A Sentimental Journey

I see that my last blog post was on March 28, when I posted about the (non) progress of my original “Coin Toss” piecing, and a spinoff of another piece I am working on which I was not ready to share. Around this time, my private life took a bit of a detour, and I took an enforced break from which I am only now returning. But I had been excited about the AHIQ challenge this year, and encouraged by the collegial nature of the group of quilters who are part of it, especially by Ann and Kaja. I have been lurking online, reading all the posts, following your progress, and making the occasional comment. Finally, I am ready to share.

Mom on Mount Tam

On May 10, 2017, I lost my dear mother, my biggest fan, and my best friend. Mom was my most faithful reader. She followed my blog from Day #1, and never failed to read my posts and comment on them, privately, to me, in e-mails or in one of our frequent phone calls. She loved everything I ever made. Here is a picture of her smiling at my camera, on a sunny day in 2015, when I took her for a drive up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais. The little quilt of Mt. Tam (my very first art quilt and the banner on my blog) hung on the wall in her apartment, where she could see it every day from her favorite perch on the sofa. It represented the view from our front room when I was young. It now hangs once again in my studio.

I was privileged to be able to spend the last several weeks living with her. She had enjoyed a very full, and happy life, and was very independent. When she finally decided to ask for our help, there was not much for my two brothers and I to do but just be with her. There was no real illness, only age and weakness. She was mentally present and articulate about being grateful for what she had had, and also about being ready to go when God called her. Her passing was graceful, accepting and peaceful, and her children were with her. One can only hope to come to such an end. We whom she left behind will miss her every day.


Earlier in the year, my art quilting group had set a couple of challenges for the membership. The first challenge was “Flowers” and was due in June. I was not excited about making a quilt with a flower theme, but during the time I was staying with Mom, while going through things in the apartment, I came across my Dad’s stash of art supplies. There was a sketchbook, and some oil pastels. I decided to play with them one evening and made a sketch/drawing of an idea I’d had in my head of wilting flowers. I thought about Mom, also wilting, and what kind of flower she would have been. I decided on a sunflower, for several reasons. She was my Mom, thus larger than life to me; she was born at the end of August, in the hot days at the end of summer; and she was a blonde, all the time I was growing up. So I made a sketch of a sunflower, past her prime, in a simmering-hot summer sun. My drawing abilities are not great, but I was pleased with this sketch. I decided it might be a suitable subject for a small art quilt.

I will leave you with the sketch I made, but I will be back for AHIQ to share the quilt that came from it.


Thanks for sticking with me.


AHIQ 2017 – Game On!

A little tardy with this linkup, but once the seasonal festivities were behind us we were overtaken by the seasonal cold or flu – yes, in spite of flu shots. The fun never ends! I did decide to finish the small piece I posted about last time, Abbott’s Lagoon. I am trying to overcome my fear of free-motion quilting, fully realizing that the only way to learn it is to do it, so I just jumped in. I did some quilting, then some more quilting, then some free-motion embroidery for good measure, and finally laid it on the table and colored in some enhancements with water-soluble oil pastels and some dye sticks.

On Tuesday, when Ann and Kaja posted the AHIQ linkup, I was busy, but eventually got to reading it and was very honored to find that Ann had cited my little quilt as an example of one kind of “chinese coins”. That is part of the AHIQ game plan for this first few months of 2017. Then, I went on to Pinterest (which I have neglected for some time) and searched more chinese coin quilts and what do you know, there was me!

So, though I have nothing else new to show for January, I will just post this finished piece and link up with AHIQ…and even though, if I’ve already produced some chinese coins, I could rest on my laurels, that would be no fun; and besides I already have a bunch of ideas of what I might work on next.


Abbott’s Lagoon, 11″ x 26″, Sue Kelly, January 2017 Machine pieced, quilted and embroidered.

Bright Elusive Butterfly

I have been limiting posts to my Made on Monday pieces over the summer while I am immersed in a lot of other activities. This week, it is going to be late, because my entire “studio” aka sewing room is being packed up preparatory for painting and refurbishing. It will be wonderful when it’s done, but for now my tools and materials and working space are mostly unavailable.

Last spring I joined an art quilters group which has occupied a good deal of my time. As I wrote about in an earlier post, on the day I joined the group they issued a challenge to make a quilt using only black and white and one color. After I’d completed Marguerite’s Dream, I had another inspiration one evening, while watching a film called The Flight of the Butterflies.

I’m always trying to photograph butterflies on our walks, but they don’t like to hold still for the camera. I was thinking about the way you never really get a good look at them (except in this film) and they are always kind of fluttering out of sight. I had been playing with cropping images (like Marguerite) and liked the effect of a partial view. Also, I have found I really like fused applique techniques, decorative machine stitching and freeform quilting, and this project gave me some more good practice in all three.

