Finishing Unfinished Projects (UFOs) Part 1: Smaller Items

The Problem

Over the years, I have accumulated an ever-growing pile of UFOs (Unfinished Objects). This wasn’t intentional, it just kind of happened. Sometimes I was working on things right before vacations or trips, and never got to them once back. At other times I started something new before finishing an existing project, and then moved on. And right before my father passed away, I worked on a big batch of totes, and then couldn’t bare to touch them afterwards.

I kept my UFO pile on a glider chair that was a part of our guest room before I conquered it and turned it into a sewing room. It didn’t bother anyone, and was just sitting there, getting taller and taller each year, out of mind although in plain sight (I have to admit that sometimes I did feel a little guilty because of it…). Over the years, whenever I did a major tidying up of the sewing room, I reluctantly went over that pile, and sometimes took things out that I no longer liked. But major tidying up was rare, and for the most part I didn’t even remember what was in the pile. Until, in the fall, my kids decided they needed the glider chair, that is. They moved it into our family room, leaving my UFO pile homeless on the floor…

You need to understand that my sewing room is rather small, and that a queen-sized guest bed takes most of its floor space. That leaves very little space for me to work in. Having the UFO pile take some of that space was bothersome. And so, in December, I decided to go over it and take inventory.

My UFO Pile

During my excavations of the pile, I found 58 projects (!!) as follows:

1 troll art doll.
1 veggie bag.
1 moth soft sculpture.
1 boro spring jacket.
2 journal covers.
3 messenger bags.
5 small crossbody bags.
6 clutches.
7 zippered pouches of different kinds.
8 quilts/wall hangings varying from small to a twin-sized bed quilt.
And, last but not least, a staggering 23 totes!

The Resolution

I am usually not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this was too much. Besides, I needed the floor space for my scrap boxes. AND I thought I should teach my kids by example, and I DO want them to finish things they start… So, I decided to dedicate January to finishing up as many of these projects as I could. I forbade myself from starting anything new for an entire month.

The Execution

I decided right away that I don’t have to finishing everything. Only the projects that I still liked, and only those that were in fairly advanced sewing stages. I decided to absorb the fabrics of early-stage projects back into my stash. That meant dismantling the veggie bag, moth, one journal cover, one crossbody bag, five clutches and a zippered pouch. All of these went back into my stash, as I barely started them.

I resolved to leaving the jacket for the spring, and work on the quilts later.

Of what was left, I decided to start with the smaller projects, the ones I could complete relatively quickly. I knew that seeing them finished will encourage me to keep going.

Pouches

I began by completing the zipper pouches. The first three I probably started in preparation for some craft fair or other, although I don’t remember exactly when. I worked on scrappy pouches (in the bottom pf the picture) in fall 2019, when I made them as gifts to family and friends. I didn’t have time to finished those three then. If you’d like to try making your own, you can find a tutorial here.

Once the pouches were all finished, I went on to complete the one remaining clutch. I started it in spring 2018, in preparation for a May craft fair. At the time, I made two clutches out of the same beautiful embroidered fabric. I never got to finish this one, so it ended up in my UFO pile. Its sibling, on the other hand, sold right away.
Like all my clutches, I lined this one with silk and decorated it with an enameled coconut-shell button.

Crossbody Bags

When I finished with the small items, I moved on to the mini crossbody bags. I don’t remember when I started those. More than a year had passed since I last sewed a bag, and when I resumed working on these I was surprised to realize just how much work they were. There are so many required steps, thread changes, ironing…

Back in December, when I decided to dedicate January to UFOs, I imagined myself sitting in my warm sewing room, hot beverage at hand, looking out at the rain. But January 2021 in California turned out to be one of the warmest I remember. It was dry, sunny and for one week–summer hot, with temperatures close to 80 degrees. Naturally, I couldn’t just sit and sew. I ended up spending a few days gardening, something I’ve never done in January before…

Messenger bag

There were three messenger bags in my pile. Two required just a few extra rivets. The third, in the below picture, waited almost-finished for a LONG time. It was one of the very first bags I ever designed. At the beginning, I experimented with shaping bag flaps to match the fabric designs. I probably made 3-4 bags in this way. For this one, I sewed the flap and lining years ago, but still needed to finish the outer layer. In recent years I’ve always been making the lining last, so it was surprising to realize that I made them first once. It might be five years later, but I finally finished it!

