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?

A New Art Quilt: 2020

2020 is such a round, even, symmetric number. A pretty number, even. After a difficult 2019, in which I lost my father, I was very much looking forward to that beautifully-numbered year. 2020 promised a new, better decade, a fresh beginning, a rosy promise…

Well, as you all know, it didn’t quite deliver…

2020 turned out to be unlike any other year. It brought one calamity after another, in unrelenting waves, from all directions. A worldwide pandemic. Numerous natural disasters everywhere. Daily news depicting one outrage after another in devastating speed. Blow after blow after blow. And then there were personal catastrophes, too. Really bad things happened to really good people that I deeply care about. It just didn’t end.

Some mornings I wake up afraid to open my eyes, afraid of what the day might bring. There are entire days in which I walk around with a lump in my stomach, hardly able to breath. Sometimes I find it hard to function at all. I’m not depressed. It’s just that this year has been really trying. The world seems to have gone awry, and the light at the end of the tunnel feels far away and dim. It’s been overwhelming. 

Somehow, out of all of this, a new quilt idea was born.

The Idea

I had this vision in my head: A narrow grotto with overhanging boulders, threateningly squeezing a small human figure. I could see the scene in my mind, but it took a while to decide how to translate it into fabric.

One day I asked my daughter to take a picture of me in a fetal position, depicting how I felt. I wanted to use the picture as a study, a model for the human shape I wanted to embroider. She took several pictures, and I chose one and printed it on paper. I cut it out and started planning the composition.

Although I was in the midst of working on another series, a series that is marked by bright, cheery colors, I chose to select dark grays for this quilt. 

A Self Portrait to Represent Us All

The human shape, at this point, was still paper, and I wracked my brain trying to decide what to do with it.

Although I originally meant to use my picture only as a study, the more I progressed with the quilt the more I wanted to leave it the way it was. This wasn’t any human form, it was me. A self portrait of sorts in which I am seen on the outside, but am entirely unrecognizable. The quilt itself, or course, is more “me” than my picture, because it depicts how I feel on the inside… This self portrait wasn’t just a self portrait, however, because this year many of us feel the same. This meant that I could represent all humans. 

My daughter took the picture on a regular, Covid-Lockdown day, just like any of the other two-hundred-and-something lockdown days we’ve had so far. I was wearing my Day Pajamas: comfortable, broken-in, unsightly sweats. The outfit, I decided, represented the times we live in and was therefore just right.

The Process

Not quite abstract but not realistic, either, this quilt pushed me to try some new techniques.

I printed the picture of me on fabric, something I’ve never tried before. It turned out washed out and ghostly. I thought that that, too, was appropriate…

For the first time ever, I added details in acrylic paint.

I glued and then sewed the human form into its position. It looked out of place, not really belonging to the world around it. Exactly the way I feel about my world right now, which morphed under my nose into something unrecognizable.

I stressed some of the rock details with crude thread painting.

I didn’t like the white highlights on the boulders, however, and later spent quite some time pulling them out.

Final Touches

The composition was just as I intended, and yet the quilt still didn’t depict the internal and external turmoil I wanted to convey. So I took a picture of the quilt as it was, printed it, and drew different quilting options over it. Once I knew what I wanted, I free-motion quilted big squiggles on the cliffs of both sides, in big, crude stitches (because I didn’t have heavy-weight thread in the color I needed, and the fabric would have “swallowed” small stitched in the thin thread that I did have). That was more like it. In the process, I broke TWO machine needles. I often go months on end without breaking a needle, and have never before broken two needles in one sitting. Somehow, though, with a quilt called “2020,” I wasn’t really surprised…

Finally, I added a touch of red shadow, and my ANY Texture logo in a Chinese, chop-signature way.

I left the edges fraying because, really, which of us isn’t fraying a little at the edges at the moment?

This is 2020 in all its repressive glory.

A suitable quilt to show four days before a crucial election, don’t you think? Can you tell I’m also suffering from a server election anxiety???

How to pass the next four days? Apply every self-care strategy in your arsenal, breath deeply, and hope that the election won’t drop another boulder over our heads…

“Interdependent,” My Lockdown Quilt

Everything about this quilt took forever. It is the second instalment in my Hands Series, made almost four years after the first piece, Give a Hand. It took six months to make, start to finish, mostly because I left it untouched for long periods of time in between.

