Posted on September 23, 2017 by Beth Markel
This is the continuation of what has been on my design wall for several months. It’s really been a roller coaster, as I’ve sorted through grief in losing my sister. It is not finished yet, and I posted it to facebook this morning on The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters page, looking for advice. Since this quilt has really taken on a life of meaning for me, I didn’t know whether to dig into my stash and make it rectangular, or continue while adding space between the elements that are already together.
I thought I would just look at it one day and say, “Yep, finished.” This is just not the case for this piece, and I wonder how others decide when a work is finished? If you’re working from a traditional pattern, you make the required number of blocks, decide how to set them, and what, if any, you want the borders to be. While I love traditional piecing, there’s often not a lot of choice, except in fabric colors/patterns.
As one of the posts said, “It very much looks like the crazy, messy, loving, complicated relationship that sisters have.” What a great way to summarize the relationship I had with my sister. What a great way to summarize a lot of relationships!
So while the hunt for a new iron continues…here’s what is on my design wall.
The size is top to bottom, about 70″ right now, and left-to-right roughly 60″ but I didn’t start out with any real plan as to size.
Posted on September 16, 2017 by Beth Markel
I took the month of August off, not entirely from quilting, but trying to catch up on outside projects before the weather turns chilly here in Michigan. I also spent some time travelling, as well as 5 days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the AQS show.
Some last vestiges of summer in my back yard:
Purple all summer, until this popped up yesterday morning – Crazy Petunias!
Last year we had to cut down our ornamental cherry tree because it was split in a storm. It was a beautiful, blooming tree, and we hated to cut it down, but it was damaged beyond repair. We’ve been letting the wood dry out, and when it rained last week, you could suddenly see all of the chainsaw blade cuts in the wood. I thought this was just cool! How great would that be for a quilting pattern?
So on the quilting end of things, I’ve had two, count them, TWO, irons quit in the last couple of weeks. First the Rowenta Pro Master I inherited from my darling MIL, Dee. This was my favorite iron, primarily because of the heft, large soleplate area, and reliability…until it began leaking and spitting a dark liquid, looking like oil. I’ve never put water it in – I’m a firm believer in misting exactly where I want to press, and never running water through the Rowenta. To the best of my knowledge, my MIL seldom, if ever, put water in her irons, but apparently this is not an uncommon problem with the Rowenta. The picture is not of burn marks, but of the liquid that came out of it, which I pressed dry to see if it was water or an oily liquid. At one point, there was actually black water seeping from the base of the iron, so I rapidly unplugged it, and have not used it since. If anybody has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
My back-up iron, Oliso Pro, or “Ollie” as I like to call him, stopped jumping up and down. It is possible that this is a design flaw, as it’s the 2nd iron from them that has had this problem, but so far, customer service has been spectacular. You iron, set the iron down, and the feet pop up, lifting Ollie about 3/4″ from the ironing board. In my case, I picked the iron up, the feet retracted, I ironed, set it down, and it went up and down 3 times, then sat, hot-soleplate down on the board. The red light came on, and I think it’s a fire hazard, or at least a burn hazard for the ironing board cover. I don’t know that it would start a fire, but it’s like setting an iron down, hot, soleplate down, and walking away – who would want to risk it?
So two irons down, and I’m looking for suggestions…
Finally, an improv piece from the facebook page, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, challenge #1, New York Beauty – Deconstructed. Now just needs binding! Quilting by Ruth McCormick, free-handed, and she did a beautiful job!
Ok, that’s the update!
Posted on July 31, 2017 by Beth Markel
I have had my nose to the grindstone, sewing like crazy, trying to finish the Cherrywood Van Gogh Challenge. First, I chose to do this because I really, truly, love Cherrywood fabrics! The hand, the colors, the depth of value in each fabric…well, I could go on for quite a while. Secondly, I have been such a fan of Van Gogh, that if I didn’t participate, I would have been disappointed in myself. While I believe there’s only a 50/50 shot of getting into the exhibit, I’m posting this here:
My artist statement:
My goal was to use Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night, his many self-portraits, and his story, struggling artist, to create something totally unique. First, I deconstructed all the stroke-work of Starry Night, knowing I wanted to use these iconic shapes in both the applique and quilting. Van Gogh painted almost 40 self-portraits, making him the first “Selfie” artist, so I used a self-portrait and super-imposed the Van Gogh stroke-work. With this evolution of design, I brought Van Gogh into the 21st Century, via Andy Warhol.
