Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make a resolution for more creativity!

With the new year just a few days away, it's time many of us think about resolutions, what are we going to do this coming year to improve our life. Kick a habit, make a new one?

I think the best habits to make are the ones that involve creativity; learn a new skill, fine tune an old one, learn techniques to bring your ideas to life. Maybe make a commitment to draw something each day, even if it's just a doodle, create something new each week, finish something each month...or you could make a commitment to learn more about color.

Did you know the color choices you make can transform an average piece of artwork into something spectacular? Be surprised and delighted by the effects and illusions you can create by understanding the mysteries of color. In this hands-on experiential class you'll learn key color concepts with visual examples, mix new paint colors, and create helpful charts, all providing you with the tools you’ll need to see color in a whole new light.

The next Color Theory class starts January 18th, to see the supply list and find out how to enroll click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you a fabulous holiday!

My daughter Nina illustrated this image of our dog Abby on Photoshop a couple years ago, I think it is so cute I just had to show it again.

I hope your holiday is filled with warmth, good cheer and loved ones. 

Thank you so much for visiting throughout the year, your words of encouragement, friendship and sharing mean so much. 

peace, love and creativity, Judy

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Felted Soaps

Did you notice the recent Anthropologie catalog had felted soaps for $14 each? You want to make some of your own for gifts? Well here is what you do:

You need a bar of soap, I like glycerin soap for these but other kinds of soap work well too, roving and pantyhose. I cut the pantyhose into 6-8" sections or use knee highs.

Start out by making a layered roving blanket just like you do for making felted balls. Unwind a length of roving, while holding it in one hand, grasp the end portion with the other hand and gently pull off "tufts" roughly 5-6 inches in length. Spread the fibers into a thin flat layer with all the strands going in one direction.

Pull off another tuft of roving and layer it on top of the first, at a 90 degree angle. Repeat this process several more times, criss-crossing 4-6 thin layers.

When lifting the blanket of roving there should not be thin spots or holes. Changing the colors of yarn in the layers will create a heathered multicolored wool.

Take the soap, wrap it with the roving blanket and slip it into a panty hose and loosely knot it.

Run the pantyhose and roving wrapped soap under some warm water, saturating it, turn off the water and begin rubbing the wrapped soap as though you are washing your hands.

It will begin to lather, continue rubbing it, working all the sides. What is happening is the wool fibers are beginning to knot and tangle with each other creating the felt. Keep rubbing the soap until you see little fibers coming through the outside of the pantyhose, this will take several minutes.

When this happens you carefully remove the felted soap from the panty hose and smooth it between your hands and set it aside to dry.

The soap suds on the outside will dry and disappear leaving you with a lovely little felted soap.

If you are doing a lot of soaps you might consider wearing gloves, I got some pretty chapped hands one year when I made them for everyone in the family. 

If you are making these for yourself or for gifts, let the person know not to bother putting them at the sink for a quick hand wash, which is so tempting because they are beautiful, because it takes a couple minutes to work up a nice lather. These are great in the shower or bath since they have a nice gentle scrub, like a built in washcloth.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some inspirational gifts for your holiday shopping

Several talented artist friends have recently self published beautiful books with Blurb and the really awesome thing is Blurb is offering a special through December 31st $10 off any books with a value of $29.95 or more.

That means you can order an image wrap hardcover copy (mine is normally $29.95) for $19.95 or get a couple softcover books with the $10 discount. To get the discount enter one of the following coupon codes when checking out:

Orders from the US (using US $):   GREATGIFT
Orders from UK (using UK £):   GREATGIFT2
Orders from EU (using EU €):   GREATGIFT3
Orders from AU (using AUD $):   GREATGIFT4

BIRDWATCHING a metal clay adventure
Vickie Hallmark compiles a themed set of her mixed-media art jewelry, hand-formed from metal clay and glass. Images and descriptions of silver and bronze jewelry, accented with gemstones, enamel and hand-painted glass, all feature bird images original to the artist. The high resolution photographs alternate with famous bird-themed quotations.