Give a Hand kept me distracted during the November 2016 election. The idea for Interdependent came to me during the first week of Lockdown, in mid March 2020. It slowly evolved from there, both in my head and in the real world. I guess the Hands Series growns in times of crisis…

Stage One: A Strange Kind of Euphoria

When the Covid 19 pandemic started spreading around the world at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of anxiety, but also some hope. People all over the globe went into quarantine together. It was the first time in history that the whole of humanity shared a common experience in this way.

Pictures of death and despair were intermingled with reports about shows of solidarity. Italy had some of the highest death tolls at the time, but the news also highlighted Italians singing on balconies. Videos from Hong Kong circulated on social media, showing sports and dance teachers giving lessons from rooftops. People shared pandemic-related jokes and memes on all communication channels, in all languages. There was a feeling of oneness, a perception that we were all in this together. Scientists from different countries collaborated to find cure and a vaccine. There was hope that human intelligence will overcome the virus quickly.

That was the original idea behind this quilt. This connectivity of all humans, regardless of skin tone, religion, or nationality. That is why I chose different shades of the same color.

And why I thought to depict a circle of hands holding each other.

Stage Two: A Sobering Reality

As the Lockdown dragged on, however, more sinister tones began creeping in. It slowly became clear that a vaccine will not materialize that fast, that this will take longer than anyone had expected. Rivalries between nations resurfaced. Racial tensions and inequality in the US came to the surface with a powerful, emotional Black Lives Matter movement. Economic inequalities between people and nations became more pronounced as economies strained. Political tensions grew all around.

Meanwhile, the Earth protested, too. Massive fires. Record-breaking heat waves. Melting glaciers. Floods. Locust. Powerful storms. The planet showed us who was in command. For centuries, humans took and took and destroyed, exhausting the natural resources of our habitat. Now, without leaving our homes, we acutely feel the result of our accumulative actions.

The quilt wasn’t about hope and solidarity anymore. It became more complicated, more malevolent. Dark, like the grays of its background. Yes, we are interconnected, but in intricate ways, both good and bad. Because in a super-connected world like the one we live in, with people moving about widely and quickly, viruses that emerge in one part of the earth spread worldwide within days. Polluted air or water originating on one side of the globe travel quickly, too. As do pests, species which then become invasive, ideas, protests, corruption. And now–wildfire smoke…

The things that threaten humanity became a part of the quilt. As did the self-inflicted threats. I started embroidering some of the major ones all around, on the outer borders of the quilt. First, in black and gray, the natural threats, including the ones influenced by human activity. Then, in red, some of the threats that are entirely self-inflicted, caused by human shortcomings, stupidity and limitations.

At that point, working on the quilt became emotionally difficult. Instead of being distracting and meditative, the embroidering process started taking me to bad places, to pull me down.

I couldn’t work on it for long periods of time. I had to take a lot of breaks. Then, when summer came, I took one very long break.

The massive wildfires that engulfed California in August brought me back indoors, into my sewing room and back to this quilt. I forced myself to finish it. I put in the last stitches under the strange, orange light of a smoke-filled air.

Stage Three: The Good and the Bad

Interdependent highlights the connections between all humans, connections made stronger by the things that threaten our existence:

Climate change. Mega eruptions. Pandemics. Environmental degradation. Global warming. Asteroids. Mass extinction. Deforestation. These are some natural threats, that include the damage that humans brought on the environment. And yes, I know that climate change and global warming are almost the same thing, but I wanted to stress this further, as I believe this to be the most prominent danger of our time.

There are many self-inflicted threats as well, caused by human shortcomings and shortsightedness. I only had room for four: Racism. Xenophobia. Antisemitism. Sexism. Imagine a world without those!

There is hope, too, however. In the form of the things that make us uniquely human to begin with. The things that have been holding us together and pushing us onward. I embroidered these on the inside, at the heart of the quilt, since those are the things that lie at the heart of humanity.

Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Benevolence. Dignity. Resilience. Love. Creativity.

These, and other unique qualities I didn’t have room for, are the hope of our spices and the planet we olive on. These are the things that might help us overcome the existential and self-inflicted threats we’re all facing. The things that make us human and unite us. These are also the things we desperately need more of.