Blue messenger bag

Most of these finished items are now listed in my Etsy shop

Spark Mini Quilt Series

What do you do to get yourself motivated?

2020 was a challenging year, with lots of ups and downs. Locked up at home, I often found myself turning to art as an escape from the world. There were times during the year, however, when I couldn’t muster what it takes to create at all. When this happened in spring and summer, I went out to the garden and kept myself busy there. But in winter things got a bit more difficult.

After I finished my Desolation series at the end of the year, I was left with a kind of deep emptiness. I often feel this way after completing bigger or harder projects. I went into my sewing room, and … wasn’t sure what to do next. That, despite the huge UFO pile and the long list of projects in my head… 

In the past, simply organizing my scraps helped ignite my creativity. But in December I didn’t feel like doing even that. And so, after several days of doing absolutely nothing, I decided to give myself a little creative challenge, just for fun. A small game to spark my creative juices. Hence, the Spark series 🙂

I made up some rules:

  • Nine days.
  • One mini quilt a day.
  • Each piece will be 6″ x 6.” Small and manageable.
  • Use only scraps.
  • Use the existing shapes of the scraps (but cutting them to fit was OK).
  • Each quilt should use at least one fabric from the previous quilt.
  • Use only black thread to outline shapes.

Here is the result: The Spark Mini Quilt Series. Can you find the fabric/s in each piece that I also used in the piece before it? (Hint: the very last piece also uses fabric from the first, closing the circle):

Did you find it/them? Which is your favorite?

Hopefully this will inspire you to create a Spark Mini Quilt Series of your own. It’s fun! And it does help rekindle creativity 🙂

Desolation Quilt Series

In March 2020 we went into a pandemic-induced lockdown and everything closed. For months, places which were once crowded and bustling were suddenly deserted. The streets were empty, as were shops, movie theaters, libraries, places of worship. Everything remained abandoned for months. Then some places opened, only to shut down again when case numbers spiked .

Desolation prevailed wherever you went. Inside and out.

In September, the California wildfires restricted everyone further. Unable to go outside, I went back into my sewing room and tried to lift my spirit up with some bright colors. A small quilt formed, but it was all sharp angles and confined spaces. I tried to soften it with some lace, but the lace, too, ended up as a border, restricting. Mazes within mazes, escape routes blocked, small, confined spaces, sharpness. And yet, there was also some beauty in it all, just like in the real world…

This is Fenced Garden. 10″ x 10.”

In the following months, slowly and painfully, more quilts in this series emerged. Emerged in-between other projects, as if on their own, designing themselves. Some took weeks to complete. This was not an easy series.

These quilts evoked abandoned streets, taped-up play structures, empty squares, and boarded-up shop fronts. They portrayed cities that lost their citiness.

This is Eerie Streets. 10″ x 10.” The emptiness of streets in that first lockdown, deprived of both people and cars, was one of the most striking differences between the “before” and “after.” And the quiet that accompanied it. A deep, screaming quiet. The quiet was nice, actually.

The quilts in this series shouted barred cathedrals, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. They whispered of locked museums and closed schools.

Here is Locked Cathedral. 10″ x 10.”

These quilts hinted at abandoned structures, quiet public spaces and things falling apart.

For my family, one of the hardest aspects of the March Lockdown was the closing of theaters. Both of my daughters were in a youth theater production at the time. They practiced for months, getting ready to perform over two consecutive weekends. The first weekend still happened, albeit in front of smaller, spaced-out audiences. By the time the second weekend rolled by, however, we were already in full lockdown. The disappointment was bitter.

Fittingly, the last quilt in this series is Shattered Theater, 10″ x 10.”

And yet, each of the quilts in this series contains some beauty, too. In pleasing colors, the softness of textures, or in rounded shapes. In each, there is some hint of nature, in the form of leaves or the silhouette of mountains. And each has the silver lining of lace, pretty even when constricting, bringing hope…

Need a New Year’s Resolution? Cut Down on Plastic!

Today I’m not writing about textiles or art, but rather about another topic that is important to me: trying to live a more sustainable life and cutting down on plastic. My ANY Texture adventure started because I wanted to give a new life to gorgeous, discarded designer textiles. As it evolved, I became increasingly aware of various environmental issues, and of the acute plastic-waste problem facing our planet.

