A Christmas Jumpstart

While visiting my parents in Oregon for my dad’s 70th birthday, I found some snap jewelry findings and some bone skulls to make jewelry for my nieces and daughter for Christmas.  One of my nieces likes skulls, as you can see.  The snaps are interchangeable and I put them on leather.   SnapJewelry2622blogLilySnap3595web


So then I needed something for my sister’s birthday and I debated making a scarf and then thought that a necklace would be faster so I could get it off in the mail in time for Christmas.  I used a pendant I bought on MChris2660bdy14blogurano.


That got me started doing some silver chain pieces.  I have a couple more that I want to do with the silver chain yet.  silverMuranodots3151Web  The first one has some Murano beads I got at Abilmente.



This one has some Murano beads I got at an Italian thrift shop.SilverMuranoGreen3405blog

And the last one has Murano beads that are pearl finished and I searched for those after buying a favorite necklace in Venice that has them.  I finally found a bunch of colors at Abilimente.    Now I need to wear them somewhere!


















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Upcycled Leather Laptop Case


  I have to take my laptop out of the house next week and wanted to have a cushioned bag to put it in.  I have been mulling ideas for a year since I got the laptop and just couldn’t decide what I wanted to make: knitted and felted, pieced and quilted, leather.  I finally had to decide and thought I would look through my thrift store leather stash for something that would inspire me.


I started collecting leather while living in Italy and couldn’t stand to leave a leather coat in the thrift stores that were under ten euro.  I have carried that on here in the states and love it when I find a great color or texture of leather for a great price.   I was at Goodwill last week and found 7 leather coats and one wool (not pictured) for under $50.  I left the $30 purple one on the rack.  Too rich for my blood.

When I looked through my stash, this quilted leather coat stood out because it is already quilted with some batting, and it is so soft.  I didn’t think to take a picture before I chopped it off, so just pretend it is still whole!


I remember buying it in Italy during a thrift shop outing with my friends from our creative group, Scambio Creativo.  We used to get together on most Thursdays and create, travel, or just hang out and enjoy each others’ company and usually yummy food.  We carry that on via skype since we are now spread out across the US.  I was excited to share it with them today on skype after I finished it.


Stabilizer going in between the quilted leather and the flannel jacket lining to help protect that laptop!

I cut off the bottom portion and then cut out the back middle.  I took out the zipper and sewed together the front of the jacket which is now on the left hand side of the bag and is purely decorative.  The left hand side (looking at the jacket) wraps around to the back where the second pocket is.  I joined up the right hand side.  I put a foam stabilizer in between the quilted leather and the coat’s flannel lining.

I cut off the rest of the front placket, sewed it to the back, and used it as a flap.  I attached the buttons from the top of the placket to close the bag.  E fenito!



back of laptop case

My Scambio friends say it needs a handle, but I’m not convinced yet.  My plans are for it to go into a larger cork bag that I tote around all my stuff in, so I don’t need a handle.  But who knows, I may add one later if I find I want one.  My warn out purses get their hardware taken off and saved for future projects like this and I still have plenty of coat left.

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Snow Dyeing

I was so busy in December that I didn’t have time to do any snow dyeing.  I was not going to let that happen again in January!  So I scooped up the little bit of snow we had one day (much more fell after that for days) and off I went.

first layer of scrunched fabric

first layer of scrunched fabric

I placed a scrunched even layer of fabric in the bottom of a plastic tub to catch drips from the top layer of fabric.  Why waste some good activated dye, right?!






Then a plastic shelf rack that holds the top layer of scrunched fabric.

second layer with snow

second layer with snow








Next is the snow and sprinkled powder dyes which will liquify and drip down with the melting snow to make wonderfully patterned fabric.

sprinkled dye powder on snow

sprinkled dye powder


You want to make sure that the fabric gets up to 70 degrees to give the dye the best setting possibilities.   I usually set my tub on top of my running dryer after all of the snow has melted and then wash it out the next day.







So easy and so beautiful!  This one is the top fabric and is cotton bed linens. snowDyeing67Web snowDyeing66Web
















And this is the second fabric which was just soaking up the extra dye!  I love this one!!

snowDyeing52web snowDyeing50WebI did it two more times and am thinking I’m going to try some silk next.  In fact the batch waiting to wash out in the laundry room has a couple of silk scarves, but I want to try some silk yardage and a couple of different silks.

