Christina  in Winter White Cape
at Snowflake Lane

Randy and I finished up our shopping at Bellevue Square where they have “Snowflake Lane” each night during the holidays. He’s now entertaining us playing an assortment of Christmas music, Broadway show tunes, and pieces from the 20’s to the 50’s. I’m at a distinct disadvantage with “Name That Tune” for that era, since I wasn’t even born yet, but my Mom is having a great time!

Snowflake Lane

Knotted Blanket Stitch

Since I always like to keep my hands busy, I’m working on an edging stitch for one of my embroidery samplers. I decided to do a Knotted Blanket Stitch, which I’ll show  how to do here:

Step 1- Make a loop
Step 2 – Needle through loop and
above the lower thread from last stitch

Step 3- Pull loop tight around needle
Step 4 – Pull thread through, making
sure that loop stays tight to form knot

You might also be interested in:
Stitchwork Samplers
More Embroidery Samples

Merry Christmas from our family to yours and wishing us all Peace on Earth.


My husband Randy and I were driving up in the Skagit Valley yesterday when the sun broke through the weeks of grey and rain.  Many people can’t understand the appeal of the Pacific Northwest or couldn’t imagine living here with our weather.  One of the things I enjoy is the changes both in the seasons and our weather.  While we don’t have extremes, neither with snow nor heat, we have enough variety to be interesting.
And when the sun breaks through, it’s glorious!  We are surrounded by mountains and water, both freshwater lakes and rivers and the salt water of Puget Sound.  With the higher rain level and temperate climate, our native species include many which have given us our “Evergreen State” name.
The Skagit Valley is just one of those magical places… with both pastoral settings and areas so gorgeous that they attract tourists.  During the winter, bald eagles congregate along the banks for the Skagit river.  One year we took a river rafting float trip to see them and counted over 100 eagles in the bank-side trees.
In Springtime, the Skagit Valley tulip festival attracts people from around the world.  With acres upon acres of tulips (or earlier in the spring, daffodils), the beauty is legendary.  
Our environment can be so inspirational.  I love to take photos out in nature, although I’m not great about then taking them to use in my fiber art.  I guess I’d like to think that by exposing myself to beauty, I will be more inspired and will continue to create.

I hope you enjoy these beautiful skies and the Cascade Mountains as much as I did!

Sunshine and Sand
Pacific Madronna
Finding Inspiration Every Day

Caverna Magica at SeaTac airport

We had a little snafu when we went to set up our “Journeys” CQA show at the SeaTac International Airport earlier this year.  The schematics for the cases which they had sent to us were wrong!  So, not all of the quilts our jury had picked out fit into the cases.  One of mine, Caverna Magica, was left out of the initial hanging and then switched in half-way through the show.

There are two areas in the airport with our displays.  The first is in a hallway leading from ticketing near the Southwest Airlines ticket counter to security and entrance to the gates.  This section has the large cases pictured here.  Each piece in this exhibit has an accompanying “educational display” which teaches something about either how the piece was made, inspiration, or materials.

The educational display for Caverna Magica reads as follows:

Caverna Magica Educational Display

“The Caves of Nerja (photo 1) are located in Andalusia, in Southern Spain.  Filled with impressive stalactites and stalagmites, these caves were discovered in the modern era in 1959 and stretch over 5 kilometers.  As a major tourist attraction, sections of the caves are lit with colored lights.  Having visited these magnificent caverns in 1996, I immediately thought of them when I completed the first dyeing of the fabric for this quilt.

Starting with a piece of 100% white cotton fabric, I poured several colors liquid Pro MX dyes onto the piece, which lay with numerous ridges and folds on a flat surface.  These folds created the interesting patterns which are reminiscent of stalactites (photo 2).    Much of the white fabric was still showing through, and I wanted to create more crystalline structures within the piece.  This was done with a second dye bath, using a snow-dyeing method. 
Close-up of some of the machine quilting on Caverna Magica
Snow-dyeing is basically like making a snow-cone… you crumble your fabric up in a container, pack snow on top of it, and then pour several colors of dyes over the snow.  As the dye trickles down through the snow, it hits the fabric and slowly starts the color transformation as the temperature rises.  Due to the unusual nature of this process, the results are one-of-a-kind and typically form beautiful crystal-like patterning in the color.  After 24 hours and the snow completely melting, you can wash out the excess dye.  The colors were intensified and additional details representing the rocky caverns came out through this additional dye process.
The final layer of this piece was to add more detail through densely quilting the fabric.  I do my quilting on my Bernina 730 home machine, free-hand guiding the fabric in the directions I want to go.  With this piece, I wanted to emphasize the feeling of stalactites and stalagmites with the stitching lines.  I continued using a wide array of colors of thread, to match the feeling of the wonderful lights shining on these incredible natural structures.
Part of the Contemporary QuiltArt Assocition’s
Journeys show at SeaTac
It’s always exciting to see your work on display.  Since I had to pick my husband up at the airport this week, I finally got to see my piece now included in the exhibit.  If you’d like to see some additional shots of this show, see my post “Designing for a Theme.”
Part of the Contemporary QuiltArt Assocition’s
Journeys show at SeaTac

I’ve spent some evenings working more on hand embroidery.  Let me know if you want instructions or thread types on any of the stitches!

