I Love It! I Must Have It! … What Do I DO With It?

I recently introduced a friend to the amazingly talented Carol Eaton…well, more specifically, to Carol’s hand-dyed fabrics. I had to smile, remembering my initial OMG it’s-too-good-to-cut-into reaction. The vast majority of my pet portraits, big and small, are in no small part a collaboration with Carol’s gift.

Now that she has an Etsy shop: https://etsy.me/2J2l2s8, I thought it would be fun to share the many ways you can use her marvelous fabrics.

1- Most obviously, as a brilliant background to a particularly cute subject. In the case of this quilt, I sent Carol the photo of adorable Ivy and she hand-dyed the “fur” solid fabrics I used to create the pup portrait against one of my favorite confetti-dyed backgrounds:

2- As a key ingredient of a piece…for instance, the leaves and vines in this portrait of Jackson were cut from an ice-dyed green I adored:

3- Consider functional pieces…such as this notebook cover I stitched for my Sweetie a few Hanukkahs ago:

4- Simply marvel at how nature imitates art (or vice versa?!)…I came home from walking the dog with this photo and realized I has a perfect background for a landscape:

I am a firm believer in the notion that our fabric talks to us and reveals its perfect use…this has been waiting for me for 3 years now, shouting at me that it must become this skyscape:

…while a few other pieces sit on my shelf, smiling mysteriously as they make me wait ;). I think the most important advice would be to enjoy the process…and when you feel that muse, don’t be afraid to cut into that fabric!

One Play Session With Inks, Two Stories

So it all began when I took this pre-dawn picture from my hotel window:

I was taken by the slightly mysterious effect of the light in the sky against the still-dark landscape…and the solitary car on a usually very busy street. Of course I had to apply my filter…

Ooh! Next step, grab some white Radiance (silk/cotton) and my Tsukineko inks to see if I could interpret that sky…

Since I was using a spray bottle of water to blur the inks and make them run together, I blotted the fabric with a second piece of Radiance…and to my delight it came up like this:

Do you see the landscape? I decided to stitch this second image first:

So much fun!! The only color I added was the duck…the scene was simply too peaceful with no strong focal point.

Back to my original scene…I MistyFused some dark blue batik on as the foreground, and began stitching in some details. I think I need to do this one on a bigger scale to do justice to the details…but of course I have dozens of other images in line, too. Hmm perhaps this needs a few dark blue birds in flight…

Remember that you do not need to devote a lot of space or time to this very fun exercise! Some inks, a few brushes, a spray bottle and a work surface are all you need:

Try some and have fun! (and do sign up for Judy Coates Perez’s classes to learn dozens of techniques which will ensure that you are never short of inspiration 🌈🎨😁!)

What’s On Your Top Ten List?

My airplane reading this week included the latest issue of the excellent “Love Patchwork & Quilting” UK magazine. The closing column is entitled “A Quilter’s Top Ten,” and I had fun agreeing with some items (eg, good quality cutting mat) and less so with others (I’ve never used spray starch as far as I can recall!) As my travel delays mounted, I couldn’t resist listing my own must-have top ten.

1. MistyFuse Without the magic of our favorite fusible, my pet portraits and landscapes wouldn’t even have a start! While I sketch my ideas and work from altered photos, sometimes I simply compose with my rotary cutter and a stack of pre-fused fabric (which is really the most fun ;)).

2. A really big pressing sheet! The Goddess sheet made by the genius behind MistyFuse is my fave.

3. Almost-solid hand-dyed fabrics in a rainbow of shades. I am crazy for bright colors, but my stash also includes some awesome subtle shades (many custom-dyed by my uber-talented friend Carol Eaton) for interpreting fur colors. Some artists dye a very tight-weave batik which is perfect for cutting out small details without fray…or, Cherrywood has their very own process with a softer hand and a completely different feel. I love them both!

4. Fabric collections by folks whose design sense I just love. Looking at you, Modern Quilt Studio, Uppercase, Basic Grey! And of course I keep discovering more…I am completely hooked on Alison Glass’ palette for her batiks and cannot wait for the next collection this fall.