From being an indifferent consumer like most of us (briefly even somewhat of a shopaholic), I am gradually becoming a more conscientious shopper and a bit of a sustainability freak. Because once you become aware of the problem, you can no longer unsee it. It’s everywhere you look. And it’s really important, for our own well being and very survival, as well as for that of our fellow creatures and the unique planet we live on.

I’m aware that my domestic plastic-reduction efforts are but a drop in the ocean. In fact, the pandemic made the waste problem much worse than it had been before. A short visit to a medical facility, where I saw great quantities of single-use gear of all sorts discarded without thought, made me wonder whether my tiny efforts were even worth the trouble. The problem is so vast and widespread that it really can be discouraging. However, what if a million households make the small changes we did? And then two million? The drops will eventually add up. And so I keep trying…

Today I want to share the modest, easy changes I implemented in my own household, including the good and not so good experiences. I hope this might inspire you to experiment with plastic-reducing efforts of your own.

After a few years of implementing little changes gradually, we’re still not plastic-free. That is a goal that is still beyond reach, mostly because so much food comes wrapped or packaged in plastic. But we’ve made some progress, at least. There were times over the last few years in which I drove my family crazy. At one point they had to take me aside for a “talk.” I relaxed a bit, but after a few years of gentle nagging I can now see changes in them, too 🙂

Cutting Down on Plastic in the Bathroom

I’ve found that that the easiest place to start cutting down on plastic is in bathroom products. There are now hundreds of companies producing eco-friendly products, with more coming on the market every day. Even Target just started selling some of these 🙂 

Toilet Paper

Shortly before the pandemic hit, I switched from regular plastic-wrapped toilet paper to a recycled, eco-friendly version. These rolls arrived individually wrapped in paper (unnecessary in my opinion, yet better than plastic), in a HUGE cardboard box. The size of it surprised even me, and led to weeks-long teasing from my family. But let me tell you–once March 2020 came around, I had the last laugh! When the toilet-paper shortages started, it turned out that I was ahead of my time, for my family still had a months-long supply!

Admittedly, my family was not too happy with this eco-friendly version. Although I bought the two-ply kind, it was still thinner and less soft than what they were accustomed to. People complained. Some complained a lot. There was even a small, short-lived mutiny. Now, however, we’re on our third box (I’ve been ordering whatever brand is available, and found no difference between them). There haven’t been any complaints in months. I think they got used to it. And the best part? We no longer have plumbing issues! No more clogged-up toilets, no nasty unclogging needed!

Liquid Hand Soap

Hand soap bars are already eco friendly, unless you buy them wrapped in plastic. I usually try to buy artisan soap wrapped in paper. Although this is more expensive than store-bought soap, it feels good to support small businesses, and is an affordable luxury.

My kids, though, like to use liquid soap for their hands. We wash our hands a lot now, in these times of Covid, so I thought I’ll try eco-friendly, water-soluble hand-soap concentrate. These are dissolvable pods you put in reusable bottles.

They arrived in a carton box, which was great. When I opened it, however, I discovered they were wrapped in … plastic! Disappointment no. 1.

The second disappointment was that once I added the stated amount of water, the soap felt like colored water. Very liquidy. The final disappointment was how they made my hands feel–completely dried out… Sadly, I still have 25 bottles-worth of this product. Needless to say, I will not buy more when it’s gone. I think I will try another brand, but if that, too, doesn’t work, my kids will have to switch to bars.

Shampoo and Conditioner

Most shampoos and conditioners come in big plastic bottles. Most of them contain mostly water. So I switched to shampoo bars and conditioner bars.

So far I tried only a couple of brands, mostly because these bars last forever–months on end! The result is mixed. The shampoo bars I tried worked great. They leathered and cleaned as well as bottled shampoos. The conditioners, however, were not quite as good. They didn’t leave my hair quite as soft as the conditioners I used before, and made it a bit more frazzled. HOWEVER: it took me years to find a bottled conditioner I liked, so I’m still hopeful I will find a more suitable conditioner bar. There are literally hundreds of brands to choose from! Besides, I think that having slightly-less soft hair is a small price to pay for leaving a cleaner planet for my children…

Cutting Down on Plastic in the Kitchen

Cutting down on plastic-wrapped food is not easy, especially during the pandemic. But replacing other kitchen products is more manageable.