Here is the result. The title will ring a bell for those of you who are roughly of my vintage. It’s small, only 16″ square. It was well received when we revealed our challenge quilts at our October meeting, as was Marguerite’s Dream. dsc02179

Linking up with Kaleidoscope of Butterflies over at Ann’s Fret Not Yourself.

Thanks for visiting!

Marguerite’s Dream – A Challenge, a Detour, and another Finish

Not long ago I joined a group called The Pointless Sisters Art Quilt Group in my neighborhood. It was one of my hopes on my retirement bucket list, to find a group to belong to who shared my interest in textile arts, since virtually none of my family or other friends do.

At the first meeting I attended a new challenge was issued to the group, to make a quilt using only Black and White and One Color. We can use any shade (of black, or white orthe one color), the quilt could be any size, and any theme. I wracked my brain for a couple of months, and finally started on a strings project similar to my Improv Bargello, using a selection of black and white prints, black and white solids and an array of orange shades from a fat quarter bundle that happened to show up in the shop where I volunteer. It was going along pretty well, when in the wee hours one night I woke up with a very clear vision of a completely different quilt that would also satisfy this challenge! So, I stopped in the middle of the one I’d started and made the one I’m sharing today.

And, in spite of my ongoing struggles with free motion quilting, I forced myself to do some on this piece, because it was just the only way to get the effect I was going for. I used a combination of FMQ (verging on FM embroidery or even thread painting, really) and more straight line quilting, but because this is the first piece I have finished where I actually like the way the FMQ came out, I’m also going to attempt to link up with Lizzie Lenard’s Free Motion Mavericks, where I have been watching from the wings for many months, but had nothing to share. Better start somewhere!

Here are a couple of detail shots:



One not-so-happy discovery was that the fusibles* I used for the applique on this project really gummed up my machine needles so that I had to constantly stop and clean them off, and when I got to the hand sewing bits, it was even worse!

*I used Wonder Under until I ran out and then completed with Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite. I had not really had this experience before, so am somewhat mystified.

Anyhow, I persisted, and here is the finished piece.



Marguerite’s Dream

16″ x 23″

August 2016

Now, back to my original project.

Thanks for stopping by!

When Worlds Collide – AHIQ Linkup

I haven’t had any quilts to share for awhile, but that does not mean I have been idle in that area.  Just head down and working. I’ve been trying to limit my online time a bit…it is very time consuming and I’d often much rather be making something or doing something else my life might need at the moment – keeping my house decent, cooking, visiting friends, getting out of doors for some exercise.

But I have recently joined a local art quilt group and am trying to respond to two challenges from them. The first challenge has a longer deadline (next fall) and is to do something using only black and white and one color. I’m still rummaging my stash for fabrics and trying to decide on JUST ONE COLOR, which as you might imagine is a challenge in itself, for me. I’m trusting that the answer will come eventually from my night shift workers (those chatty little beings inside my head). Meanwhile, for the more immediate deadline at the end of July, I was to make an abstract quilt. The only constraint is that it could be no more than 24″ high.

I started out sort of channeling Kathleen Loomis who blogs at Art With a Needle. I have seen some of her work in person and find her reportage from the ART side very thought provoking. I really like the work she does with striped fabrics. I have quite a large bin of stripes and love to use them. I also am drawn to her extremely detailed piecing.

IMG_2430I chose a bunch of stripes that looked interesting together (to my eye) and began by cross cutting them into 3/4″ strips. And yes, I used my ruler for this, because I wanted to preserve the effect of the fine line piecing, and I wanted the stripes to run at right angles to the seams.


Then, I sewed four strip sets. The first two were very similar, except that I removed most of the cool colors from the second one.The third had more cool and less warm. And then I made a set of mostly different fabrics, using similar hues, but in darker shades.

Then I cross cut the strip sets into roughly equal rectangles and began assembling them together with some strips cut from the remains of a precut jelly-roll of Caryl Bryer Fallert Gradations solids. As I did this, I began to realize I was doing something like the Rythmic Grid score in the Improv Handbook. Kathleen Loomis meets Sherri Lynn Wood on my design wall. And thus did worlds collide. I cropped it on a diagonal and did some pretty minimal quilting, free-form with variegated thread (what else?). I will also mention that this quilt was entirely pieced and quilted on a 1911 Singer 66-1 Treadle machine, situated in front of a window with an awesome view of the roses in my front yard.

Here it is, all done.

My Favorite Color

My Favorite Color

24″ x 24″

June, 2016

I contend that this was an improv quilt, in spite of my use of rulers. Some people seem to consider it “improv” only if it is “wonky”. That’s been a hot topic discussion in some other places I hang out. In my view, improvisation is working with whatever tools are at hand to create something unique (as opposed to working from a pattern). I do not consider planning and straight lines and even measurement antithetical to improvisation. What do you think?