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Mary Ann Van Soest’s Studio Tour

I had a lovely day at Mary Ann Van Soest’s Quilt Studio.  She has a large space in the home she and her husband built on their large, beautiful property in northern rural Indiana.  She was such a gracious host!  She treated us to a delicious home made meal and we enjoyed sitting around the dining table chatting and being spoiled!

MAVS6293StudioWebA part of Mary Ann’s studio.  So well organized!

Mary Ann is full of energy and had project after project in progress and even more set up for an open house next weekend.  She does a wonderful and professional job of marketing and presenting her works!  Brava Mary Ann!  She also paints and her paintings are beautiful as well.

MAVS6297GalleryWebPaintings and quilts on display

I enjoyed seeing how she uses interesting techniques to incorporate her photos into the quilt instead of just having a rectangular photo.  I struggle with ways to help integrating photos successfully and artfully into my pieces.  Some mental notes were definitely taken while there!

MAVS6291QuiltWebThe buildings are all photographs in this quilt.

I enjoyed the company of my artist friend, Judy for the drive up north and back home.  She showed some mixed media pieces to us during show and tell.

MAVS6300JudyWeb                  Judy showing and telling

Show and Tell is always wonderful, but I enjoyed that we all took our time to talk somewhat in depth about our processes used to help introduce ourselves to one another.  This was a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Assoc) event and it was nice to meet some more Indiana artists.  I enjoyed bringing a piece that took some inspiration from our last SAQA member studio tour to Peggy Brown’s studio in southern Indiana.  It was in progress but I felt that since it related to the last tour I wanted to talk about that one.  Thanks Peggy!  I also brought along the Quilting Arts issue and the little challenge piece Pisa Passage since last time I was only able to say the article was coming soon but had the quilts along.


Mary showing a quilt using airbrushing.  I just adored all of the art that Mary Ann and her husband have collected and display throughout the house!

Thank you, Mary Ann!  I had a wonderful time!

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Photo Labels Printed on Fabric

The Quilters Guild of Indianapolis asked me to do a demo of my photo quilt labels a few months back and as it turned out, I was awaiting the next issue of Quilting Arts Magazine with a label published in their readers’ response section: It’s Your Turn.  I told my critique group, Indyfiber, that I had submitted and had gotten a rapid response wanting larger photos to print, and my friend said “I should do that, too.”  And she did (she does lovely hand written labels and frequently uses beads on them and her facings}.  We both ended up having our pictures and label info printed in Aug/Sept issue and then presenting to the guild.  Then as it came time to plan for the quilt show, they asked if we (and the handful of other members who presented) would do demos at the show.  We just did that on Friday.

Here is the label printed in Quilting Arts and the photo of the Arno River and bridge is on the front of the quilt.


There are always loads of technical questions when it comes to printing on fabric!  Some of the questions being things like what the differences are between the types of setting chemicals and pretreated, prepared sheets, which leads to ink types and printer preferences.   Today I found a wonderful blog post on a fellow quilt artist’s blog about her experiences, old samples, preferences and technical info.  I think she did a fabulous job giving concise information and lots of it!  So I will refer you here to Gloria Hansen’s post.

I even learned a couple of things due to her working many years back on developing ways to make printer inks waterfast and lightfast before Bubble Jet Set was on the market.  I also began printing on fabric before Bubble Jet Set, but had little dye experience and was not dyeing my own fabrics then.  I used Retayne, and would probably still be doing so if Epson hadn’t developed wonderful pigmented inks which don’t need chemical setting and brought them into the home printers.

I have a love/hate relationship with my Epson R1800, but still plan to buy another Epson.  I have my eye on a newer model that I hope to get soon which will hopefully do something I have been wanting mine to be able to do, but is very limited in that capability.  It is a medium format (13″ wide) pigment based inkjet.  I have always said it needs a special button that says “Print anyway, Damn It!”  The printer wants paper to be perfectly aligned and will adjust the paper if it detects it is not perfectly aligned.  Unfortunately fabric does not have a perfect edge, hence it more often rejects my fabric than to accept it.  It has unfortunately taken too many hours to get it to print what should have taken less than an hour.  It prints beautifully and makes me so happy when it prints in an accepting manner!