Reusable Shopping Bags

Switching from single-use shopping bags to my own reusable Market Totes was one of the first things I did, even before my city issued a no-single-bag ordinance. We’ve been using the same three ANY Texture totes for over five years, and they are still as good as new.

During the first few months of the pandemic, stores no longer allowed customers to bring their own bags. In those few months we accumulated a ginormous pile of paper bags–which gave me a better idea of how many bags we actually saved in the years we did use my makes. Luckily, bringing your own bags to shops is now possible again, so we’re back to doing that 🙂

I still have a few Market Totes left in my shop, if you’d like to take a look. I will not be making any more, so the ones now listed are the last.

Leftover Storage

For years, we’ve used cling wrap to cover some leftovers (and reusable containers for others). I recently learned about flexible, multi-use silicone lids, and bought some of those. Since then, we hardly need cling wrap.

Dishwasher Soap

Until recently, we’ve been using dishwasher pods that came in a plastic container. I switched to an eco-friendly version that comes in a carton box.

The dishes turn out just as clean. There is no plastic container to “recycle” (plastic recycling, by the way, is a sham). The cardboard boxes are pretty and sturdy, and I’ve found use for several of them. In fact, I even shipped some of my products in those re-used boxes! And cardboard can be and is easily recyclable. 

Cutting Down on Plastic in the Laundry Room

Laundry Detergent

Just like dishwasher soap, our laundry detergent used to cames in big plastic bottles. I switched to dissolvable pods packed in cardboard from the same company as the above.

These, too, have been working just as well as what we previously used, while leaving less waste.

Buying Less Clothing

I used to love shopping for clothes. Once I became aware of the huge waste generated by the fast fashion industry, however, I stopped cold. I haven’t bought anything new in years. If I managed to stop, anyone can!

My girls still buy clothes every now and then, but a lot less than before. One of them now mostly shops second hand 🙂 When we had our big house cleanup and reorganizing over the summer, they helped me tidy my closet. As a reward, I let them “shop” from it. They each picked a few items, and everyone was happy: they were thrilled to have new things, and I was happy to see them wear my clothes–especially since everything looked way better on them than it ever did on me! A win win!

Future Plans

The most eco-friendly thing you can do is keep using what you already have for as long as possible. That said, I keep looking for more eco-friendly household products to try. We’re slowly switching to plastic-free deodorant, for example. Most of our family’s plastics, however, comes from food, and eliminating that is difficult, especially now. When the pandemic is over, and I once again dare browse stores and visit farmer’s markets, I will try to make wiser choices about which foods to buy.

Do you have any sustainable products to recommend? If so, please write them in the comments, so that I can try them, too!

Looking Back at 2020: An End-of-year Summary

2020 is about to end, which means it’s time for that end-of-year summary, by now a tradition. It turns out that this is my fifth end-of-year post. ANY Texture is now five years old! 

How do you summarize a year like 2020? A year in which the sense of time itself has been compromised? The world as we knew it shifted. Time got warped. Our lives were turned upside down and we all went on a wild emotional roller-coaster ride. Many of us emerge from this year somewhat altered…

Life Changes

For me, this year led to both physical and lifestyle changes. The physical changes were relatively quick: We had to adjust our house to accommodate distant learning and everyone being home all the time. We moved large pieces of furniture, rearranged rooms, assigned new functions to old spaces. My kids confiscated the glider chair that sat in my sewing room for years, and which housed my huge pile of unfinished projects. That forced me to try my hand at reupholstering… 

There were changes in the garden, too. After several years of neglect (ANY Texture’s fault!) I finally managed to spend a lot of time outside, digging, pulling, pruning and planting to save my sanity. The garden almost resumed its pre-ANY Texture glory.

The lifestyle changes have been more gradual and are still ongoing. My life slowed down. I’m in less of a hurry. More and more, I’m enjoying the small things, the little moments, the here and now (perhaps because the future is so unpredictable, and any plans are susceptible to change). I’m finding more time to read books, to watch movies, to practice yoga, to learn new things. I have a better balance between life and art making. With everyone home, there’s been more cooking, baking, eating, spending time together. The upsides of a dire situation.