But, will my group hang it in the next show? Is it art? That’s another discussion entirely.

Linking up with AHIQ.





Not Improv – But, a Finish!

Linking up with AHIQ?

Although I have not done any improv in the past month, I have had a busy and productive few weeks. Still, I do want to acknowledge the AHIQ linkup happening this week on Kaja’s and Ann’s blogs, and recommend that you visit one or the other and see all the cool things others are doing. AHIQ has developed into a very interesting group over the last few months, and there is always good participation. I’ll be back sooner or later!

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing some other things…

An Art Quilt Finish!

When I visited Hawaii island for the first time, in 2014, with my cousin and husband, we splurged on a guided tour to the top of Mauna Kea to see the sunset. It was really one of the most memorable experiences of my life!

The top of Mauna Kea is around 14,000 feet high, and it seems as if you travel from the tropics to the arctic, in terms of temperature. Even with heavy parkas and gloves, it was bitterly cold, but so exciting to see the sun setting over the vast ocean to the west, and the peak of Haleakela on Maui to the Northwest, rising above the clouds. On my first trip to Maui, my Cuz had taken me to the top of Haleakela and it was clear enough that we could see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa 60 miles away on the Big Island. Now we were looking back the other direction.

But the sight that made the strongest impression on me, was the one we saw when we first got out of the van at the top.  Here is the photo I took there. This is a view looking East from the top of the mountain, with the shadow of Mauna Kea looming over the clouds and horizon.

DSC07276 - Version 2

In general, I tend not to try to replicate images in a literal way. Still, sometimes the look of the ‘real thing’ is just so graphic and perfect that it must be respected in the piece. I saw a quilt there, and needed to make it. I used only seven different fabrics, including the background, and an overlay of tulle. For the quilting, however, I used around 16 different colors of thread! I decided on a fused, raw-edge applique for the main shapes in the piece (mountain, shadow, shadow areas on mountain and sky, and clouds). I edge stitched the shapes in the foreground, for emphasis. Everything else is held down by the close quilting. About half-way through this I started hearing a lot about Lara’s  new book Crafted Applique…New Possibilities and wished I had a copy, so I could use the “fray-proof” applique method she has apparently discovered…ah well, maybe next time!

For a little quilt, which finishes about 11″ x  16″, I think I have spent more time thinking, sketching, drawing, planning, measuring, selecting and rejecting fabrics, and wondering how to translate what I saw into a tangible object, than with any other thing I’ve ever made. I decided in the end, after trying several different methods, that two layers of black tulle made the best shadow, and that using thread to suggest the sunset colors in the sky was the best way to go.  The quilting took the longest…the lines are about 3/16″ apart, and the thread changes were frequent. Also, many thread colors changed at intersecting shapes and all those ends had to be buried.

I feel really happy with myself for patiently sticking to my vision and working through all the minute details, because I often want to take short cuts for a quick finish. I actually learned that I enjoyed this more meticulous way of working, and I am very satisfied with the results.

In our story of creation, Wakea is the broad expanse, the sky father, partner to Papahanaumoku, earth mother, who gave birth to the islands. Hawai’i island is their hiapo, or eldest child. And Mauna Kea is that child’s piko, or navel. Because of its place in our genealogies, Mauna Kea is a kupuna, an ancestor.

excerpt from Mauna Kea – Temple Under Siege


Sky Father

11″ x 16″

May 23, 2016

Thanks for visiting! Have a wonderful day.


Homage to Oscar de la Renta – Eye Candy

I spent a lovely day with two of my favorite ladies last Thursday. We traveled to San Francisco to see the Oscar de la Renta retrospective exhibition at the de Young Museum. The museum itself was a treat to see, as it was completely razed and re-built since I’d last visited. Not sure why, but our trips to the City have become fewer over the years, though it’s only about 50 miles from home.

The show was really grand. There wasn’t a single piece of clothing in it that I ever would have had occasion to wear, but it was all so opulent and elegant and well staged and stunning. Oscar used a lot of very bold color, but usually no more than two colors in any piece. I thought about my grandmother though…there were a couple of outfits I could picture her in.

But what really caught my seamstress’ eye was the embellishment, and the way he manipulated textiles for shape and effect. It was hard to imagine the level of fine hand- work that went into each of these pieces. I viewed the show on two levels, and really I think the details fascinated me the moste. By the way, that photo in the lower right is a bit of a red herring. It is not from a garment, but you will see it in one of the mannequin shots further on.

Cutting to the chase, here are some of my favorite pieces from the show.

And as if that were not enough, we went up to the top of the observation tower at the museum and were treated to these beautiful views over the City!

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