Copper On, Copper Off an electroforming adventure
Based on her popular on-line tutorial, Vickie Hallmark presents an authoritative manual for copper electroforming onto glass beads. Topics covered include theory, equipment, design, and operation, as well as troubleshooting and sources. Illustrated with dozens of one-of-a-kind electroformed lampwork beads, including her signature carved copper encasements.

Wild at the Edges: Inspiration from a Creative Life
By Virginia A. Spiegel
"Wild at the Edges" is woven from the intertwined threads of writing, photography, adventuring, and making art. "I share my inspiration and influences as well as what’s beautiful and significant in my creative life."

art. stitch. life. works 2006-2009
By Kelli Nina Perkins
"I decided that it would be nice to have a compendium of the last few years' worth of artwork at a glance, so I knocked together a 194 page book filled with art. This represents at least my favorite, if certainly not all my work"

Painted Threads Mixed Media Textile Art
A Portfolio of whole cloth painted art quilts and mixed media textile art by Judy Coates Perez.


No I haven't dropped off the planet since finishing the quilt, I have just been working on trying to stay warm and catch on the things I put off while working on it.

Our heater died wednesday, I woke up to frost on the windows (on the inside) thursday morning when it was 2° out. The service man came and told me they have to order a replacement unit for $2500 and they won't get it until tuesday. Ouch! not what you want to hear when the moneys tight, 2 weeks before Christmas and you are living in CHICAGO!

Luckily we have a second heater for the upstairs bedrooms, so we are not completely without heat. The last few days have been sunny which is all we need to warm up the downstairs since we have large south facing windows along the length of our unit. Once the sun goes down it gets chilly though, so I have been baking bread and other things to keep us toasty in the kitchen in the evenings.

Today it is rainy and cold with no sun to warm us up, so I have silk underwear under a polar fleece shirt, fingerless gloves on and a cup of hot tea in hand, oh yeah, I am also wearing a 5 pound chihuahua. Space heaters won't work in our place either because in the main living area/studio we have 26 foot ceilings.

I have been sidetracked by a reminder about the Lark Books Quilt it contest when I really should be working on one of the things on my huge to do list,

Required Elements
Entrants will create an original Quilt of any size that incorporates at least three of the following five required elements

Silver fabric, thread, item
Recycled/repurposed material

but that sounds like fun! I could easily work up something, maybe around 12", incorporating at least 4 elements. I really like having to strategize within given parameters, I think when things are too open ended it is harder because there are too many choices. Now I need to get up and get my blood circulating.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Oh Deer, Look What's Become of Me!

It is officially done, yay!, except for the label which I am sewing on tomorrow. Then it gets sent off to Kaufman Fabrics to be in a traveling special exhibit using their Kona Solid Fabric line. When I find out the schedule of venues I will post it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Nearing the finish line

Last Thursday I called my photographer and made an appointment to get the quilt photographed Monday morning. In order to make that happen, I worked all through the weekend to get this quilt done. I still had grass to quilt, scroll work to quilt, the little deer to trapunto, block the quilt, trim the quilt, bind it in some manner and stitch a sleeve on it. The label could wait until Tuesday.

After quilting the grass, I stitched some decorative quilting lines to the scroll work.

I used two different marking tools to draw the lines on the scroll work before quilting it. I started with the Bohin marking pencil but got tired of erasing my lines after stitching, so I changed to an orange chalk pencil. When I was done quilting, I tried brushing away the chalk, it did not go away. I used a stiff brush, then a cloth, then a wet cloth and scrubbed at the chalk lines. The color finally seemed to go away, but I noticed that the yellow quilted thread seemed to be stained kind of orange. Not sure that I was okay with that, I decided the orange either needed to go away completely or I needed to work with it. Since I didn't know how to make the orange go away, I decided to use a yellow ocher colored pencil to accentuate the stitched center with some deeper color.

I was unsure if it would be a total mistake or if the added color be okay, but now I think the extra quilting lines and color gave just the right amount of subtle complexity to the sky to help balance the very detailed lower portion of the quilt without competing with it.

Deer pre-trapunto

trapunto stuffing from the back

After finishing the deer, I stretched the quilt out on the floor to block it and pinned around the deer as well, to try and smooth out the quilt and ease the slight buckling of the fabric under the deer.

