Nellie"s Needles

Friday, December 28, 2007

Old and New

OLD ... These are two of my pieces created with the technique of smocking. That method of stitchery is a surface embroidery across the surface of pre-pleated fabric.
NEW ... My Christmas present from our older son is Adobe Photoshop. Wow! My head is getting a workout learning how to utilize that program. I foresee a lot of hard work ahead of me. So far, I've learned to straighten bowed frames caused by the distortion of my camera's lens, to eliminate backgrounds, and to add shadows.
I would give more information about these pieces, but all of that is in Tennessee and I'm in Chicago. These pieces are so old that I've forgotten their titles even though they hang on our livingroom walls. I'll add captions to the above photos when I get home in January.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I fly north today and won't have Internet access for a week. I'll be back after Christmas. In the meantime, here's a bit of holiday humor from our house.
This is the area over our kitchen sink. Lee is holding a piece of fabric to cover the daylight from the window into the courtyard. Geriatric Elvis standing under the mistletoe is his contribution. The beaded wire tree is made by my sister-in-law in Memphis. My friend, Alicia, painted the light bulbs and I thread wrapped styrofoam balls. The "sugar plum" fairy stirring a pot is my kitchen mascot. She lives in this spot and is a part of every arrangement.

I wish all of you happy holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Silk Quilt for Christmas Present

About twelve years ago I had made a silk cuddle quilt for my friend. She absolutely loved it ... to death. Silk is light-weight, soft and fluid. A silk quilt gives just the right amount of warmth for an afternoon nap no matter the season. I've made a new one to replace the tattered one that she's gallantly been trying to keep mended.
The center panel is an Anne Kline silk scarf that has special meaning for my friend. The brightly colored silk print expands the center and sets off the lion on point. The muted green calms the "shouting" orange and pink.
Her old silk quilt was hand-quilted. This one is done by machine. I was inspired by Ferrets marvelous work. Her patterning is dense, whereas I kept my variations on the spiral open to maintain a soft drape to the quilt. To help keep that quality I used Thermore ultra thin batting.

The backing is made from one of my friend's favorite dresses. She had passed it onto me, but it was more "her" than "me" so it had just hung in my closet for the last year or so. It was a wonderful batik printed rayon that had long sleeves which produced four squares in the center. The double layered bodice had enough material to make the rest of the back.
The muted hues on this side is a nice foil for the bright orange and pink silks on the other. A soft light brown cotton print for the binding bridges the two sides.

Sssshhhh! if you know my friend, Alicia.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Peter Rabbit from a Christmas Past

I like to make "stuff" as well as create art. Especially presents for my family and friends. One of my favorite gifts is this fabric book I constructed for my granddaughter five years ago.The basis was a preprinted fabric panel. It was more fun embellishing it with findings and embroidery for Tessa.
The cover has silk ribbon embroidery and silk flowers attached to printed flowers with colonial knot centers.
Of course, there had to be a photo of the two of us. She was a bunny for that Halloween wearing a custom her mother had made. The flannel Peter Rabbit fabric was left over from baby items I had sewn for her brother and twin cousins.
The opening page is machine embroidered and quilted with silk ribbon embroidery.
I especially like the cameo, Elvis, the footprint, and piece of fabric. The letters and figures are hand quilted with machine stippling in the open spaces. The green bottle and glass along with the ice skates, the "jewels" and a real piece of jade are my favorites here.I'm fond of the antique piece of lace from Tessa's great-great grandmother's linens, the (shisha) mirror, monster, and the ornaments on these pages.Pearls and the paper weight, plus the pink pompoms tickle me. I don't recall where I found half of a thimble. And then there's the silk tassel and smiley face.The USA Olympic pin was a lucky find. The copper wire name pin had belonged to my mother. The foxes tail is made of mink from a collar belonging to my husband's mother. I devised a yo yo from two buttons and a piece of string. The bees wings are tulle netting that flap.The last page is a handkerchief I had purchased back in the 1980's when Tessa's father was a teenager in hopes that I would someday have a girl grandchild. I added many little treasures. Most of them hiding among the silk leaves and flowers. The inside back cover is machine quilted and embroidered. It buttons closed with the only Beatrix Potter button I had. Tessa still enjoys her book and has taken exceptionally good care of it. These photos were taken last summer and the fabric is as clean as when I presented it to her. There has been a bit of mending over the years. She talks about reading it with her children. I do believe this is an heirloom for at least another generation beyond her.

Friday, December 07, 2007

One of My Favorite Artists

One of my favorite artists, Paula McCullough, is featured here. I cannot recall how I discovered Paula and her art. I do remember I was so blown away by her creations that I had to have one hanging on our wall.

Harmony - 6"x 11"
Her art is a pleasure to behold and to hold. I can almost feel her energy when I touch as well as view "Harmony". I love the added dimension of the shadows cast by the sculptural form of her wall pieces. There’s something different about the art depending on the time of day or lighting conditions. Many of her pieces cast much more shadow than this one.

It was Paula’s 100 clock series made with railroad plates along with a developing cyber friendship that pushed me into creating the series of my own 100 lake quilts. My older son purchased two of her clocks ... one for himself, the other as a house present for his friend who's a railroad buff. We both can attest to receiving well packaged art pieces in good time, as well as being most pleased with the art and her craftsmanship.

I keep up with Paula's weblog, "self taught artist", so I don't miss seeing and reading about the process of her marvelous creations ... as well as her struggles and triumphs.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Indiana Sunset

A year ago last August, a niece had taken this photo somewhere between Indianapolis and Bluffton. It was a special day for my sister when all six of her children "came home" with all of their children. It was a memorable time and just before her radical surgery. It's also the last time that she felt like "herself".
I've interpreted this sunset that embodies so much meaning into a small quilt as a birthday present for her (which is later this month).

"Indiana Sunset" - 13"x 11"
It ended up with quite a bit of pastel work to help light up the sky and to define the foreground. I also lightly swept the flat side a green pastel stick across the quilted black trees just give a hint of color that can be seen at that time of day.

While working on this piece it occurred to me how comfortable I feel working in this scale (13"x 11") for large landscapes. This collage has no orts. It felt strange to rummage through stacks of fabric instead of digging in a big bag.

PS: sshh! if you know my sister. She doesn't have a computer or access to one so I feel safe that sharing this won't ruin the surprise.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy December

Now that it's December I'm getting in the mood for the holidays. Go here to see me do a happy dance to welcome the season. While you're there set up a session for yourself or even your loved ones. Enjoy and have fun!
One of my traditions is making a big nest of chocolate mice. Their bodies are maraschino cherries double-dipped in chocolate. They have heads made of Hershey kisses. Slivered almonds make great ears. Drops of black gel frosting create their eyes. They're almost too cute to eat .... but, YUM!

PS: I had posted about making the mice a year ago here. There's a bit more information about the ingredients in that one.

PPS: If you cannot find stemmed cherries, pipe cleaners make cute and colorful tails. I recommend the chenille craft pipe cleaners be cut in half and cork screwed around a pencil. Then insert them into the cherry before dipping, so you have a handle for the process. The stiffened chocolate will help to cement them in place.