Lockdown Diary: Writing Poems in Textile

Our seventh (!) week of lockdown is coming to an end. Like many of you, I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions… Some days were good. The weather was nice, I enjoyed having my family around, I felt productive. Other days were tolerable, and I managed to do some things. Then there were the hard days, on which I just couldn’t ignore the news. Close friends started losing loved ones to Covid 19. I missed seeing family and friends in person. I wanted to go places and couldn’t. Foods or products we needed/wanted were unavailable. I started realizing that the normal life we knew will not return any time soon. That this will be long. That the world, in fact, might never be the same again… On those days little things irritated me. I felt sad, despaired, frightened. I couldn’t get myself to do much at all…

So I’ve been taking it one day at a time. Doing as much as I could on the good days. Trying to be kind to myself on the not-so-good. I found that spending time in my garden helps a lot. Once the weather improved, I’ve been going outside daily, doing some garden work or just sipping coffee among my plants. Spring is still happening, and nature is beautiful. The flowers are blooming, the pollinators are working diligently. One morning we even had ducks visit our backyard.

Art, as always, continued to be a lifesaver, though I still don’t have patience for hand stitching. And then there’s yoga.

Those of you who practice yoga know that Child’s Pose is a pose that allows rest and recharging. In the last few weeks I started to realize that abstract is my artistic equivalent of Child’s pose. I find myself going back to it in-between other projects, and it helps me stay creative and centered.

Textile Poems

After I finished working on textile insects, I felt the need to return to abstract. I started a series of small fabric collages, 8″ x 11″ in size. Improvised and intuitive, they allowed me to keep playing with colors and textures. Some came together quickly. Others took days or even weeks. They are each composed of many fragments, and the placement of each of those had to feel “right.” Sometimes getting the fragments to where they should be took a lot of trial and error, moving around and looking at the piece with fresh eyes, over and over again.

From the very beginning I thought of these pieces as textile poems. They combine slices of fabric instead of words, but each captures a moment in time, a mood. They reflect the weather, my garden, my fluctuating emotions.

The green ones are the colors of fresh plants and blue sky. The blue poems are the colors of rainy days and sadness.

The warm-colored ones reflect the colors of spring flowers and content. Of happiness, even.

Most of these poems don’t have names yet. Except for this one, which I call “Silver Lining.” It’s as dark and gray as the times we live in. But it has some hope, too. Because even the worst of situations has a silver lining.

For me, right now, slowing down and getting to spend more time with my family is a silver lining. What is yours?

Colors of the Day Art Quilt Series

A few weeks ago (or was it a lifetime ago?) I described the design process behind Lavender Morning. Only briefly did I mention the series it is a part of, the Colors of the Day Series.

When I worked on my first-ever quilt series, the year-long Calendar Quilt Series, I realized that I enjoy creating a series of quilts more than I do working on a one-of piece. Stand-alone pieces are great, but a series gives me more structure, and allows me a wider range of exploration. It’s a deeper study into a design challenge or an idea.

After I completed the Calendar Series, a year-long project, I was left with the great emptiness that follows the completion of a big project. It took a while to come up with the next idea. I wanted to continue working with abstracts. I hoped to further explore colors, shapes, textures and compositions. So I started working on a series I tentatively called “Color Explosion.”

As I was working on it, however, I realized that the name was wrong. Although colors, shapes and textures were a central part of this series, other images came into my mind as I was creating it. Associations related to the colors I was using, or even to the fabrics themselves. It also brought up memories from related trips I took, which in return influenced the final outcome. I changed the name to “Colors of the Day” instead, and it all clicked together.

The Colors of the Day Series includes four quilts representing different parts of the day, each influenced by memorable places the colors reminded me of. These quilts are bigger than those of the Calendar Series. Most of these are 16″ x 20″, except for Berry Twilight which is 21″ x 24.”

I did not create these quilts in a chronological order. Actually, I made the last one first. But the best way to view them is from morning to nightfall.

Lavender Morning

Lavender Morning was the fourth and last quilt I made in this series, thought it should be seen first. I described the design process of this quilt in a separate blog post.  Earlier projects influenced the color palette of this work, and the fabrics themselves dictated the final composition (as they do in most of my work). However, as I was working on it, I kept thinking of spring, and of the sprawling fields of lavender I saw in Tomita Farm in Hokkaido, Japan, two summers ago. We visited the farm early in the morning, to avoid the crowds, and so these colors remind me of the freshness of morning.

