Resistance, is, well, futile

Someone really smart told me once in an art class that in almost every circumstance when making art, your first great idea is usually your worst idea. It was in a drawing class I took at Pima College once. I realize that sounds a bit extreme, but it’s true; it’s easy to be attached to that first somewhat intoxicating sense of inspiration when you start a new project, but by letting that first idea go, there’s more room for more inspiration to come on in. Too much attachment and insistence at the beginning makes for rigidity, which is the antithesis of anything creative.

So, it was with some…resistance that I put away my flour resist cloth. It just isn’t going to work this time around. Right now, this is the general look for the quilt top; my initial idea was to put the cloud fabric over the gold flower fabric, but instead I resurrected some screen printed fabric of clouds to put on the sides instead:

Flour Resist: For Surface Design, It’s Irresistable!

OK, I apologize for that bad pun.

After several days of either staring at the TV or holed up in my bedroom with only a chugging steam vaporizer and damp magazines for company, I pulled out the fabric and set off to make some cloud-themed fabric for my new art quilt.

Flour resist is a great, cheap way to get excellent results when it comes to designing fabric. I love it. I first read about it in the February/March 2008 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, and then again in more depth in a fantastic book by Jane Dunnewold, “Improvisational Screen Printing”, which I got myself for Christmas last year. I think I like this technique because it’s quick. Sometimes I get tired of the idea that art has to take forever!

I painted a mix of one part white flour, one part water onto cloud shapes I drew onto fabric:

If you don’t pin down the fabric at the time you apply the flour paste, the fabric scrunches up like this:

However, this didn’t bother me because I wanted an uneven, scrunchy surface, because that would make the dye pool in unpredictable ways when I applied it:

Technically, I think you’re “supposed” to apply paint or at least thickened dye…..because of course the more wet the pigment, the quicker the flour resist will break down. I think though that if you want an impressionistic design, or if you’re theme is organic–like plants, sea, sky–some unpredictable breakdown could be really attractive.

Here’s what it looked like the first time around; because, of course, I knew I’d have to over-dye it a few times to get the result I wanted:

So, I did the whole thing over again, applying paste and then squirting on dye with an eyedropper and letting it set in the warm sun for an hour….

After the second time around, this is what the clouds looked like:

The weather kind of took  a nose dive, and I wanted a bit more distinction in my cloud shapes, so for the third time I stapled the fabric down to keep it even, painted on the resist, and carefully sponged on dye, this time in my dining room with a lot of drop-cloth fabric on the floor and heater on to make sure it was nice and warm for the dye to set:

This is the finished piece; it’ll be the top bit of the quilt:

I’m piecing together all the screen-printed and dyed fabric today that will be the “quilt top”; and from that point on, the reverse-applique and applique will begin!

Back from Boston

It’s been a week since I got back from Boston, where I went for my cousin’s funeral. My little garden really went crazy while I was gone, thanks to my neighbor watering it for me:

I returned with what felt like was going to be a full-blown case of flu, but after I hammered myself with Emergen-C, zinc lozenges, Oscillococcinum, Wellness Formula and a diet of mostly fruit and juice I ended up with just laryngitis and a hacking cough at night. No turkey dinner for me last week.

I think I started losing my voice the night in Dorchester where I had the great pleasure of meeting half a dozen second cousins, in the home of Patrick (if I understand it right, he is my paternal grandmother’s brother’s grandson, making him my second cousin) and his wife Joanne; they could all speak (or, yell) louder than I can; I thought I had a loud voice, but when it came time to leave I was told I’d have to speak louder next time!

I wish I had a photo of all my new-found relations; but, a camera was the last thing on my mind when I packed for a funeral. There was a disposable film camera in the room; if I get a print, I’ll post it here.

Michaela: Rest in Peace

I learned my cousin Michaela died today in her home, with family who loved her at her bedside; she had breast cancer for 3 1/2 years.  She had a lot of guts and, as is the fashion of so many of my kin on my dad’s side of the family, was quite the smart ass and additionally, very gutsy. I’m saddened to hear she’s gone and because I wish I’d known her better.

Rest in Peace.

Here’s a photo from May 2008 when I was in Boston, this was in Milton, MA: from left to right:  my cousin Michaela,  Mary (her mother), Michaela’s  husband Bill, Evvy (Mary’s long-time partner), Bill Jr., Michaela Mary, my cousin Megan, her son Kevin.

Michaela and her family--blog copy

My New Art Quilt: progress takes forever!

During my workweek I managed to do a little bit here and there on my new project.  Here’s some fabric I dyed–yellows and oranges for poppies:


Here’s what some of  it looked like once I put it in the washer and let it dry and pressed it all:


I made some basic patterns of poppies and then made appliques from those patterns. The thing about desert poppies is that they don’t have a lot of really in-your-face pistil and stamen action going on; the shapes are quite simple. One applique is complete; the other is in-progress.