5. Tsukineko fabric inks, discovered during my first visit to Festival. I love the pens in all colors but simply must have a bottle of their white ink for dabbing in highlights in my subjects’ eyes.

6. Aurifil thread, of course! The colors are incredible and the choice of different weights is so helpful…I adore the 12wt for stitching in whiskers :).

7. Superior Thread too…high-shine trilobal polyester that plays beautifully in my long arm, and monofilament which is my bobbin thread of choice for nearly all of my small art quilts (because I change the color on top so frequently)…

8. …and their needles, which are the best. I buy them in bunches, 90 and 100wt Topstitch are all I use. While we’re talking about needles, make sure you change yours frequently enough! I’ll switch to a new one after an afternoon of stitching if I’ve been thread painting (don’t wait until you hear that thumping sound which is your machine saying pleeeeeze feed me a new needle ;).)

9. Disposable lab gloves 🧤 to keep a firm grip on my piece while I free-motion quilt…so helpful!

10. High-quality small scissors for cutting small details on appliqué pieces (such as perfect kitty outlines 🐾🐾😉).

What are YOUR must-haves?

Bastet 💚🐾🐾

All of us who know and love Cheryl Sleboda were saddened by the news of her goodbye to Bastet, the “Dutchess of Mean.” I wish I had met Bastet before she left for the Rainbow Bridge because photos certainly suggest a kitty with an awesome amount of cattitude!

As always, these pieces begin with a great photo:

First decision, the background. I wanted one which would not distract from the beautiful face…and included something to stand in for her favorite quilt, on which she sits in the photo. I turned to Janine’s Uppercase Volume 2 collection…and asked her which quilty fabric she thought would be best (there are a few color ways). So far, so good…

Now for my somewhat challenging subject. I had many terrific pre-MistyFused scraps of Carol Eaton’s hand-dyed fabrics, but Bastet had SO many colors running through her fur. Hmm. Better to sketch/ink the entire image into a piece of white Radiance and then let the threads do the work.

Ready for (lots of) stitching! While I am most certainly an Aurifil gal, here I turned to my trove of Superior Threads’ glossy polyesters…Magnifico and Twist…to try and capture some of the subtle shading of the fur (and that inimitable “go ahead, make my day” expression ;)!).

Of course the background ripples like crazy once the center subject is quilted! For the background, my black Aurifil stitched lots of lines around the dots…sort of a slalom pattern ⛷:

I loved creating this tribute to a special girl!

Heart of the Home 💜🌈

As my quilter name would imply, I am in love with bright color! Most of my work involves animal portraiture, but I really enjoy playing with other themes. Because I am a homebody, Jamie Fingal’s “Heart of the Home” project speaks to me on a very profound level. Creating a piece for a family transitioning out of homelessness to a real home -does it get any better?Here is the link for more info:


For this series, I decided to play with a stack of (very colorful) fat quarters from the very talented folks atModern Quilt Studio…this collection is called “Dot Crazy”.

Next step- and always my favorite- was to consult my Aurifil thread chart and assemble a box of threads that would perfectly complement the fabric. Luckily the spectrum of shades is so broad, I never have a problem doing this :).

I then applied fusible web to all (MistyFuse is my favorite for its lightweight hand and its repositionable nature). I work backwards, and first cut backing and batting to fit my pieces (generally an inch wider and longer to allow for shrinkage from quilting). I am then ready to begin creating!

For my home scenes, I decided first on the “sky” and “ground,” and overlap them slightly to create a background. I like to rely upon the rule of thirds and aim for 2/3 sky, 1/3 ground (cut in a gentle curve so that you’ll have rolling hills!). It is definitely easier to use the quieter prints for these background components, allowing the busier patterns to lend character to the smaller elements.

Next, decision : house or apartment building? I did use a ruler for these shapes…then put it aside for tree trunks, flowers, suns and moons, and so on. Since these pieces are MY interpretation of home, each must include a cat … photos of my black cat provides the perfect traceable outline :)…provided below in case you’d like to use it.

Look carefully at your fabric and you will likely spot opportunities to fussy-cut small elements for your scenes (in this case, a line of circles gave me the idea for a footpath).

Time to quilt! Sometimes I followed the fabric’s pattern, sometimes stitched in a counterpoint (such as my rectangular “bricks” on this dotted house).

