds of thread – cotton, wool, polyester and invisible. My absolute favorite is their 50-weight Cotton Mako. It is long-staple Egyptian Cotton that is strong, smooth and shiny. It leaves very little lint in my machine, even after hours of heavy thread work. It is perfect for thread sketching, quilting, and hand applique, and it comes in hundreds of exquisite solid colors, as well as varigated. 

In my “Thread Sketching Essentials Collection” (retail price: $130, shown above), you get 12 large spools in an Aurifil plastic suitcase. (These little cases are great for transporting the Aurifil threads you need to take to a class or retreat.) Each big spool of 50-weight 100% cotton Aurifil has 1422 yards of thread; it goes a long way!

I chose the 12 colors I love best, and use most often in my work. I always use this thread for thread sketching, but I also use it when I machine quilt, machine piece, and hand applique.
You can pre-order this collection now through the Quilting Daily Shop.

Thread Sketching Essentials Collection
12 large spools (all 50-weight Cotton Mako):
2692 - Black
2625 - Arctic ice
2024 - White
6010 - Toast
4012 - Copper brown
2430 - Antique rose
2270 - Paprika
2240 - Rusty orange
2135 - Yellow
1114 - Grass green
1320 - Medium Teal
2582 - Dark violet

For my Thread Sketching Beyond the Basics Collection” (retail price: $46), I chose 10 more colors I use often. Each small spool of 50-weight 100% cotton Aurifil has 220 yards of thread, and usually retails for about $4. You can pre-order this collection now through the Quilting Daily Shop.

Thread Sketching Beyond the Basics Collection
10 small spools (all 50-weight Cotton Mako):
2600 - Dove
2315 - Pale flesh
2260 - Wine
2120 - Canary
2145 - Yellow orange
1231 - Spring green
5023 - Medium green
2805 - Lt Turquoise
2570 - Aubergine
4020 - Fuchsia

I am ordering my thread collections next week, and hope to have them here in the next few weeks. They will be available on my website; I’ll post the link here once I have it all set up. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

“Pink Dogwood,” in progress

I have been working on a new piece of a pink dogwood blossom based on one of my “Beauty on my Morning Walk” photos that I try to take every day and post on Facebook. Here’s how the piece looks tonight, after I darkened the background at the bottom, and added suggestions of more branches and blooms in the sky. 

Earlier today, it looked like this:

I actually stitched a tiny bit on this piece (in the pink on the blossom) in a segment I just shot for “Quilting Arts TV” last week. But I wasn’t happy with it, and thought I needed to darken up the background, and add a few darker values to the structure at the center of the bloom. I showed it to my friend and fellow fiber artist Lyric Kinard, and she confirmed my suspicions.

I also was concerned that I had simplified the background too much. I often try to clean up the background somewhat, and leave out things that seem distracting (in this case, the house, stepping stones, and driveway). But I think I did too much cleaning. It looked unnatural, so I went back in and added suggestions of the branches and the blossoms in the background.

I am liking the way that the darker background makes the flower pop forward more. The blooms in the background are perhaps too purple (part of the problem is that I painted them on top of the blue sky, so they went more purple than pink).

And here is the photo on which the piece is based:

I am going to let it gestate, and think about whether it looks right now, or not. It is hard at this stage to determine how much the thread sketching will change the piece for the better. I do a lot of threadwork, and sometimes it substantially changes the look or mood of the piece. 

“Up and Away!” at the Texas Quilt Museum

My piece Up and Away! is part of a new exhibition – An Invitational Flutter of Butterfly Art Quilts – at the Texas Quilt Museum. It opens today, and runs through June 29. This exhibition features 17 quilts selected by the museum curator, Dr. Sandra Sider. A juried exhibition – Butterflies and Their Beautiful Kin – which will show at the same time, contains 38 works. 

The Texas Quilt Museum, which opened in November 2011, is a little gem of a museum housed in two historic 1890s buildings in La Grange, in central Texas. Its goal is to “recognize and celebrate the art and beauty of quilts, the creativity of their makers, and the continuing contributions of quilt making to history and culture.” Karey Bresenhan and Nancy Puentes, founded International Quilt Association with their mothers, are co-founders of this museum. I am so honored to have a quilt there!

My piece features a three-dimensional butterfly soaring in a meadow. The butterfly is made of fabric and thread; the background was wholecloth painted.

“Butterflies symbolize rebirth and metamorphosis. This exhibit shows how modern artists are reworking quiltmaking, contributing new techniques, processes, and concepts to the historical continuum of quilts,” says Sider.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shooting “Quilting Arts TV” Series 1400

Last week, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, shooting Series 1400 of “Quilting Arts TV.” I’ve been a guest four other times, but this was my first time as host. I wasn’t very nervous, just excited. The crew at KS Productions Studio, owned by producer Kathie Stull, is fabulous, and I knew I’d be in good hands with them and the supportive folks at Quilting Arts and Interweave. 

