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Christmas Angel

Taking down the Christmas tree is just about my least favorite thing to do. This January, as I was about to take the strands of lights down, Jesse decided to stage a sit-in and protest the whole idea…

This was funny and touching and oh so bittersweet since we knew this would likely be his last holiday with us. When I saw the photo I knew that it had to become a quilt as a tribute to our boy.

First step, run the photo through one of my apps to create an easier pattern. Then, to the stash! This is one of those very rare pieces for which I literally bought nothing πŸ˜‡. I pulled a yard of dark red dupioni for the tree skirt…some dark brown batik for the tree trunk…2 shades of green Cherrywood for needles…a piece of beige linen for the wall (which sadly didn’t make the cut, was not really the right shade)…and, for Jesse, a mix of holiday-themed light gold batiks and Carol Eaton’s amazing snow-dyeds. As always, Jesse helped…

I decided to construct Jesse first, with a layer of wool batting, on my Bernina, and then add him to the quilt with light stitching (trying to preserve a 3-dimensional effect).

Next, the background. A small piece of tan Cherrywood for the floor, and lots of fabric for the tree skirt! Thank goodness for MistyFuse…

It was great fun to bunch up and wrinkle the red silk to simulate the folds of the actual tree skirt. I think of it as sculpting fabric!

Next, ripped strips of fused brown batik were arranged (the trunk properly wrinkled) and fused. For the needles, I first thought it would be cool to do lots of rubbings with a dark green PaintStik, using a branch from the actual tree. It soon became clear that it would take an awful lot of paint and that I needed more texture to balance the dense tree skirt and cat, so the green Cherrywood it was:

This was another step that would not be possible without MistyFuse…pressing those “needles” then needing to rearrange more than a few πŸ™„. Finally, time to quilt! Just a little thread…

…and some fun textures:

The tree lights were a bit of a challenge…I tried simply stitching in some sparkly thread, but it was not nearly enough. Angelina to the rescue- I pressed a sheet of it, fused it, cut into small rectangles, and scrunched on top of each light location. If you’ve never tried Angelina, do…it is incredibly fun to use.

Finished and ready for a facing…as you can see, Jackson kept me company as I finished the hand-stitching ;).

Now back to a clean studio and my next pet portrait 😁…have a wonderful long weekend!

Jelly Roll to the Rescue!

I think of pre-cut “jelly rolls” as excellent emergency supplies. They rock when you have, umm, forgotten a key item while away from your studio πŸ™„ and thus cannot work on that art quilt in progress…or, as instant baby quilt ingredients anytime! 

I like to line the strips up first to identify value…

…using a black and white photo to assist. See that turquoise? I would never have expected it to read as light as it does.

Then I try my best to distribute the strips to maximize contrast and bring a little sparkle to the mix:

For this piece, I pulled out the duplicates…these 8 strips will come on handy for a border.

Lots of very zen stitching to join the strips…

After stitching the last one, stitch THAT one back to the first to form a tube…press carefully…and slice. Of course here is where you can slice unevenly and create bargello…I wanted to keep it simple and keep the emphasis on Janine’s awesome fabric (so I opted for 2 1/2″ slices to create perfect squares).

Time for the seam ripper! Detach each ring one square down for a very simple effect. (Basically making a quarter of that traditional Round the World pattern). Decide which strip will be your starting point…

I like to piece with abutting seams, so I then press the seam allowances in alternating directions. Double check each time before you begin stitching or you’ll end up doing this πŸ™„:

Pressed and ready for border strips and some Aurifil quilting! Jackson helpfully offered to help hold the spools ;)…

Happy weekend — here’s to lots of β˜€οΈ and stitching!

One Subject, Multiple Scales

What is your comfort zone for the size of your art? I found myself thinking about this subject the other day as I work on a piece featuring one of my favorite subjects 🐾🐾.

For me, very dramatic faces are easier to explore on a large scale. My feral sidekick…the cat behind the original Neon Kitty quilt…has an incredibly striking face. Cleopatra would have envied her ‘eyeliner’ ;). Our adventurous black cat may be monochromatic but his enormous emerald green eyes speak volumes.

By contrast, our Jesse had a gentle, mild demeanor that went with his personality. My smaller pieces (the one above is 6″ square, this one 12″) were able to capture his spirit….

…in a way that I don’t think I was able to capture in this larger wall quilt:

So, my work-in-progress addressed this by constructing a smaller Jesse and placing him into a much more interesting setting…the topic of my next post :).

Happy stitching!

Memo from My Long-Arm πŸ˜‰

TO: HandiQuilter HR Dept

FROM: Laurie’s Avante

RE: Request for re-assignment 

Dear HQ:

Hi, it’s me, your 2011 model. Remember when you sold me to this apparently sane quilter, who claimed she wanted me to make lap quilts? You know, normal quilts?

Well, all was fine for the first couple of years…then all of a sudden “art” quilts showed up. One after the other. With some of the most bizarre materials you can imagine…definitely not covered in my training back in the factory. Paint…ink…plastic…sigh.