I think I may have over stuffed him a bit. Maybe that reinforces his kitschy-ness, he definitely contrasts with the rest of the quilt, lol.

I considered just doing a turned edge to finish the quilt, but I thought I needed to have something that was a little more flashy or "guild-ed"?, so I decided to do a corded edge, twisting several fibers together that would incorporate the colors used in the quilt. After blocking and trimming the quilt I laid out several yarns to audition them.

The first thing I needed to do was prevent any quilted threads from unraveling around the edge of the quilt. To do that I stitched a straight stitch, very close to the edge around the whole quilt. Then I used metallic gold thread in the top and brown thread in the bobbin and zig zag stitched around the edge of the quilt twice with a fairly tight stitch but not a satin stitch. Sometimes a dense satin stitch around the edge of a quilt can stretch it and make it ripple. I was not too concerned with making a solid gold edge around the quilt, just add some extra sparkle next to the cording.

Then I sewed a few stitches to secure the yarns to the back side edge of the quilt. Using an open toe foot and monofilament in the top I zig zagged over the twisted yarns stitching them to the edge of the quilt.

This is a slow process because the yarns tend to get very twisted and tangled if you are not careful. I usually put a couple of the yarns in separate little baggies to try and keep them from rolling away and really making a mess. I start twisting the yarn clockwise down one side of the quilt, working a few inches at a time, then I usually twist them counter clockwise on the next side and clockwise again on the next, it sort of helps manage all the twisted yarns better.

The last thing to do before sewing on the sleeve and label is to sign the quilt. Finished quilt photos to come.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Happy St. Nicolas Day!

The mingling scents of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and allspice fill the air as warm Speculatius (Saint Nicolas Cookies) bake in the oven. The tradition is that children put out their shoes the night before and Saint Nicolas puts cookies in them for morning. We could never go quite that far because our little four legged friends also find these cookies quite tasty.

The legends of Bishop Nicolas tell about his generosity to the poor and needy and are sometimes a little gruesome, which I think makes them especially fun to read. These stories are meant to inspire us, so we can feel the spirit of St. Nicolas within ourselves and do something a little special for someone today with out their knowing.

Every year I make these delicious spice cookies for St Nicolas Day. Now my grown kids, filled with the spirit of St. Nicolas, join in and make them too. These are great cookies with tea and if kept in a tin will last through the holidays.

To make the St. Nicolas, I took a large metal gingerbread man cookie cutter and bent the top of his head to make the pointed bishop hat and changed the shape of the legs to make his robe and boots, using pliers makes the job much easier. I have several paper clips that I have bent into shapes to stamp the edge of his hat and the wiggly line for the beard. I use a (Japanese) pointed chop stick to makes his eyes and nose and a (Chinese) flat end chopstick to make the buttons on his robe. We always make some hands with spirals and hearts on them also, to symbolize creativity and love.

Saint Nicolas Cookies

Mix in order
1 C shortening
2 C white sugar
4 eggs
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 C flour
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cloves

Turn out on floured board kneed in about 1 cup more flour or as much as you need until dough is no longer sticky and is easy to handle.

Put into plastic bag and refrigerate until chilled. Roll dough thinly for small cutout cookies. 1/4 inch thickness for larger.

Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 350° until golden-brown. I usually check them at 10-12 minutes and bake a few minutes longer if needed. Crisper are a little better.

May the spirit of St. Nicolas be with you today.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Good friends and inspiration

It's a great combination. Frieda, Trish, Laura, Gretl and I started our day seeing Jane Sassaman's glorious quilts at the Metcap bank in downtown Chicago. Jane's quilts are so gorgeous and they are amazing to see in person because in photos you don't get to see all the beautiful machine stitching and quilting she does on them. Jane really knows how to use thread and make use of those decorative stitches on the machine. The Metcap bank was also a wonderful venue for her quilts because it is in an old arts and crafts period building with lots of period woodwork that echoes many of her design motifs beautifully. It is the most non-bank looking bank I have ever seen.