Here is another label.  This one is a photo I took in Venice of gondole and was the photo used to make an original painted collage that was then printed on fabric and again painted.


I will have to do another post on how I print my labels in the future.

Looking at the Venetian photo above, I must end with,

Ciao, tutti!

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Iron Powder

I use iron powder to control rusting where I want it.  I use it with thermofax printing, masking, stenciling, resist printing, etc.  The Quilting Arts article did not have the specific iron that I use, so I wanted to give all the nitty gritty  details here (pun intended, sorry).  I use iron100 from chemicalstore.com.  It is a high purity, hydrogen reduced, fine iron powder with particles of 150 micron or smaller. Do you need

iron100 from chemicalstore.com

iron100 from chemicalstore.com

to order this exact iron?  No.  I chose it because it sounded like it might work and it did!  I wanted something small and smooth so it would not rip up my thermofax screens. I do not know if the high purity or oxygen reduced matters, but probably not.  They also have superfine and ultrapure.  Since the iron100 worked, I didn’t try those more expensive options.  I can tell you not to use anything oxygenated because it has already bonded with oxygen and it won’t rust.  You also do not want anything coarse, like shavings, that could rip your thermofax screens.  They may give an interesting resulting texture if used for a sprinkle technique.  The can in the photo is 5 lbs.  It is a lot of iron powder, but not nearly as much as it sounds!  Iron is heavy.  The 5lbs comes in a quart can and I suspect the 1 lb would be about a pint or half pint can which is the size of a small can of wood stain.  Enough powder to get a whole lot of thermofax screen prints but a pretty small package.  I believe the square dish in the photo is 3″x3″ to give you some scale.

Happy rusting!


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Villa Pisani

I hope you will indulge me in a little memory lane.  My personal and professional blogs were wiped out a couple of years ago and almost all of the content was lost.  I just found that I had copied the text from the first post on my personal blog that I no longer keep, so I thought I would reshare it here.  There are many things that I had already forgotten about the trip and villa, so I’m delighted I found this!  I will have to relocate all of the pictures, but suspect they are all in the photography section, so I may not have too hard of a job.


Well, an empty blog… where to start…where to start… Well.  Living in Italy seems like a good place, though we are moving very shortly back to the states.  Yea!  And Awww!  Very glad to get back to the states, but very sad to leave all the beautiful sights of Italy!  We are very happy to be going into the civilian world even though I’m sure there will be some things we will miss as we are so accustomed to the military lifestyle by now.villapisanifromstablesblog

Last week some friends and I went to a villa along the Riviera del Brenta which is the Brenta River that runs from Venice out west into the Veneto and to Padua.  It was a major trade route where the affluent of Venice had villas.  The Villa Pisani was just gorgeous and has beautiful gardens.  Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, but I got hundreds outside.  Napoleon took control of the villa in 1807 and Mussolini and Hitler met there in 1934.  Tiepolo did amazing Trompe L’Oeil murals on the ceiling and walls of the ball room.  We all decided we would have enjoyed being able to take a bath in the very sunken tub.  I’m guessing Napoleon and Mussolini enjoyed the tub, the luxuries, and the gorgeous grounds.


We enjoyed the beautiful huge reflecting pool with a smaller lily pad filled pond at the beginning.  There are sculptures of bodies lying in the reflecting pool.  Not quite sure what to think of those.  We walked along the side path as they were cutting the grass which, along with way too much cottonwood fluff was not good for the allergies!  But we walked along that side because they were in the process of mowing over thousands of purple flowering weeds which we wanted to get some photos of before they were gone!





We continued on to a hidden treasure in the woods where there was an old buried ice house which was built up in the Napoleonic era to look like a lava flow with statues in it.  Also very odd, but fun to see what we could find.  Then we moved on to find the gazebo and I swallowed a cottonwood fluff which I highly suggest you don’t do and coughed and gagged for a good half hour!  Anyway, just a small gazebo with some pretty ironwork in the woods.


We headed on to the stables which was also used for entertaining and housing the citrus trees in the winter.  They were beautiful, but very small for as grand as they look!