I’m going to use sheer fabrics and make shapes from tulle and organza for my new quilt. I’m just not sure if I’ll make the appliques separately and stitch them on the pieced quilt top. There’s another way to do it (well, there’s probably multiple ways to do it)….here’s a sheer-applique under construction:

sheer poppy

Here’s the finished poppy, sans any stem or leaves. It looks OK for a sample. But that’s why it’s a sample….I’m pretty sure I can make it look better….next time!

sheer poppy 2

My New Art Quilt: Sonoran Desert Wildflowers

I started this art quilt project  late last spring. Right after I started, my uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer; he lived for 2 months after that, and I spent my free time visiting him until he died. Only recently have I picked up where I left off. I have this idea of a big brightly colored art quilt with pink sand verbena and yellow and orange desert poppies and a bright blue sky with cirrus clouds. That’s the general plan and color scheme. Overall size will be something like 70″ x 40″.

Here’s some sand verbena from my wildflower perennial bed:

sand verbena resized


I cut verbena shapes out of contact paper, based on the photo; contact paper is the stuff you use for shelving in your cabinets.



Here are my plywood boards w/poly fleece stapled on top; I took these outside and stapled my fabric on top….



I peeled off the adhesive on my verbena-shapes and stuck them on the fabric stapled on the boards, then screen printed thickened dye on the fabric….then I washed the fabric and did it all over again a few times.

You can see some of the finished verbena-fabric here on my “design wall”–just fancy talk for a big fabric covered bulletin board where I can hang fabric up to “audition” for whatever project I’m working on:

screen printed fabric

Now the question is what to do with all the fabric! Time for some sewing experiments…..

Tucson’s All Souls Procession

Tonight was the 20th anniversary of the All Souls Procession, an event Tucson should really be proud of; it was packed, of course, probably more so because of Calexico playing at the Rialto at the end. I wish I’d spent some time making a puppet and walking in the procession, or at that I at least had some face paint on: it’s fun to be disguised, after all.  If my back wasn’t bothering me, I would’ve stayed out late for the final inferno and great music.

Thank you to all particpants in the parade; I really appreciated seeing such a genuine expressions of creativity and heart-felt sentiment from everyone there.

Here are some shots before the parade got started, in the staging area at University/4th Ave.  as folks were getting ready: that bell skull-guy is holding, by the way, really gets the mood going:

All Souls Parade Tucson 1


All Souls Parade Tucson 2

All Souls Parade Tucson 3

All Souls Parade Tucson 4

I briefly talked to the guy above on the bicycle; he said he thought he was crazy, and, I had to agree with him. But what a great effort!

Of course, the fiddler caught my eye:

All Souls Parade Tucson 5

There were lots of great puppets, but I only got photos of a few of them:

All Souls Parade Tucson 7


All Souls Parade Tucson 6

Once the parade started,  both the now-defunct Tucson Citizen walked by, as did the Public Library: the parade is, after all, largely about what we’ve lost, or are actively losing:

All Souls Parade Tucson 8

All Souls Parade Tucson 11


All Souls Parade Tucson 10

All Souls Parade Tucson 12

Finally, I considered myself lucky to get at least a partial shot of the parade’s “totem” this year, the moth: it wasn’t an easy shot in the dark, and it was all by itself flying over the parade:

All Souls Parade Tucson 13

Catalina State Park

BearBear (a corgi mix) and I went to Catalina State Park Sunday afternoon; the weather was stunning and hardly anyone was there.  It’s exactly 30 minutes from my house to the trailhead during non-peak traffic. I remember going up to Catalina State Park when it first opened, when I was in high school; then it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, and it was such an adventure to get to that part of town: there was nothing there! Now when you leave the state park, the first thing you see is a giant walmart.

Oh well.

These are some views from the nearly 3 mile Canyon Loop Trail:

catalina state park 1

Below is a lovely view of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness:

catalina state park 2

Then when the trail turns a bit east there’s this great view deep into the Catalina Mountains:

catalina state park 3

BearBear looks a bit pooped at this point:


It’s at this point I realize I’ve left my car keys 1/2 a mile back; but after a run back up the trail, they were exactly where I’d left them, on an observation bench. Shows you how many folks are out on a Sunday afternoon! I was very thankful to find them.


OK. So then we went back down the trail again, which takes a little dive into a small wash….great when there’s water after rain/snow in the mountains….

catalina state park 4

…where some of the last very hardy fall flowers are blooming….

catalina state park 5

Getting outdoors, even if for a small hike, is just so restorative!

Jon Stewart As Glenn Beck: A Daily Show Gem

As a complete blogging amateur, I’m already guilty of my first broken link the last time I gushed like a school-girl re: Jon Stewart. But, as  my non-existent Jewish grandmother would say about the comedian, “what is there not to love?” and I feel impelled to share his latest bit of genius. Jon Stewart is not just really funny; he’s an honorable newsperson.  And he’s a bleeping comedian. While he would probably cringe at this, he’s on par with Bill Moyers.

Thursday night he gave a tour-de-force as Glenn Beck; it was amazing. And yes, that’s right, I used “tour-de-force” to describe….Comedy Central programming. There was a great blurb in the Huffington Post about it; hopefully, this time my attempt at link-love will pay off and you can both read about it and watch it there.