My colleague the Bernina is no help whatsoever…she just sits there with that smug smile. Take yesterday…I’m trying to stitch (another?!) already layered/quilted/stitched cat onto LOTS of layers of fused silk. With monofilament both top and bottom. Do I get any thanks? No, all I receive (when the thread breaks) is less-than-polite remarks that the Bernina wouldn’t have a problem. 

I have kept myself in excellent shape (ok, I’ll admit, she is very diligent about maintenance) and would make an excellent partner for a traditional quilter. You know, normal stuff. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Spring Inspirations! πŸ’

Ok, so I’ll grant you that I’m a little obsessed with pet portraits…but through the years I have found lots of inspiration from Mother Nature at the weather gets warmer! Here are a few fun ideas for postcards or small quilts that you might like to try:

Long before your trees flower, the first signs of leaves against a deep blue sky are a welcome sight. Choose a favorite bark-like shade of Aurifil, set your machine to a very tight zig-zag setting, and stitch branches from the bottom. By holding down the button on your machine that reduces the width of the stitch as you sew, you can create some fun gradual effects of thinning out as you reach the end of the branch. Reach for your green MistyFused scraps, snip into leaves and lightly stitch on.

Celebrate your seasonal tenants! The “tree trunk” in this postcard was a scrap of bark that peeled off a favorite tree, while the “nest” is a heap of really tiny scraps stitched with a super-loose zig-zag stitch. (Our house is held up with Alaskan cedar trunks so we offer lots of air b&b accommodations under the eaves ;)…sorry, couldn’t resist…)

Or, pay tribute to the monarch butterflies that will arrive a little later on. I had fun depicting one of our “butterfly bushes” with a few visitors. For the butterflies, I took scraps of orange lame and traced their black markings with a Tsukineko pen, from a few line drawings I looked up online. The rest you can guess: yup, MistyFuse and Aurifil thread. The background was a lucky accident of a batik fat quarter that suggested a stone wall, like the one in my garden behind the bushes. (Moral of that story, yes buy the fabric, you just never know how it will be called into action ;).)

What are your favorite spring-inspired subjects? πŸƒπŸ’β˜€οΈ

The Heart of the Home project

better finished house

Jamie Fingal is leading another fabulous project involving fun little art quilts which explore the theme of “home”…this time for families transitioning out of homelessness. (Check out The House Quilt Project on her blog :)) These pieces will add a bit of color and whimsy to new homes for some who deserve it most – can you imagine a better cause?

For the bright colors, I turned to the marvelous Uppercase collection (Janine’s second is coming out soon!) of fabric and coordinating Aurifil thread. First step, of course, MistyFuse on all:

fabric layout

(You may notice the image of my beloved Jesse watching over my pressing table…I found this project to be excellent grief therapy after saying goodbye to him.) Then, some freeform composition. I decided to create a house and an apartment building ;)…here is the latter, fused and ready for the Bernina.

apartment fused not quilted

Of course I had to add a kitty to each home! Janine’s fabrics were perfect for these scenes and such a pleasure to handle. Next up, my favorite part…deciding which threads from the Aurifil box for Uppercase! (I nearly always use monofilament in my bobbin, it is such a time saver as I switch thread colors so frequently.)

deciding threads

Ahem, you’ll spot a bobbin of green where the spool should be. Apparently that spool followed me to Cleveland for the QA TV shoot and decided to stay in the studio ;). It lasted for about 80% of the lawn and then ran out…so, another Aurifil shade had to chime in. This was the first time I used the zig-zag option to free-motion quilt – it works really really well for grass! Try it the next time you work on a landscape scene.

grass illustration

These two pieces are on their way to Jamie now…check out her link for this fun project, perhaps you would like to stitch a few, too?

apartment finished




The next time you consider adopting a cat, you might want to keep an open mind and heart and choose one of your shelter’s older, shyer kitties. Jesse taught me that appearances can be deceiving and that a quiet cat can, in their own way, become the very heart of your home.

Thinking back to the day we met him: he certainly wasn’t a kitten, he wasn’t in perfect health, and he wasn’t a lap cat. But…he needed a home…and Petfinder’s profile said, “he likes to sleep with the family’s German Shepherds.” To me, this was about as clear a signal as we could imagine ;)…and so he joined the family.

Jesse did, in fact, LOVE our German Shepherd…and Kazzi had a new sidekick. Even if she hadn’t exactly been looking for one ;)…

Jesse had a quiet, gentle presence (well, ok, except in the crate in the car) and was, in the best sense of the word, companionable. He might not want to sit in anyone’s lap but he had his assigned spot on the sofa near us…and on the foot of the bed…and, always, in my studio. As I spent more time creating, he was always there to supervise and offer silent but eloquent commentary. Lest you think I exaggerate:

His world changed again when Jackson wandered into our backyard and into our lives. I like to think that his adolescent antics made Jesse feel young again…

…and they hung out together in all sorts of photogenic ways πŸ˜‰

In our last year together, Jesse craved more affection and stayed very close. The house feels oddly empty now, but there are two other furballs to play with, care for and love. One of Jesse’s greatest joys was sitting in the sun and I like to think that he has found his favorite sunny spot near the Rainbow Bridge while he waits for us. Thank you, sweet boy, for being the quiet heart of our home…until we see you again, know that you are loved fiercely and missed beyond measure.