To finish, I stitched a zigzag edge, then stitched some inexpensive piping that matched the thread to give the pieces a more finished look.

I must say, my studio is looking quite colorful at this point ;).

Please consider joining in the fun and brightening some special new homes!


-a box of bright Aurifil 50wt

-a stack of FUN fat quarters

-squares of backing fabric, 1” larger than planned

finished size

-square of batting, same size as backing

-lightweight fusible web

-pressing sheet

-sharp small scissors for small pieces

-optional: if using multiple top thread colors, clear

monofilament for your bobbin

The Night Garden

This year I have resolved to focus on one project a month (yes, we’ll see how long that lasts)…and January’s mission was a piece inspired by SAQA’s theme of “Dusk to Dawn.” This happily coincided with one of the (many) photos I want to transform into fiber pieces. Before dawn one morning, I stood at my kitchen window and watched this sky:

I am always inspired by the effect of the trees in our front yard against the shaded of almost-dawn. Of course I couldn’t resist having a little fun with my photo apps:

…oooh! Turning to my stash, I found a perfect piece of hand-dyed almost-black batik and a yard of light purple silk/cotton. As always, the first step was to MistyFuse the black:

Next, free-cut the “ground” and rip some tree “trunks” and “branches”:

The ground needed more dimension so I cut some bits of dark silk…

And after fusing them to the foreground, first applied metallic ink…hmm a little too bright…then a layer of black Paintstik:

The sky was the most fun, as I brushed various shades of ink onto the fabric then used a spray bottle (of water) to allow them to spread and mix.

Many shades of Superior’s Magnifico later…

It was time to work on the trees. I prefer to rip the fabric to create texture on the edge, and for the trunks I molded the fabric to model ridges in the surface (actually the technique I demonstrated in the currently-running season of Quilting Arts TV…it is very easy and quite fun!).

The moon began as a slice of MistyFused Angelina…

…but was way too distracting on its own. (Rule #1: always listen to my husband’s artistic advice ;)…Rule #2: when in doubt, refer to Rule #1 😂.) The solution was to reduce the volume (stitch in along the border with thread matching the sky), then stitch the surface with grey thread to take it down a notch–both of these reach missions accomplished with non-shiny Aurifil thread…then dye some shredded wool batting to resemble clouds. Much better:

Of course, Jackson had to help…

February’s project has already begun: creating some pieces for Jamie Fingal’s “Heart of the Home” project. I cannot think of a better mission for Valentines month ;)!

Thread Obsession 😉🐾🐾

Ok, so you have probably noticed my predilection for REALLY BRIGHT colors and my fave brilliant Aurifil 50wt spools. But…have you thought about venturing beyond the orange spools we know and love, and working with the heavier weights?

The photo above shows my ‘paintbox’ of pet portrait threads. Lots of grey bottoms — the 28wt is awesome for fur…one red — super heavyweight white for whiskers…and a selection of 50wt for different eye colors.

This treasure trove really came in handy for my latest project, a portrait of little Sophie:

What a fun Christmas gift to create to a friend’s daughter! I went for lots of different textures (which do not really show up in the photo) to compensate for a Westie’s monochromatic look…the different thread weights were perfect.

First, the photo…

Then, work with apps, and some decisions re background color…

Black was requested as a background…at first I was worried this would be too severe, then remembered my black silk dupioni — texture!

Time for some MistyFusing (of course) and tracing…

Positioning this cutie on the background sandwich, it was now time for thread selection! Who knew there were so many near-whites?

At the bottom left, you may notice I also snuck in a spool of wool “Lana” Aurifil thread…I love it, just remember to use a large enough needle and be gentle with tension.

I like to ink in the subject’s eyes first…and add any other necessary bits (here, a scrap of leather for her nose, pieces of pale peach for her ears, and a piece of silk ribbon for her collar) before revving up my Bernina.

Vroom! Many many layers later…it was time to quilt down the background then add a final feathering of fur around the edges, before trimming and binding.

So, for the New Year…I hope you’ll play with some of my favorite “fur weight” Aurifils! They create a lovely dense fill that is perfect for our favorite companions 😁.