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  • Why Make a Small Journal Quilt?

    At quilt shows it’s the big quilts that get all the attention and often times for a good reason. A large quilt can take years of painstaking work and they are visible from a great distance; one walks into the show, spots a breathtaking quilt across the room and makes a beeline to look at it up close. Many viewers will marvel at the quilt and think – “I would NEVER be able to do this” and so we are impressed by the big splashy work. But what about the small gems? They can be every bit as gorgeous but are often overlooked because of their small size.

    The Journal Quilt Project – A Page from My Book, was started in 2002 by Karey Patterson Bresenhan as a challenge to quilters to make small quilts measuring 8″ x 10″ on a weekly/monthly basis as a chronicle of their lives – their hopes, dreams and fears, a sort of visual diary. These quilts were displayed in a group showing at the Houston International Quilt Show.

    I was a latecomer to the project, it was already in full bloom by then and I was never much one for delving into online challenges with routine obligations, too structured for my life, but I did see some practical applications for the process. Most artists need to make some kind of thumbnail sketches before tackling a mural and so this became my approach to Journal Quilting. In some cases, I used the small scale quilts to express myself: my frustrations at all the climbers who perished on Mt. Hood leaving grieving families who will carry that grief every time they spend a holiday without their loved one. A few of my Journal quilts are dedicated to my childhood ‘sanctuaries’ where I spent time daydreaming or licking my wounds when my sister was mean to me, and one series was born of a project suggested by one of my students who wanted to exchange brown paper lunch sacks with all sorts of bits and pieces – fabrics, embellishments, fancy threads… and we each had to make a small quilt that included everything in the bag. I got the bag with the penguin fabric and lots of bits of broken jewelry. Now what can you do with a penguin and bits of jewelry? Why – a penguin out on an ice field ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’ – that’s what. But I had penguins left over and so began my goal of making a series of quilts featuring penguins in unexpected situations; penguins in Alice’s Wonderland or tasting their first beak-full of salsa… But mostly, I use this format to test out new techniques in a small, realistic and less expensive form.

    All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go
    Penguins in Wonderland

    Years ago, I wanted to try out a needle-lace technique on my sewing machine. I drew up a design, sacrificed a last piece of out-of-print fabric, layered it with a water soluble stabilizer and bought two spools of variegated embroidery thread (to the tune of $12 each). Shortly into the project, I discovered I should have used two layers of stabilizer and ‘hooped’ the work but it was too late to take what I’d done out. Then as luck would have it, I finished off the first spool of thread which yielded only about a 7″ x 7″ area of stitching; the whole project was destined to be about 18″ x 36″. Let’s see… a 7″ square at $12 per spool – well, you do the math. I wasn’t about to spend another $150 for thread for a project I wasn’t even pleased with. How I wish I had made a small sample instead just to test out the technique and perfect the process before taking on a larger project or decide it wasn’t my cup of tea.

    I started my Journal Quilt classes in the Portland (Oregon) area about six years ago and have several small groups that come monthly to learn a new technique and try it out on that same small sized format. Some create miniature masterpieces or apply the methods to larger works and some just come to learn something new. For me, this also serves as a testing ground to work out the logistics of offering a specific project as a standalone class, how long the class show be realistically and whether it should be a technique or design class. You can see more about my classes and quilts on my ‘classes and lectures’ and ‘class schedule’ pages

    Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of these small wonders and I am scheduled to give two trunk shows this coming week at Northwest Quilters annual quilt show at the Expo Center in Portland Oregon. One trunk show is on Friday May 11th and the second is on Saturday May 12th. Both trunk shows start at 11 am. The presentation will be free with paid entry to the quilt show. Learn more at https://www.northwestquilters.org/shows/2018/2018.php


  • Art & Soul Retreat in Portland 2019

    My schedule is set now for the 2019 Art & Soul Retreat in Portland Oregon and I am very excited to be part of this event.