Posted on July 8, 2017 by Beth Markel
If you live anywhere that has seasons, real seasons, like 104″ snow in the winter, and 95° with 95% humidity in July, then you’ll know that seasons can be pretty short – at least Summer here in Michigan seems very short to me! To wit, I’ve been cramming as much outdoor time in that I can, including gardening projects, home improvement projects, and yes, quilting every evening after the sun goes down.
As an artist, sometimes you just want things to be interesting, done right, and pretty. Welcome to this week’s project, which was completed this morning. At the west end of our house we have 3 stained glass windows, but which were completely unremarkable as they were encased in heavy black molding, which was apparently held together with about 1.5″ of caulk. It’s taken 6 days, but the transformation is lovely, and pleases my artist eye enormously…
You would never have known that there was actually bottle-green stained glass in those big, dark windows, but here you go, finished and lovely. What was an eye-sore is now really pretty.
Next is the gazebo garden I’ve been working on for about 3 years, finally filled in and also a really nice place to have dinner in the warm weather…
And now for the quilts:
2 just back from Ruth McCormick’s Long-Arm Quilting, both improv pieces:
Curvy Improv with edge-2-edge quilting
Quilted but no binding yet – love how this turned out!
Posted on June 17, 2017 by Beth Markel
I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and if you don’t keep a journal of some sort, write, blog, or just have time for yourself to process everyday, you might want to think about scheduling some time. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but I find that when I write, or blog in this case, it helps me sort out what I have accomplished, what I want to work on next, and sometimes to just reflect for 10 minutes. The current work on my design wall has been a couple of months to daily process loss.
Many years ago my sister Barb bought a knife block for us, leaving one slot empty so we could shop for another knife the following Christmas. Shortly after that first Christmas she was diagnosed with Leukemia, and we never went shopping together again. It took almost 6 years for me to fill the last empty knife slot in my Wustoff block. That empty slot in the knife block was a painful, daily reminder that there weren’t going to be any more Christmas mornings with her. There is a difference between knowing someone is gone, and accepting, and it’s taken me a long time to accept her death. This quilt has been therapeutic, and while it didn’t start out that way, it’s been cathartic, too, as I’ve sifted through a life-time of memories while sewing this, laughed at some of our shenanigans I hadn’t thought of in years, and remembered the good, way more than the bad.
While this isn’t quite finished yet, it has sort of taken on a life of it’s own, and I’ll just know when it’s done. In the mean time, I’m having a good time working, processing, and finally taking the journey of letting go.
Posted on May 31, 2017 by Beth Markel
Sometimes as an artist, it’s hard to get my head around what happens in the world. The bombing in Manchester, England last week is such an event – one that causes me to pause, pray for the victims, and victim’s families. Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the targeted destruction of young lives. Not just young people were affected, but those who were accompanying young family members to a fun night out at a concert were also lost. Thinking of loss in my own life, and how grief is not something you “get over” but something you learn to live with, my thoughts and prayers will continue for the families affected last week in Manchester, England.
As many of you know, I’ve been on this journey for a couple of months now, of taking a dozen “orphan” blocks and turning them into something that has become a catalyst for dealing with my sister’s death. It didn’t start out that way, as I thought I would turn these blocks into a crib quilt, have it quilted, and have another one to sell. Once I started putting them together, however, they reminded me more and more of the conversations my sister Barb and I had, and the colors were an exact match for an outfit she had that just screamed her personality.
Here is an update, as the work continues to expand…
May 26 Barb’s Quilted
Do something kind today.