Art Changes

ANY Texture was born after I got the Bag Bug five years ago. Following a few months of intense bag making, however, I started creating other things, including art quilts. For a couple of years I’ve been meaning to make more fine art, but haven’t quite gotten to it. When my father passed away last year, I realized that life was short, and that I should concentrate on the things I want to do and spend less time on the things I don’t enjoy. So I made less bags, participated in less craft shows, and completed my first quilt series, the Calendar Quilts. Then 2020 arrived.

Jacket

I kicked the year off with a boro jacket to honor my dad.

Right when I was finished, the pandemic happened. Shows got cancelled, online shopping halted, everything closed. I no longer needed to create inventory. Instead, I turned to art as a refuge, a means of expression, an escape from the world.

Animal art

Insects

We entered the first lockdown in the spring. I spent much of it in my garden, where insects, birds, squirrels and the occasional cat kept me company. I found it to be the perfect time to further explore the shape of insects and beetles, something I’ve been meaning to do more of since I completed my Dare! quilt in 2017. I made more butterfly brooches:

Art in Times of Corona: Textile Butterfly

Then the Amazing Beetles series.

Art in Times of Corona: Beetle quilts

And I was finally able to play with three-dimensional beetles as well:

Four fabric beetles

Birds

For several years I’ve been wanting to try Ann Wood Handmade’s owl and bird soft-sculpture patterns. The pandemic gave me the time to get to it. I first made owls.

And also wrote a tutorial for a small owl my daughter made based on something she saw in Japan:

Then I worked on a flock of birds.

And finally created a series of small bird quilts:

Cat

My sister and mother were supposed to visit in the spring. Their much-anticipated visit got canceled like everything else. So I made my sister a quilt of her cat Trini:

Trini the Cat art quilt

Abstract Art

My true passion lies in abstracts, and this year I got to play more with that. Interestingly, I am realizing more an more that even my abstracts are strongly influenced by nature…

Early in the year, I completed the Colors of the Day series, a series influenced by landscapes I enjoyed on past travels.

Later, I created a series of mood-depicting Textile Poems. These drew much of their inspiration from my garden.

I also explored the textural variety of Tree Bark, something that was on my to-do list since my trip to Japan a couple of years ago.

Art Influenced by Current Events

2020 was an unusual year, and I couldn’t but respond to it in my art. This year, I created three of what I think are my most powerful art quilts to date: Interdependence, Ashes and 2020.

I also made Black Lives Matter, Wildfires and Let the Mending Begin.

Other

Early in the pandemic, I made wall hangings of the Jewish Blessing of the Child for my children, just in case…

Before Thanksgiving, I made a textile card for my mom:

Thankful for you, mom

And in the fall, the maple tree outside my window inspired me to make an Autumn Leaf wall hanging. You can find the tutorial here.

Autumn leaf wall hanging

After completing all these art quilts and more in one year, I decided it was time to finally join the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve been really enjoying all that they have to offer. Check out their website for some gorgeous textile eye candy!

In December, I was honored to be included in an article on recycling in textile art, written by Heidi Ingram for the TextileArtist.org blog. Check it out here.

So here we are, at the end of 2020. Back in a second lockdown, with Covid numbers skyrocketing, but with the promise of a vaccine in sight. My sewing room is still messy. The Unfinished Project pile is taller than ever (I didn’t even touch it this year!), and is now homeless. My scrap boxes multiplied from three to seven, and are all overflowing (even though I used mostly scraps this year… This will remain a mystery).

Next year? Tackle those UFOs, perhaps? I have ideas for more art quilts than I can possibly make, piles of jacket-worthy fabrics, and a long list of things to learn. In other words, I’m excited to keep experimenting, learning, and growing as an artist… The adventure continues 🙂

Thanks so much for accompanying me on this journey!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Keep safe and cozy.

Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging

Autumn is my favorite season. It’s the time of year when the trees change color, painting the world with warm, vibrant reds and golds. The air gets cooler, sending us indoors, to warmth and fireplaces and hot chocolate.

I have a beautiful maple tree right outside my sewing room’s window. In fall it brings a reddish glow into my studio. Sewing in a warm room, a hot cup of tea at hand, admiring nature, gives me a wonderfully cozy feeling.