Autumnal Afternoon

I made this quilt in the autumn, my favorite time of year (and usually also my best sewing season). The colors of fall were all around me when I worked on it. I enjoyed hand stitching this piece as I sat by the fire, on the first cold evenings of the season. This quilt made me think of the maple tree outside my sewing room window, and how it glows when the sun hits it in the afternoon. It also reminded me of an afternoon trip I took one fall, many years ago, to the enchanted autumn forests of New England. This was the third piece I created in this series.

Berry Twilight

This quilt, the second I made in the series, is also the largest. It incorporates some of my favorite colors. Working on it gave me great pleasure, and reminded me of some of the fantastic sunsets we’ve seen during a month-long RV trip we took to the US Southwest a few years ago. Nothing beats the beauty of desert sunsets! They are truly breathtaking. The pictures below don’t do the real desert sunsets justice, but will give you some idea of what I had in mind.

Indigo Night

I created Indigo Night as the first piece in this series. The inspiration for this came from Asian-inspired scraps I had lying around my sewing room, remains from quilts or bags I made earlier. This quilt gave me an excuse to play with indigo colors, and juxtapose them with bright orange-reds. It was also a wonderful reason to incorporate some of the Sashiko stitching I’ve been enjoying using in the last few months. From the very beginning, it made me think of the night markets I saw in Asia. Many years ago I lived in Asia for several years, and visited night markets often. More recently, I took my family to  visit Taiwan and Japan, and was happy to introduce them to these amazing places. Night markets are full of life, colors, smells and tastes, and this quilt reminds me of them all!

When I made these quilts life was still normal. But now I am writing this post while Sheltering in Place. What a difference can a few weeks make! Looking back at the pictures and places that inspired this series fills me with great sadness. Travel of any kind is currently impossible. The night markets, farms, campgrounds and trails are closed. The ordinary is now threatening. The world has shrunk to the space we’re confined to. Nothing is as it was, and won’t be for a long while. At least the memories are forever, though, and the beauty of nature is still there, humans or not…

Here is the complete Colors of the Day Series:

Let me know which one you like best!

Lockdown Diary: Textile Insects

My husband says that he’ll be really worried if one day I won’t have something to worry about. I’m a worrier, there’s no denying. I worry about things small and big. In the last few years more and more big worries have occupied my mind. Climate change. The insect apocalypse. The great current mass extinction. The accumulation of plastics and people’s indifference to the massive amount of garbage we’re creating. Fast fashion and its effect on the ecology and the lives of people in third-world countries. Our steady destruction of the planet we live in. Things like that.

Numerous pessimistic thoughts filled my mind regarding the future of humans and the earth. But a pandemic that will shut the world down and send all of humanity home? That one I didn’t see coming. Not in my wildest dreams.

But here we are.

Art Under Quarantine

The second week of Social Distancing (or is it the third? I lost track…) is coming to an end. Like everyone else, I had to change and adapt. The first few days were disorienting. I kept thinking this was a dream I will soon wake up from. It wasn’t. Since then I’ve been spending way too much time online, reading news obsessively and browsing social media. This isn’t great for my emotional well being, but I can’t seem to stop. Like many other people, I’ve had bouts of anxiety and sadness. It’s really easy, under such circumstances, to stop creating. But from Day One, I forced myself to make some art, a little every day.

Over the years, art has been many things to me. When I was a kid, it was a way to pass time and ward boredom off. In my teenage years, at an arts high school, it was a means of self expression and a way to be different and “cool.” Now, as an adult, I see it as an instrument to convey ideas. My art is an adventure: an exploration of existing materials, colors, and textures, and also a way to explore the world around me as well as my inner world. In the last few years it’s also been a small effort to help the planet by upcycling and reducing waste.

Last year, after my father passed away, art took on a new role. It became healing soul medicine, helping me deal with bottomless grief. Now, amidst the first quarantine of my life, it is becoming something new altogether. Corona Art is a way to insert the illusion of control back into my life. It helps me stick to a routine. It keeps the news away for a short time each day, and helps me keep sane in a seemingly crazy world.