Here I am with Susan Hinckley of Small Works in Wool, at the One of a Kind Show, we had a lovely chat. It is always so much fun seeing her lovely humorous felted pieces.

I was surprised to see Etsy have a booth, but I guess it makes perfect sense since it is an artisan gift market. The cloth pojagi was beautiful with the light coming through it.

Another new booth this year was Readymade magazine and Janome sharing a large space with sewing machines set up to make pillows with Micheal Miller cotton prints, it was nice to see a booth there trying to put across the idea that everyone can make beautiful gifts.

As I turned the corner of an aisle I saw a familiar face and realized it was Pat Owoc, who I met in St. Louis, manning her sisters booth for the show. Pat uses disperse dyes to create beautiful atmospheric scenes on polyester, that have a beautiful luminosity, be sure to check her work out.

After a couple hours of walking around the show, I actually only made it down 3 aisles of this enormous show since I got distracted by a couple really good booths, we had lunch in the little food court of the merchandise mart building. Frieda, Trish and Laura are having an impromptu SAQA meeting, they are our regional reps, looks like some serious business, huh.

Gretl, an avid knitter, worked through lunch. She is knitting a shawl with Emily Parson's Sophies Toes sock yarn in a beautiful olive green color with bits of cranberry red.

 This is when Trish and crew were singing the cold song waiting for me to take a picture. Winter has definitely arrived in Chicago.

A kind stranger offered to take a group picture of us, maybe it was to quiet the ruckus, lol!

Friday, December 04, 2009

One of a Kind Show

I am taking a short break from the quilt to go to the One of a Kind Show with Laura and Frieda today. It's becoming some what of a tradition, this year our friend Trish is joining us. We are going to see Jane Sassaman's exhibit at the Metcap Bank first and then on to the show where I will be sure to stop at Susan Hinckley's booth to say hello. I will post pictures on saturday of our antics.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Trial and Error

I am now quilting the grass, while delaying my decision about what to do about the little deer.

My initial thoughts on quilting the grass was to use three shades of green; light yellow green for the lower half, a leafy green for the mid section and darker green for the darkest part of the grass along the top edge and quilting between the painted blades, but then, I was not sure exactly how to do it.

I started with the leaf green and quilted around each paint stroke defining it like a blade of grass. I did not like the way it looked at all. It seemed messy and the green thread looked too dark. So I changed threads to the lighter green and started working in another area making my lines continuous from one plant to the next, carefully stitching along the previously quilted outlines of the plants to get to the next blade.

I am happy with how this looks, I have also decided to only use the two lighter greens and skip the dark one. Now I have lots of thread snipping to do from the first grass quilting attempt.

I am really torn about quilting the little deer. I am thinking about either stuffing it a little bit with trapunto and not quilting it, so it really contrasts with its surroundings or quilt it with some big flower power style floral motifs. I have been debating this point since I began the quilting and was hoping I would come to a decision by the time I have to do it. I guess I have 24 hours or less left.

I think I may need to go back and do a little more quilting in the scroll designs in the sky, I would like to leave them fairly simple, but I don't want them to look buckled or bumpy. So I need to quilt them just enough to lay smooth.

I know all the "rules" about having quilting that is consistent across the quilt surface so that it hangs right, etc., but I think it is also nice to see the contrast in textures with different types of quilting, especially when its use or lack of use works conceptually with the design. Hold your torches please, I am not a big fan of the trend toward excessive infinitesimal all over quilting.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I have to tell you, I was so scared to start quilting the big deer. I was having a hard time trying to decide what was the best way to tackle it, so I put it off as long as I could. The issue I struggled with was trying to figure out the best way to do make him look kind of furry and not obscure the painted hairs. In the paintings, the deer appear very shaggy, so I stitched around the painted hairs using the direction of the strokes as my guide for the quilting.

I used two different brown Superior Bottom Line threads, a light brown for the cheek, chest and belly and dark brown for the rest. Bottom line is very thin, I used this specifically because I wanted the quilted texture, but I did not want the thread itself to stand out too much. I used a basic stipple quilting stitch on his antlers to make them appear more like they have a short velvety texture.


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