It always amazes me how beautiful fallen leaves are, and how unique. Because although there are millions of trees in the world, and thousands of leaves on each tree, each leaf is special and one of a kind. Just like people.

In fall, autumnal colors always creep into my work. They inspire me to make various red and yellow products, and, of course, quilts. This year, I decided to make an Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging. Below I explain how I made it. You can follow these steps to make a wall hanging of your own, or, if you prefer, a table runner.

Fall Leaf Hanging Tutorial

I started by collecting different kinds of fallen leaves during one of my neighborhood walks. I brought them to my sewing room, to use as templates.

Looking through my scrap piles, I found suitably-colored pieces, and made little quilt sandwiches out of them: a backing, batting and top. Then, I placed the actual leaf on the top fabric, and drew an outline around it.

I zigzagged along the outline, and, once done, carefully cut the leaf out along the outside of the stitch. This has to be done carefully, so as not to cut the stitching itself.

I made a little pile of leaves.

Out in the garden, I picked a dry stick. I placed it on my carpet, and started arranging the leaves beneath it. This took a while, as I wanted to reach just the right balance between colors, fabrics, shapes and sizes. (If you want to make a table runner, leave the stick part out, but still arrange your leaves in any shape you want).

Once I knew where each leave goes, I free-motion quilted details onto the leaves. I used a heavy, variegated thread for added interest.

I placed each leaf back carefully. To make sure I have a mostly-rectangular shape, I placed them onto a cutting mat and straightened them a bit. Then I carefully pinned them together.

I delicately took the pinned piece back to my sewing machine, and stitched the leaves together where they touched each other, starting from the top and going down.

When they were all connected, I hand stitched the top row around the stick.

Finally, I found a red string that one of my kids brought home as part of a school project years ago (yes, I collect things that might be useful one days, and some of them do find a new purpose, even if years later!). Viola: an Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging!

I hung this in our dining room, to enhance the autumnal feel. I love how it glows in the light!

And now, it’s time to collect the real fallen leaves out in my yard, so I can add them to my compost bin all year long!

Thankful for You, Mom

There are so many things we take for granted. The sun in the sky, the air we breathe, the seasons. Our breath, our health, the people we love. But if there is one thing this year has taught me, it is this: We can’t–and shouldn’t–take anything for granted. Not clean air, not the reliability of seasons, not good health, and certainly not those we care about. We must stop for a moment, notice–and appreciate–every little thing we have. Because we are so lucky to have it, and because it’s not guaranteed to last. Noticing and appreciating. The little things. The present, the moment. The people. This is what life is about.

Today, with Thanksgiving approaching, I want to pause and truly GIVE THANKS. Because although this has been a challenging year, there is still so much to be grateful for. 

We take a lot for granted, things and people. But there’s no one we take for granted more than our mothers. Like the sun and the moon, and the way the world just is, our mothers are always there.

I am grateful for many things today, but want to give some extra special thanks to the one person who gave me life, and from then on always had my back: my Mom.

**********

Ima,

Thank you for caring for me all those years. Thanks for the sacrifices you made, for the tea parties, synonym games, and all the dreams you composed. Thanks for the countless meals you cooked, when you felt like it and when you didn’t. I took them for granted then, but now, when I have to feed my own children, I see them for what they truly were: repeated expressions of love. Thanks for coming to school bringing the sandwiches I forgot, for your help with homework, for your solid support. Thank you for always dressing my physical wounds and hurt feelings. You spent hundreds of hours typing my high school thesis, all 130 pages of it (not including the bibliography), on a typewriter, in those dark, bygone days before computers. No one else would have done that for me. 

You helped as much as you could in every way you could when time came for me to fly out of the nest, even though my flight eventually took me further than either of us had ever expected, and even though it must have been so, so painful. I am grateful you went out of your comfort zone to come backpacking with me in China. And thankful also that you travelled thousands of miles, over and over, to be present at all the important events of my life. Thanks, too, for loving my children, deeply and passionately, and for being such a wonderful grandma.