Art to Honor Spring and Highlight the Plight of Insects

Before the Shelter in Place order, I started to do a bit of spring gardening in my backyard. I worked for several days, and was startled by the lack of insects where they should have been buzzing. In the many hours I spent in my garden, I saw a few spiders, a few rolly-pollies, and one scissor bug. That’s it.

When the quarantine started, the weather turned appropriately gloomy and wet. I felt a strong need to bring spring into my studio. I wanted to make happy things to take my mind off everything else. At the same time, I also wanted to increase awareness to the plight of insects. People often see insects as a neaucense, and think nothing of killing them. The recent collapse of the insect population has mostly gone unnoticed, and is easily forgotten amidst a crisis like the one we’re currently facing. But the Insect Apocalypse is as big a threat to humanity as the other bug we all fear. Insects are at the bottom of the food chain. Without them, we won’t have fruits, vegetables or any of the other foods we eat. Our very survival depends on the survival of insects, and therefore we really should care.

Textile Butterflies

I had trouble concentrating during those first few days of Sheltering in Place. My entire family was home. Housework was accumulating. There was more cooking, cleaning, dishes, mess. And there was always the news! I needed to work on small projects that I could start and finish in one morning. This was not the time for big art quilts. Surprisingly, the hand stitching that helped me tremendously after my father’s passing wasn’t appealing now, either. I simply didn’t have the patience it required. So I started my sewing quarantine with making textile butterflies. I haven’t sewn butterflies for a few years, since finishing my Dare! art quilt in 2017. They seemed like the perfect project now. A butterfly (or two) a day to keep the doctor away, or at least the shrink.

Textile Beetles

On the first official week of spring, I decided to highlight insects on my Facebook Page. I shared (mostly upcycled) insect art, as well as my own butterflies. That week I looked at a lot of pictures of insects, and was struck by how beautiful they were. Beetles, especially, captivated me. Beetles are very interesting visually. They have complex, symmetrical shapes with lots of compelling details. Beautiful colors, too. Enlarged, they look like sophisticated pieces of art.

After I finished making ten butterflies, I was ready to move on to something else. By then our family established a kind of quarantine-routine. The kids had Zoom classes in the mornings, and Zoom after-school activities in the afternoons. I was able to get a bit more studio time while they were busy, leaving the majority of the housework for the afternoons. It was time to move on to more involved projects.

This week I embarked on a series of four 8.5″ x 11″ beetle textile pictures. For these, I relied on pictures of actual beetles for the shape, but took full artistic liberty with the colors. These pictures are meant to be framed and hung on a wall.

Although this series is finished, I don’t think I’m quite done with beetles yet. I’m pretty sure they will come up in some of my future work.

This worldwide quarantine will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects on anyone living through it. Once it is over, I hope we humans learn some lessons. Taking care of each other is important and worthy, but we must also take care of the creatures that share this earth with us, and of the planet itself. If we don’t, worse trouble than the coronavirus will await us in the very near future.

Art is helping me plow through this unsettling time. Gardening, cooking and baking help, as well. Now, if I could only be as disciplined about exercising daily as I am about creating…

What are you doing to stay anchored?

Stay safe and healthy, everyone! Remember that spring is still happening outside, so make sure to go out every now and then and smell the flowers!

Lavender Morning Art Quilt

My quilts design themselves. In a way, all of my creations do. That’s because much of my inspiration comes from the fabrics themselves. Well, sort of. 

I make both functional and fine art, and the two often influence each other. This was certainly the case with my latest quilt, Lavender Morning.

A while back I showed you the stitch meditations I made during my jury-duty wait. One of them was a small olive and lavender piece. I really loved the way it looked.

Creative Challenge: Textile sketch in purple and green

When I went on immediately afterwards to make fourteen artsy pouches, I made one in a similar color combination. That was when I realized that I really needed to make a bigger art quilt using the same palette.

Last year, I made three quilts in a series I tentatively called “Color Explosion,” but later renamed “Colors of the Day.” I wanted to add one more piece to that series, and this color combination seemed just right.

I gathered the fabrics I had in those colors, and started playing. I lay them on my recently-excavated design carpet (did I mention cleaning up my sewing room at the end of last year?). Then I moved them around until I found a composition I was happy with:

I tried to listen to the fabrics. The ikat-like stripe on the bottom wanted a design companion, so I added a fissure on the left.