Top Row:

  1. Herringbone stitch
  2. Herringbone stitch
  3. Cretan stitch – similar to herringbone, but with a twist
  4. Cable stitch
  5. Laced running stitch – simple but looks nice!
  6. Pekinese stitch – while this isn’t very difficult, you need to work at keeping loops the same size
  7. Laid trailing stitch – very thick raised couched cording
  8. Feather stitch
  9. Heavy Chain stitch- this is almost a braided stitch
  10. Twisted Chain stitch
  11. Chevron stitch
  12. Open chain stitch -this fine wool (DMC Medicis) is a bit tough to see- looks like a ladder
Bottom Row:
  1. Double Chain stitch
  2. Feathered Chain stitch – nice vine-like look
  3. Crested Chain stitch
  4. Top: Rosette Chain stitch  Bottom: Buttonhole Wheel
  5. Two Color Chain stitch – this is done with two threads in your needle, but just catching one each stitch
  6. Rope stitch
  7. Raised Stem stitch
  8. Blanket stitch
  9. Whipped Blanket stitch
  10. Long & Short Blanket stitch
  11. Closed Blanket stitch
  12. Up & Down Blanket stitch – make a nice little knot along with two strands to side

The build-up for the end of the world has been building for over the last year. Based on the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar, there are people who predict that Earth will cease to exist after Friday (12/21/2012.) So, here are the things I want all of my children to know… just in case:

Christina with Ryan (right) & Coleman at cub scouts in March 2002
  1. There is nothing I treasure more than you. Forget any frustrations, anger, disappointments. They’re just part of day-to-day living. Be secure in the fact that my love is with you regardless. 
  2. You are not perfect; nor am I. No one is. You don’t need to try for perfection, just doing your personal best. Be generous and forgiving of Yourself. 
  3. At the heart of all happiness is forgiveness. Resentment and bitterness only perpetuate unhappiness. 
  4. Trust is built by being trustworthy. When you demonstrate time after time that you are honorable, honest, and reliable, you create a foundation for trust. 
  5. The “Golden Rule” (treat others the way you would like to be treated) will serve you well throughout your life. 
  6. Don’t surrender to negativism, despair, or cynicism. Get help. There are people who love you (I’m at the top of the list) and will be there to support you with whatever you’re going through. 
  7. Be present. Listen carefully to what is being said (or unsaid) by others, rather than an internal monologue at the same time as when someone is speaking. Live life in the moment, rather than regretting or holding anger about the past or being anxious about the future. 
  8. Who we really are is our thoughts, words, and actions… they need to be congruent for true happiness. If you say you’ll do something, do it or renegotiate. If you’re thinking something different than what you say, your integrity is out of alignment. Hold yourself accountable to your promises and commitments. 
  9. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness, and, if needed, atone for the failure. 
  10. You are responsible for being generous and loving in your close relationships with family and friends. Caring is shown by listening attentively, forgiving, having patience, granting dignity, showing interest in them and their endeavors, and consciously working towards being heartfully uplifting to them. 
  11. Choose to create your relationships through reconciling, being merciful and forgiving, being magnanimous, cooperating, easing tensions, being ethically persuasive and truly listening to others. When you are antagonistic, criticizing, tearing down, being petty, demoralizing, retreating from others to an internal dialog, or making meaning where it doesn’t exist, you damage both the relationship and yourself. 
  12. Be unique… there is no one else like you and your uniqueness makes you shine. At times, it’s a struggle to be accepted and it’s easier to try to fit in. Don’t give up your individuality… find people who accept and love you as you are. 
  13. Developing yourself as substantive person will give yourself freedom, happiness, satisfaction and peace of mind. Through becoming more worldly, learning to understand different viewpoints, developing marketable skills and cultivating interests, you’ll find your place in the sun, so to speak. Shallowness, immaturity, and ignorance will only lead to pain and needless suffering. 
  14. The primary place in my life that I expect perfection of myself is in my mothering. I suppose this is partially due to talking to myself over my disappointment that my marriage did not turn out successfully and the guilt I feel towards my children for this lack of providing them with the “perfect” (i.e. culturally accepted mean) family. Therefore, I strive to live up to my expectation of the perfect mother and consistently fall short. The times when I am closest to the ideal are when I am being the most autonomous—when I listen attentively, show compassion and interest, be empathetic and caring. However, I often feel my biggest regret in life will be the time I have missed with my children. (Refer back to #2- forgive yourself.) 
  15. Be empathetic. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you can’t understand and be compassionate to how someone else is thinking and feeling, you’re going to have difficulty with that relationship. 
  16. Don’t fear embarrassment! Yes, the feeling of heat sweeping over your body is uncomfortable, but it is fleeting. If you can free yourself from this fear, you’ll be willing to try more things and build a tolerance to the discomfort that accompanies embarrassing situations. Trying more things leads to being more substantive (see #13.) 
  17. Finally, don’t fear what you can’t change. So often we get ourselves worked up over imagined futures. Live your life to the fullest during the time you have. By the way, the world isn’t going to end on Friday. Just as our calendar ends on December 31 and it doesn’t mean that the world will cease to exist, the end date of the Mayan long-count period will just turn over to another long-count period. 