You are the smartest, wisest, most empathetic person I know. Beautiful inside and out. Thank you for teaching me what it means to stand up for what is right, and for what you believe in. Thanks for being my best friend. Thanks for showing me, though a personal example, what a strong woman looks like. What it means to be a good human being and a good mother. Because of you, when my kids arrived, no instructions or manuals attached, I knew what to do, sort of. I’ve been trying to be as good a mother to them as you are to me. Thanks for being there for all the important milestones, for all the big and small moments. I am grateful for all the adventures we had together, and for all those we will still have.

Throughout the storms of my life, you were a rock and a lighthouse. You always show me the way to what is right.

Love you to the end of the universe and back,

Zwia.

**********

Who are you thankful for today? If you haven’t done so yet, perhaps you should reach out to tell them. The last few months have been challenging for everyone, so I’m sure they will appreciate your gesture.

If this makes it a bit easier for you, I made a downloadable version of the card I made for my mom that you can personalize. Clicking on the link below will download the image directly into your “Downloads” file:

Download here

Once you download it, you can personalize it:

1) By inserting a picture of your own on the blank rectangle electronically, using your favorite picture-editing program, and then printing it out.

Or:

2) Simply print it out and physically glue your own picture on top.  

Then give or mail it to whoever you want, and pass the love on 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Tree Bark Quilt Series

I’ve always enjoyed textures up-close. Textures of man-made things like old structures or rusting tools, or the textures of nature: lichen, rocks, cracked earth or tree bark. But it wasn’t until I visited the island of Hokkaido three summers ago, that it occured to me that it would be really interesting to make a tree bark quilt series.

The Birth of an Idea

In Hokkaido, we visited a local museum. One of the displays included felled trunks representing the different native trees of the island. Put together, the contrasting textures were striking. When I saw them, I immediately realized they must be turned into quilts.

Alas, I when I came home I got busy and distracted, as I often do. I archived the idea of tree-bark quilts in my head, alongside many other creative ideas.

Timing is Everything

Then came the 2020 Lockdown. I spent most of the pandemic-sticken summer in my garden, surrounded by wildlife, flowers and trees. My only outings were walks in the neighborhood, on which I noticed the plants and trees in my neighbors’ yards. Some were truly beautiful, like this tree right down the road from my house:

The California wildfires, which started in mid-August, smoked me out of the garden and into my sewing room. The unhealthy air made it impossible to leave the house. That, in addition to the pandemic, was a lot to deal with. I desperately needed to treat myself, to somehow uplift my spirit. So I decided to buy myself something I didn’t really NEED but that I’ve been wanting for a while: a big box of thirty variegated 12-weight thread spools!

I didn’t use them immediately after they arrived. I wanted to first finish my pandemic quilt, and the fire-influenced quilt I started. But I saw them, and drooled over them, every time I came into my sewing room.

Then, one day, it suddenly hit me: these spools were made for the tree bark quilt series!

The Process

I decided to make six quilts in this series. Like all my work, I meant them to be a study of shapes, colors and textures. An excuse to play with forms and color combinations I don’t normally use. I wanted to utilize my new thread, and also to practice my free-motion quilting, something I haven’t done much of.

I began by searching the web for pictures of tree bark, and settled on six general types. My idea wasn’t to copy them, just to use them as inspiration. For color combinations, I was inspired mostly by pictures of Rainbow Eucalyptus and Gum trees that I found online.

I used many layers of fabric and stitched over them, raw-edge-applique style. It took a lot of playing and tweaking to get the stitching right.

I was absolutely smitten by the thread, but my machine didn’t like it at all. It squeaked. Potested. Broke the thread again and again. It did strange things with the bobin. I had to change the tension over and over. My jean needle wasn’t good enough, so I tried a top-stitch needle instead. I also had to clean the machine often, as it turns out that 12-weight thread sheds. A LOT.

The Quilts

Each quilt taught me something. In each, I played with slightly different techniques. They each have little flaws and blemished, but in general I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

This is Tree Bark 1:

Tree Bark 2:

Here’s Tree Bark 3:

Tree Bark 4:

 

Tree Bark 5:

And last but not least, Tree Bark 6:

I hope this series captures some of the diversity that nature offers. We live in such an amazing world with so many interesting lifeforms. Maybe my work will propel people to notice, and more importantly–to CARE. Care enough to help preserve the beauty that is already here…

So what do you think? Which of the tree bark quilts do you like best?