Then we headed along garden after garden of beautiful flowers.  We spent the most time taking pictures of the wisteria archway, which was not yet blooming; however, the columbine at the base of the archway were stunning despite their tininess!

villapisanicolumbinebee1blog villapisaniirisblog

We unfortunately did not leave enough time to go through the shrubbery maze which is said to be the toughest in the world and has a tower at the center where you can get assistance to find the exit.  The stairs to the top of the tower are based on Leonardo di Vinci’s double helix staircase design.  Very beautiful!villapisanimazetowerblog

There is a coffee house on a small “island” surrounded by a mote with an ice house underneath which brings cooling air into the coffee house.

The Orangery was beautiful and smvillaPisaniLemon blogelled sooooo good with the flowers blooming and citrus growing.  It is surrounded by hedges with statues along them and some statues were almost overgrown by the hedges so they looked like the statues were emerging from the hedges.

orangery statue blog

The Exedra was in the middle diving and converging the paths and was used as a lodge and gardeners quarters.  We wanted to go up the tower with spiral stairs, but they were not open because it said they were dangerous.

We all wanted to go back to take more photos, go through the maze, and see the blooming wisteria!  Time is too short for me!  Too much to see, too little time.
Villa Pisani has a website in English if you are interested in taking a look.

There [was] currently an exhibit of a Venetian impressionist painter, Emma Ciardi, that was very nice and I enjoyed her landscapes in particular.  

Well,  we are leaving Italy shortly, so this may be my one and only post until we get to the beach where I have more time on my hands waiting to see where we end up!  If I have time, I would love to tell you about some of my other travels while I soak up what little more I can during our last weeks!

Ci vediamo dopo!

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Rusty Gold

I have been working on surface design with rust for a few years, but have stepped up my interest over the last year.  I was wanting to come up with ways to mimic specific patterns and hit a road block.  I took photos of rusty grain bins, signage, and other grange equipment and wanted some companion fabrics. KKH18RedWebKKH18RedPlaidWeb






Image for thermofax

So, I made thermofax screens from the photos.

I used iron in print paste and thermofax screens and I was off getting great companion fabrics! 


I am working with resists and iron powder now and also getting wonderful results.  I am also working on a huge piece of fabric using our fire pit cover to rust since it has wonderful patterning.  More on this piece later.  As the rusting is just the first layer of surface design.



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Quilting Arts Magazine

I adore Quilting Arts Magazine and from the day that I found them, several years ago I found my home for art quilting. I cancelled all other subscriptions.  I love the beautiful quilt art in the magazine and that they are constantly finding artists who are pushing the boundaries in an ever expanding medium.  The techniques that their contributors come up with and the quilts they publish are amazing.  I also quickly picked up their sister magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors, from the first issue.


I am so proud to say that I have had some pieces printed in both magazines through their reader challenges and swaps.  After many trials and tribulations I came up with a technique to print with rust using thermofax screens and it is now published!  I hope you will check out the magazine.  It is out for subscribers now, but will hit newsstands for the Oct/Nov 2013 issue.  I hope to have another rusting article printed.  You can see the quilt, Wrangled Rust, that I made for the article hererusting245lgInt.

Quilting Arts has expanded and pushed me to try so many new things.  I enjoy doing their reader challenges because they are small pieces that you can experiment with new techniques.  Their challenges have led me to many things I would not have pushed myself to try under normal circumstances.  Thank you Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors!

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Leaded Glass Window

A lifelong friend asked to commission a stained glass window for her historic home addition to fill the window in her bathroom that would no longer be an outside window.   I was touched by her faith in my abilities, but hadn’t done anything that large or at all since high school!  I took a deep breath and told her yes.  Then I called my mom who used to do stained glass and who was planning a trip out to visit and asked if she would take it on with me.  She said yes and took off running when she got here.

We went to Kokomo Opalescent Glass which is about an hour from me (what a treat!) where they still make art glass sheets using old methods and have been in business since 1888.

mom designed the piece with magnolias to coordinate with her black and white checkerboard pattern in the border of her tile and with the pink of the rest of the bathroom tiles.  We planned for mostly opaque glass as there will not be any natural light.  The contractor is going to back light it.

I haven’t delivered it to her yet, but sent a photo and she was thrilled.  It makes me happy that I will be contributing to her beautiful historic home!  Thanks for your vision and faith in me, Amy!  Thanks to my mom for making it stress free and doing so much!  Now I want to make a couple of pieces for myself, also.

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