Well, if you haven’t checked out by now, know that I want the best for you. I have a deep longing for you to be happy in your life. I hope to always be a part of your life. Please be patient and forgiving with me when I make mistakes. All my love to you, Mom / Christina

I wrote this poem on June 24, 2001 and want to share it with you:

     Sweetly, sweetly, I gaze down upon your little head

     Nestled up to my breast

     I feel the love swell and know of nothing more precious.

     Tantrums, burgeoning independence,

     As you grow, we dance with closeness and pushing each other away

     Yet, I still feel the joy of just looking in your face.

     There are times that I struggle

     Times of disappointment, anger, worry-

     Yet not truly over you, my darlings.

     You’re growing so quickly – our time is so short

     How can I impart to you all that I wish – all that you’ll need?

     How can I be…?

Coleman and Ryan dressed up for “College Day” this year
Son David and his partner, Valori

Daughter Kayla (right) with her partner, Ryli

This weekend I took 6 teenagers to “The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey.”  Parenthood can certainly be described that way (and I’m not talking about unexpectedly becoming a parent.)  The stages and changes you and your children go through take one by surprise.  I love being a Mom and getting to watch my sons (and their friends) on their live’s journeys.

I’m taking a bit of time to get ready for the holidays now, so my art and stitch are slowed down.  I’ve been practicing my hand embroidery stitches in the evening, as well as working on design ideas for the “Salsa!” exhibition at Mighty Tieton.  If I slow down in writing my blog over the next couple weeks, know I’ll be back with my 52 week 5 x7 challenge at the start of the year!

Our dogs playing in the water at Moclips, WA, Pacific Ocean

Is there anything as wonderful as a beautiful ocean beach?  There are so many aspects and differences between beach types and we have some truly marvelous variations on the Pacific coast.    I took these photos for design inspiration, when on a trip to Moclips, WA.  The waves carve out intricate patterns in the sand and the incredible play of light brings out fascinating textures.

As design sources, the sand has many possibilities.  Line and shape are represented with rhythm and repetition.  Due to the brightness and contrast, there is very little color, making the images great for playing with a monochromatic color scheme.  Value contrast can be studied and played upon.

When in nature, I look for these types of elements.  Pattern, shape, line, repetition and variation, symmetry, contrast, and texture all create interest in a composition

While I may never make a composition from one of these particular photo, using a camera to train my eye toward good design has become a habit for me.

 At the same time, using these photos could make an interesting series.

The process of just getting out into nature and seeing, REALLY seeing, can help infuse your creative well with more life, giving you the inspiration to bring forth new ideas in your chosen artistic endeavor.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with getting out.  I tend to get a little insular, wanting to hole up in my house (especially on cold, rainy Seattle days!)  I always have too much I want or need to do, and I can get caught up in wanting to have time making, rather than gathering more inspiration.  But the process of looking for inspiration can help keep you creating.

Perhaps getting out with my camera each week should be part of my 5 x 7 challenge….  I’ll have to think on it.  What do you think?  Would you like to see design inspiration photos each week?

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Skagit Skies
Pacific Madronna
Finding Inspiration Every Day

While I currently define myself as a “fiber and mixed media artist”, I struggle with the definition. I started early on as a seamstress,then as a costume designer. I moved to being a quilter for a short while, then specialized in art quilts. I’ve played around with many styles, but basically feel my niche is in representational art.

When I started falling in love with making my own fabric, I became a surface designer.  But, I was still pretty wrapped up in using my fabrics in my quilts.  Now, I’m moving even more to embroidery.  Whether it’s dense machine embroidery, thread painting, intricate machine quilting, or hand work, stitch seems to give me a tactile grounding that no other medium has for me.  But how do I define myself?  Where does this work fit in?