Posted on May 20, 2017 by Beth Markel
So I was on vacation last week…or stay-cation, but working with tree guys taking down 2 huge locust trees in our front yard, moving plants I was trying to save, getting 20,099 steps in a single day, and getting a new cell phone, which I’m using to take more pictures. It’s been interesting! I really love technology, until it doesn’t do what I think it should do, then it’s more of a challenge than a tool. But here goes, using my new Samsung 8 to take photos.
I LOVE how this quilt is just coming along, and I’m genuinely, deep in my spirit, enjoying the process now. If you haven’t been following, this did not start out as a tribute to my sister, but it took on that mantle, and working on it has been more therapeutic than I could have possibly imaged. The quilt itself is growing (roughly 60″ now) as I add slightly larger pieces in some areas, and smaller pieces in others. We all work through grief in different ways, at different speeds, and with different out-comes, but here is the quilt in process:
Make something every day!
Posted on May 6, 2017 by Beth Markel
So I keep updating my design wall, but this week I’m expanding into the sink area because I’m doing a series of small projects and this is gel glue resist. Starting with a 10″ square pfd fabric, I free-hand drew the rooster and just starting filling in the areas with color. For these smaller projects I mix up a very small amount of the procion dyes and paint in the areas I want. After the dye dries, the gel glue gets rinsed out, and I’ll move forward.
Gel Glue resist rooster
Next, this project just keeps rolling along, but I made a lot of progress with it this week, and I really like where it’s going. For the first time, I think it may be a rather striking piece when I’m finished.
Finally, it’s been warm enough in Michigan that our tulips and daffodils are finally in full bloom – just in time for 38° and blustery. The wind and the rain actually turned some of my tulips inside-out, which, while unexpected, was quite beautiful. Who knew?
Make something every day!
Posted on April 29, 2017 by Beth Markel
Recently, there was a very lively, and somewhat vitriolic exchange on one of the art forum groups I belong to. One artist was explaining a woven piece she had created which simply read “counteract” which I personally think is open to interpretation. What do you want to counteract, or in her case, WHOM did she want to counteract? I think art could and should represent that which we feel strongly about, whether we agree with the maker or not. Isn’t the essence of art to provoke thought, emotion, or growth?
That discussion brought me full circle back to my sister’s quilt. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, sometimes with laughter all by myself in my studio, and of course, sometimes with tears, again, all by myself. So while progress is slow, I’m just going to let it grow organically until I think it’s done.
The yellow/blue piece was another score (#Score32017) from the facebook page, “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” and is based on a stack of blocks I made at my 2nd or 3rd workshop, more than a decade ago. I sliced, and randomly sewed them back together to make this little gem, which I think turned out really well. If you haven’t yet tried your hand at improve, I highly recommend it – just dip your toe in and make something small to start – placemats, a crib quilt, etc.
Posted on April 15, 2017 by Beth Markel
Last week at this time, I thought for sure this top would be finished, but I keep expanding it, thinking of conversations I had with my sister, and eventually how those conversations ended when she passed.
I’d like to yell at her for dying way too soon.
I’d like to hug her and never let go.
I’d like to have coffee with her at Bean & Leaf, talking and laughing until our faces hurt.
When she was diagnosed with leukemia, and wanted to talk on the phone, sometimes she would just call and say, “I’m here. Can you just talk and keep me company? I’m too tired to say anything, but tell me a story.” So I would launch into memories that often began with, “Remember the time we…”
There was the time we walked in the surf on Sanibel Island until we were positively cooked. To off-set our sun-burn, we painted our fingernails blue~
There was the time we hiked in Sedona and spent a 3-day weekend in the Red Rock canyons. We were hiking and came across a guy sunning himself on a rock ledge – totally naked~
There was the time we were shopping in downtown Phoenix and a thunderstorm blew through and we both dashed for cover, only to land on our butts because we were both wearing flip-flops and the water created a sort of hydro-plane!
There was the time we were shopping in the Potomac Mill Outlet Mall outside Washington, D.C., and my tennis shoes squeaked, but only until lunch where we both had burgers and daiquiris, then she bought me a new pair of tennis shoes…which lit up as I walked, and she found highly amusing~
There was the time…
Design Wall Friday 4_15_17