In the week before, I had laid out my 13 outfits and accessories (each series is 13 episodes, and I have to wear a different outfit in each episode):

The Green Room is where the guests set up their projects or techniques, and hang out until they go on set. Here it is before any of the guests had arrived:

I hung up my 13 shirts (plus a few extras, just in case) in the dressing room:

Here is the set, all ready to roll! The producer makes slight changes every few seasons to keep things looking fresh. This series, we have fabrics in Carrie Bloomston’s new line “Collage” framed, and a new sofa. There are at least three or four cameras trained on me and the guests at all times (but no pressure, right?).

Each day, I had a professional makeup artist to make me look good. Here I am with Karen, one of the makeup artists, after she had worked her magic:

And then the Green Room starts to fill up with guests and all their stuff:

Once on set, the guest arranges her materials and then has a million photos taken before the shoot. Here I am taking a selfie with Karen Gloeggler. Karen is the author of Jane Austen: Quilts Inspired by Her Novels. During one of the technical delays, we discovered that we went to the same high school, Mt. Lebanon High School, in a suburb of Pittsburgh! How weird is that?!?

Luana Rubin of eQuilter shot two segments: one on miniature quilts and handbags from the Tokyo Quilt Festival in Japan, and one on SAQA’s new Urban Textures fabric collection. (The second segment will air in Series 1500.) eQuilter sells a wide range of fabric, notions, and books and magazines, and gives 2% of its profits to charity! 

Vivika Hansen DeNegre, editor of Quilting Arts magazine, and I shot several segments together. Here we are in green and pink…

… and later we swapped colors, and were in pink and green again!

Cheryl Sleboda works for the comic book industry by day, and is a fiber artist by night! She is fascinated by the intersection of textiles and technology. Cheryl shot three segments on marbling and tie-dyeing with Sharpie markers, and then shot a Quilting Arts Workshop in the afternoon; I can’t wait to see it!

Meanwhile, out in the Green Room, folks from Bernina and Quilting Arts (Gayle Schliemann, Kristine Lundblad, and Vivika DeNegre) are busy staying on top of their everyday work back at the office:

Makeup artist Karen scolds me for drinking out of my water bottle without a straw (it messes up your lipstick). One more thing to learn! (You also can’t blow your nose or itch your forehead without requiring a touch-up.) And don’t even think about touching your hair.

Catherine Redford shot some interesting segments on English Paper Piecing, Paper Foundation Piecing, and quilting with a walking foot. Catherine also demonstrated how to work with some new types of Coats and Clark thread for bold hand stitching and machine paper piecing.

Jeanne Cook-Delpit from Bernina did an amazing job helping all the guests get ready to stitch on the Bernina machines on set. I love and use Bernina machines, so I was right at home working on them. Love those crazy pants, Jeanne!

After I changed into each outfit, Katherine Lamancuso, production assistant, took my photo and pinned it up. Then we had to keep track of which segment was in which episode, so I could be dressed appropriately. I also had to make sure I wore the same jewelry for each segment in that episode. Guests could check my outfits to make sure they didn’t clash! We shot a few segments for Series 1500, and Katherine took notes for me so that I’d know which outfits to bring back for the September taping.

Cheryl Sleboda came in the day after her shoot, and she was sporting her spiffy “Sewing Skull” t-shirt, which she designed. You can purchase one here… I just bought one!

Julie Creus of La Todera brought in this jean jacket covered with her amazing 3-D fabric flowers. You can get her flower patterns on her website. She made a new Buttercup Brooch for her segment on QATV.

Here, Gayle Schliemann of Bernina of America models Julie’s Buttercup Brooch:

Before each segment, producer Kathie Stull listened to what was going to be covered, then offered suggestions for how it should flow. She helps rearrange step-outs and materials before the shoot starts. I am always amazed at how quickly she sees potential problems or flaws, and corrects them before we start!

We shot several “opens” (the opening of an episode, where I introduce the guests and set the stage) on the cute couch on the set. Learning how to sit on this couch was the hardest part of the job for me. I am not kidding you. I had to sit at an angle, and shoulders, chin, knees and feet had to be positioned precisely. Hair was smoothed. Shirt was tweaked, pulled up or down or over. Jewelry was readjusted. And my glasses! Apparently there was a horrible glare on them, and I had to try to perch them up above my ears to avoid it. Then the shoot would start, I’d be reading my lines, and I’d feel them start to slowly slide down, and they’d yell “cut!’

Quilt artist Sarah Ann Smith drove all the way from Maine to shoot three segments with us. She has a fabulous book, Threadwork Unraveled (AQS), and a great Workshop with Quilting Arts called Art Quilt Design: From Photo to Threadwork (see my review here):

Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs shot three segments and a Quilting Arts Workshop.

Carrie calls herself a “creativity enabler;” she showed me how to make a darling project featuring something my mother always told me (“Do your best; angels can’t do better”). I love it, and now have it hanging on mom’s antique china cupboard in my kitchen:

Here’s Brett, the primary guy responsible for making me look good, and helping me stay calm through the craziness. He was working the main camera with the teleprompter, and told me what to do and when. He was awesome!