    On Sunday March 10 I will be offering an all day Thread Painting class, on Tuesday March 12, an evening class on making 3-D pebbles from fabric, Wednesday March 13 an evening session on printing paper and fabric with leaves and botanical elements, Thursday evening – Abandoned Bookmarks, Friday – an all day class on three dimensional Stumpwork Sea Anemones, Saturday will start with a full day class on creating embellished Nature Scrolls followed by an evening class on making dimensional fabric leaves. More on each of these classes to come in future posts.

    Meanwhile, I’m working on getting my other classes and events posted in my class schedule tab as well as working on finally posting the first images in my student gallery.

    Art & Soul Retreat – Portland Oregon 2019



  • Ruminations on a sleepless night

    For those of you who have asked me how I get so much done, I often operate on only about 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night. On some nights it’s even less (though I will confess to occasional catnaps on such days). Last night was one of those sleep deprived nights. Perhaps it was stress and anxiety – Tax time is here and I’m not quite ready for the accountant, I also have to create my first ever You Tube video later today as a self introduction for a new teaching event that I am teaching for that will take place in Portland in March of 2019 – the Art and Soul Retreat. I’ve been wanting to try video production for awhile so I guess this is as good a time as any to roll up my sleeves and take the plunge (wish me luck!) but I don’t like being in front of a camera. Perhaps the cat leaping on my chest at 3 am was responsible for waking me up or even my husband screaming in his sleep from a bad dream… whatever the blame I’m awake now.

    The anxiety is also partly based on economic concerns – we just lost two quilt shops here in quick succession – A Common Thread and The Pine Needle are gone. In both cases the owners say it was just time to retire but I can’t help but think these tough economic times are also partly responsible. The news proclaims that the economy is booming and that might indeed be the case if you are a luxury car dealer, or a diamond merchant, or a or a travel agent… but the little folks are still really hurting, particularly quilt shops. I’m sorry to be blunt but Melania Trump and her ilk do not quilt. Among my students the most common professions are school teachers, nurses, secretaries/office workers and some working in the high tech industry. Many of them are retired and watching their pocketbooks as food, rent, gasoline, insurance, heating, water and health care costs skyrocket; this leaves very little to indulge in hobbies like quilting. It’s not like the old days when you had to make quilts to keep warm, quilting is now a choice not a necessity.

    And so, the quilt shops struggle. Many people blame Amazon for stealing sales from small businesses and to an extent, that might be true though many small businesses are on board at Amazon as third party sellers so that purchase you make may actually be supporting a small business person somewhere. Your local quilt shops need you however. They need you and you need them if you want to be able to go in and peruse and touch the latest fabrics and get help with planning and picking materials and tools for your projects. Let’s face it – Amazon is not going help you lay out and compare fabrics, nor help you calculate how much yardage you need to buy for a border, or demonstrate how to use a particular tool, or even recommend one brand of fusible web over another. Amazon is also not going to give you a referral to a good local long-arm quilter to finish your quilt; for all these – you need a quilt shop.

    When is the last time you visited your local quilt shop and not to just say hello but actually buy something? Your local quilt shop needs you and not just to buy something at 10% above cost when they have an occasional sale, they need the routine retail sales to pay their rent, buy their product and keep their staff gainfully employed. Show them you love them – go buy something. Otherwise, they may not be there for you when you finally need them and believe me, looking at fabric swatches online is NOT the best way to buy fabric or judge thread color. Plus –  the last time I checked Amazon’s ‘help’ page, calculating yardage was not one of the help topics and I’ve heard ‘from the horse’s mouth’ (fabric manufacturers) that the quality of the fabric sold to Walmart is not the same greige goods that the quilt shops buy.  Besides, you are going to have to go in person to really see my new Northcott fabric line – Maplewood – to be released this May.

    Go visit your local quilt shop and tell them I sent you.

    Printed wholecloth panel from my fabric line – Maplewood by Northcott Fabrics