I then added one on the right, too, for balance. The light green fabric with the circles stood out to me, so I decided to make circles a central motif in this work. I played with filled and empty circles, trying to balance both the composition and the colors. Moving circles around took quite some time. 

I settled on this:

For the previous quilts in this series, I mixed machine quilting with hand stitching. Choosing embroidery floss for the hand stitching part is always one of the activities I enjoy most!

When I hand stitch, I like incorporating Sashiko stitching. I often enjoy combining different kinds of stitches in my work. I don’t try to be perfect. I’m not a machine, and believe that it’s the imperfections of the human hand that give a piece character.

Some parts of the quilt, though, require machine quilting. Mostly parts where I want the fabric itself to shine, as machine stitching doesn’t “steal” the show the way hand quilting does.

Sometimes, though, things don’t work out the way I want them to. After thinking long and hard about how to stitch the upper part of this quilt, I decided to go with wavy lines, to continue playing with the circular theme. I used a dark purple thread, but it just didn’t look right…

And so, I spent an entire afternoon undoing the machine quilting (I don’t recommend doing much of that if you can help it! Tedious work…):

I replaced the wavy lines with zigzag stitches, in a lighter-colored lavender thread. Now the quilting was much less dominant:

At that point, the flowery fabric above asked for design companions, too. So the stitching on the left-most panel involved uneven flowers in three different greens:

It just so happened, that I had similar flowers blooming in my garden right then!

I used felt as batting for this quilt, and the top and back fabrics were rather thick. I also did a lot of spring fruit-tree pruning right around then, and ended up with rather sore hands. But I think it was worth it. Finally, the quilt was complete!

 

Looking Back at 2019

2019 just ended. For me personally, it wasn’t only the end of a year or of a decade, but also the end of an era.

My year started well, with a fun trip to Cambodia and Thailand followed by a happy celebration of my mom. Then, in March, my father passed away unexpectedly.

The death of a beloved parent is a life-changing event. For months, it didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t. Everything I did before my dad’s passing came to a screeching halt. For a long while, I could hardly function. Simple tasks were overwhelming, with grief sneaking up in the most unexpected moments. I didn’t find the energy to be creative.

My father passed away exactly half-way through my Calendar Quilt project. I started this self-imposed challenge in October 2018, with the intention of making one mini-quilt for every month of the year. In the few months following my father’s death, those monthly minis were the only creative thing I did. Every month, I forced myself to design one small quilt. Getting started was hard, but once I began sewing I miraculously felt better. It felt good to touch textiles, with their soft, comforting textures. Hand stitching slowly and quietly was meditative. Concentrating on the simple act of pushing needle and thread through fabric made me forget other things, if only temporarily…

By working on these mini quilts, I slowly stitched my soul back together.

Once this series was done, I didn’t want to stop stitching. I started working on a new quilt series, which I tentatively called the Color Explosion Series (a name I later changed). This new series allowed me to play with colors and textures to my heart’s content. No excuses needed. And it allowed me to stitch until my fingers hurt.

The more I stitched, the more my creative juices started flowing. I was finally able to get back to some of the projects I started before my dad passed. I finished a batch of bags, then a bunch of journals. A family of noisy raccoons inspired me to make a small raccoon quilt.

Then, at the end of October, I was called for jury duty. For one week my life was put on hold, as I had to go online every few hours to check my status. In that week I decided to use up two large ziplock bags full of small, oddly-shaped scraps. I started a series of 5-inch-square stitch-meditation sketches.

On the last day of that week, one fuchsia pile of scraps refused to become a sketch, and forced me to create a zipper bag instead. That was the beginning of a magical month of creativity. It resulted in fourteen artsy pouches, which I gave as holiday gifts to women I care about.

My piles of unfinished projects haven’t shrunk at all in 2019. I haven’t finished most of the works I started in 2018 (or before). In fact, I haven’t accomplished a whole lot. I really needed time to mourn, however, and the mental space to rearrange my shattered world. Along the way, my priorities shifted. I had a lot of time to think. Where this will take me remains to be seen…

I ended the year with a major cleanup of my ever-messy sewing room. Although I didn’t go into every shelf and drawer, I managed to bring it back to a functional condition. It’s now ready for a new year of creativity.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! I hope 2020 will bear only good news, to each and every one of us, and to the fragile world we live in.