The audio technician, Brian, probably got mighty tired of dealing with my clothes. He had to wire a microphone (clip to the front of my blouse, run a wire down the front of my blouse) and then my “ear” through which I could hear the producer’s comments (clip around my ear and into my ear canal, and run a wire down my back and clip a pack to my jeans waistband). He was so easy to work with, and very patient.

Yes, it snowed during the shoot. About 3-4 inches. I took this shot of ice crystals on my car window:

Guest Linda Friedman came from California. When I talked to her by phone to line her up as a guest, she had voiced some concerns about coming to Cleveland in winter, and I assured her that the chances of snow were very low. Ha! It snowed the day she came in, and it was the first time she had ever experienced snow! Linda showed us how to use Rit dye to achieve beautiful hand-dyed fabrics by using a pipette and microwave.

Fiber artist Susie Krage demonstrated some stitched Shibori techniques using wonderful new fabrics called Dye-Lishus® It is undyed cotton fabric pre-treated to accept dyes without using extra chemicals, and it is way cool. It is sold through New World Textiles. Susie’s work is really beautiful, and after seeing her samples, I want to get out my needle and thread and make some more Shibori fabric!

Lyric Montgomery Kinard, the International Association of Professional Quilters’ 2011 Teacher of the Year, did three segments – on making an easy book cover, on layering with thermofax, and on beading (she has a great DVDs on beading, and on surface design techniques, by the way!)

Here is some of Lyric’s beautiful art; some of these are for sale on her website:


Margie Ullery of Ribbon Candy Quilt Company, did a great job of explaining how to use The Warm Company’s Steam-a-Seam product for one of her designs. Margie designs patterns for quilted wallhangings and contemporary quilts. I use and love Steam-a-Seam, too.

Artist and author Rebekah Meier makes gorgeous mixed media projects. She has a new line of stencils out with The Crafter’s Workshop, and showed us how to do “reverse stenciling” and other techniques to create surface-designed original fabrics, then use them to make a one-of-a-kind pillow.

Here are some of Rebekah’s projects (oooooh, aaaaaah):

Fiber artist Sue Reno shot three segments and a Quilting Arts Workshop:

Sue works in cyanotype, heliographs, and collagraphs, and does the most amazing echo quilting. I love her work that features cyanotypes from photos she’s taken of animal skeletons. Here she is lining up the bones!

Look at her gorgeous surface-designed fabrics:


 We put one of her quilts up on the wall during her segments:

Artist Jane Sassaman shot three segments: She showed us how to abstract from nature, explained how a fabric line is born (she designs for Free Spirit; you can see her Sweet Lady Jane line here), and taught us how to make a lovely ribbon rosette (which we are modeling below). I adore Jane’s art quilts and her fabrics. Her designs, while beautiful and colorful on the surface, always have a little hint of danger, or possibly evil... spiders or plants with thorns or spiky leaves. Jane’s detailed large-scale prints are so pretty you don’t want to cut them up, leading her to write a book (Patchwork Sassaman Style, Dragon Threads) on the subject.

By the end of the week, I was truly exhausted. It is a lot of time to spend being “on.” And smiling. And being immensely cheerful. And reading from a teleprompter, and trying to listen to what the producer was saying in my “ear” while still asking intelligent questions to the guests. And changing clothing constantly. Each night, when I got back to my hotel room, I had to take about a half hour to just turn out the lights, lie down, close my eyes and take long, deep breaths. (And swab my earlobes, which were swollen from changing my earrings 12 times a day.)

But, boy, was it fun! I get a front row seat to watch some of the world’s best fiber artists and surface designers and quilters do their thing, and teach me new techniques.

Many thanks to everyone at KS Productions, Bernina, and of course, Quilting Arts and Interweave, for making my first series taping a success. Special thanks to Helen, Vivika, Kristine, and Kathy, who were so supportive and positive, and did not say one single negative word to me all week. Here I am posing with the fabulous crew after we shot our final segment:

About Quilting Arts TV
We shoot one week in March and one week in September. The 13 episodes we shot this past week will air starting in July on many public TV stations in the United States. 

You can view previews of previous seasons here.  You can buy DVDs of entire Series here

Want to find out if you can watch in your area? Go to this QATV webpage, and enter your zipcode to find out.

Our sponsors are:


Think you’d make a good guest? We are looking for lively, professional guests who demonstrate excellence in their art. We choose a mix of guests that will appeal to our viewers, who include art quilters/fiber artists, surface designers, and contemporary and modern quilters. Some segments are technique oriented, and some are project oriented (guests provide directions for the projects for free, and they are available to our viewers through the Quilting Arts TV website).
Our show is aired on Public Television stations in the United States, and under their policies, guests are not able to promote their services or products (for example, books or patterns or quilting businesses), unless they are using products from one of our show sponsors. As someone who has appeared on four seasons of Quilting Arts TV before becoming the host, I can tell you that the exposure I got was well worth the expense, but this is something you should take into account.

We advise you to become familiar with the show, and its content, before submitting a proposal. If you think you would be a good match for the show, please write me and include two or three ideas for segments (either techniques, or projects, or both). For each, write a short paragraph or two of description. Include photos or links to blog posts/websites where we can see the project or the technique.