I know that most shows that are quilt-centered are very strict about their definition of a quilt… 3 layers connected with stitch, often needing to be professionally bound in some way.  If I decide to create a stitched piece and stretch it over a frame or canvas, then it won’t qualify.  So the question is, how important is it to me to fit into the categories that show producers have come up with?  Or even, how important is it to me to continue to exhibit?  Is it more important to create and then find the right niche for my creations, rather than creating to fit particular guidelines?

While I don’t feel like I have a strong enough discernible style or large enough body of work to go into solo shows, I do enjoy having my work out in front of the public.  The question is, will work that is not formally a “quilt” get accepted into shows?  Do I feel I need to break out of confines of being defined as a quilter?

I don’t know that I have the answer for that yet.  Maybe as I work out my goals for the upcoming year, it will become more clear to me.  How do you define yourself?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Quick tip for productivity:  I recently found the iPhone app “Evernote“.  This is a way to organize all your notes, including Word docs, Adobe Acrobat PDFs, and simple text inputs.  You can also use it online or download a version to your computer, as well.  They all sync together. You can organize notes into notebooks (so I have one notebook for my studio, one for family, one for my blog, etc.) and put as many items within each notebook as you want.  It’s a great tool!

Two blissful days of studying and practicing Elizabethan Embroidery… seems a little self-indulgent when I’m not prepared for the upcoming holidays, but wonderful nonetheless.  Our instructors, Gail Harker and Penny Peters were wonderful and the class was both intense, yet relaxing.  It may not seem like much, but here is my sampler of some of the types of stitches used in Elizabethan Embroidery:

Top row (from left to right)
Pearl Stitch (2 thicknesses of threads)
Fly Stitch
Stem Stitch with French knots
Satin Stitch leaf with back stitch outlining and vein
Laid-work grid with diagonal couching (a couched filling)
A Plaited Braid Stitch (in heavy wool yarn)

On the bottom row (left to right)
Running Stitch
Back Stitch
Split Stitch
Stem Stitch (loops)
Slanted Buttonhole Stitch
Chain Stitch
Knotted Stitch
Plaited Braid Stitch (in gold-wrapped thread)
Plaited Braid Stitch (in purple metallic glitterati)
We also did some needle-lace (not pictured.)        
Here is a close up of a few (I especially like the goldwork!):
This goldwork sampler was made by Penny Peters,
one of our teachers:
Here is another sample by Penny of laid-work:

You might also be interested in:
More Embroidery Samples
Snowflake Lane & How to Make a Knotted Blanket Stitch (with video!)

Queen Elizabeth 1 in stunningly embroidered

We started the Elizabethan embroidery class today with a slide show of incredible examples both from paintings and surviving pieces of embroidery.  Of course, fashion followed the monarch herself.  Her intricately embroidered dresses were masterworks and sometimes were so heavily jeweled that she would have to be carried, rather than walking.  In this picture to the right, the embroidery depicts all sorts of wildlife, some quite realistic and others from imagination.

Botanical & natural themes in Elizabethan gold work

Themes for embroidery during the 16th century generally tended to coincide with what people knew: botanical and animal life.  In this piece of gold-work (where the thread is wrapped with pure gold), undulating vines with leaves, flowers, caterpillars  moths, and other bugs are depicted.   However, Queen Elizabeth had a penchant for being one of a kind (she even had laws against others being able to wear things as grandiose as hers… like the size of their neck ruffs!)

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me…”

In this painting, the embroidery design covering her dress is of eyes and ears, to imply that she could see and hear all and was omniscient over her subjects.  Wouldn’t that strike terror into the hearts of her court, servants, and the general populace!

On the left sleeve, a jeweled serpent wraps and entwines itself, holding a heart-shaped ruby from it’s mouth, representing the queen’s passions (the heart) being controlled by her wisdom (the serpent.)

Looking at examples from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s textile collection in London, as well as other British sources, we came to a greater understanding of the sheer magnitude of the embroidery movement during the Elizabethan era.

Other objects which I found interesting that were heavily embroidered were caskets (a type of box… not a coffin), books, and intricate gloves and mittens.  Maybe more on those another time.

After whetting our appetite with amazing image, we got down to stitchwork for the rest of the day.  So many stitches are able to be seen, but historians don’t always know exactly how they were done.  There are often more than one way to create the same stitch.  So, we’re learning many stitches, but not doing them necessarily in the same way which the were stitched in the past.

We are using authentic materials: wool, linen, and cotton for threads and fabric the most part, although some silk fabric was also used in that era.  I didn’t realize that the term “crewel embroidery” means stitching with wool.  Hopefully I’ll have a finished sampler or more done by the end of class tomorrow, so I can share some photos!