Nellie"s Needles

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Silk Quilts

There is nothing quite like cuddling under a silk quilt ... especially one that has personal meaning. My friend, Alicia, and I created quilts as mutual Christmas presents for three of our friends with silk scarves that had belonged to the mother of two of them and an older friend to all of them.

Each of them is about 60"x 60" and batted with wool. Silk yardage, as well as silk-like fabrics are combined with the scarves to complete the designs on the fronts and backs. The exception is the backing of this one made for our friend who has grandchildren. The cotton batik and yardage on the back makes it a bit sturdier for her to cuddle under and read stories with them.
Two scarves also make up the front of the one above. The quilt below has one in the center set on point and the corner triangles are made from another cut diagonally into four sections. The green fabric is "silk cotton" by Robert Kaufman. The color selection was limited when we shopped for it. How well it blended in with this and the next pictured quilt surprised us. The print fabric on the back of this one is a rayon blend.
A center scarf is set square and another one is cut into corner blocks for the quilt below. They are combined with silk yardage to complete the design. The same purple satin is on all four sides around the outside edge of the back and that's the same green satin cotton in the center diamond.

This one had been planned for one of those three friends. That is until the son of one the women whose scarves were used for these quilts saw it. He fell madly in love with it, so this quilt will be his when Alicia finishes burying the quilting thread ends and hand-stitching the binding in place.

The top has one scarf on point in the center, two small scarves cut in half to complete the center square, plus another one cut into corner blocks framing black silk panels. On the back there are two cotton prints on the outside edges between the silk corner blocks.

The cuddle quilts I make are made as gifts for people I care about, be they family members or personal friends or someone in need of comfort and warmth. Most of my art pieces have price tags, but not these symbols of my love and care for those who receive them. An exception is the man who's getting that last quilt. He absolutely, positively would not accept it as a gift even though Alicia and I wanted him to have it. Our compromise is that he pay for the materials we had purchased to make all four quilts. Now she and I have the pleasure to find a way to splurge on something fun for both of us to do the next time we're together.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Happy December!

Let the wrapping of presents begin ...

and a BIG mess of wrapping materials in my studio ...
... and this is just the beginning. It's what I dug out to wrap that one present. By the way that big beautiful gift is a wedding gift, the Christmas ones will get wrapped after I get back from celebrating a marriage in the family this weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

We're thankful for wonderful fall weather. It's been great to have so many good days ...
... to prune, clean up and mulch the garden beds, and plant pansies. It's wonderful to have flowers all winter and into spring. Our dog oversaw it all. The fun final touch was adding two new sculptures to greet all who come to see us.
The same artist of those, Allen Hampton of Chattanooga, created the metal flowers that line the walkway to our front entry ...
Wishing all of you a warm and welcoming Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wonky Log Cabin Blocks

I've been busy digging through bags of scraps to make blocks for the "Sandy Quilt Block Drive"...

The pattern is most fitting since the resulting quilts will be going to those who have suffered the destruction left behind by the storm resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

I like the way this project is set up. There's an opportunity to just make blocks (as many as you like) OR to make quilts from already made blocks. Quilts from this block drive event will be donated to the Bumble Beans Basics group that Victoria Findlay Wolfe organizes. These folks are in New York and able to get the quilts delivered immediately.

Fourteen was as many as I could muster the strength to make. That's an odd number so I played with a couple of arrangements on my design wall. Here's the other ...
The intent is for the quilts to be bed-size, so whomever gets my set of blocks will be adding more to achieve that. I'll be mailing them tomorrow to the quilter in Wisconsin that I was matched to by Michelle at the Quilting Gallery. Click on the link in the first sentence of this post if you, too, would like to contribute either blocks or to construct quilts.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

SMQ Guild Challenge Quilts

Tuesday evening was the deadline for the monochromatic color challenge quilts of which "Lavender Haze" was one.
The array of 30 quilts submitted for this challenge to create a monochromatic quilt based on a spool of thread blindly pulled from a bag was amazing. Leah Marcum-Estes, the Director of the Oak Ridge Art Center, had the difficult job of selecting only 8 quilts to be our guild's entry in the AQS Guild Challenge category of the show that will be in Grand Rapids next August. I very much liked that Leah gave a mini critique concentrating on the strengths of each individual quilt before announcing her final selection. She explained the various ways of curating and that her selection for this guild entry was based on a flow of hues as they relate to the color wheel spectrum.

The eight that were selected follows. Sorry I don't have dimensions for each of them.

Pat Davis - blue green

Diane Rhea - Green

Jan Darnell - yellow

Tone Haugen-Cogburn - coral
(red orange)

Elizabeth Freeman - red

Nancy Kessler - purple

Pat Blankenship - Blue

 "Lavender Haze" (36"x36")
Nellie Durand - Red Violet

Two more were selected as alternates ... just in case something comes up  and one of the above eight can't make it to the show.
Christine Glazer - orange                                         Patty Ashworth - green

I couldn't resist playing with the line-up ...

I wonder how these will end up being displayed.

To see pictures of the other challenge quilts taken by Patty Ashworth at the guild meeting go her blog, Hand Quilter - the Wednesday, November 7, 2012 post.

Thanks to Patty for letting me use her photos. They were photo shopped in my Elements program.

Lavender Haze

The previous post showed only a portion of the lake piece. Here's the whole before the layer of tulle was added ...

The pink tulle lessened the contrast of the colors and contributed a "haze" over it all ...
"Lavender Haze" (31"x 32") #85

There's also a bit of iridescent paint, water color pencil and oil stick pastel work to highlight some areas, as well as to blend others into the background. I do that after much study of the piece hanging on my design wall. I go slow with these additions so the major element of fabric is not overwhelmed ... so it doesn't lose its identity as textile art.

... and a close-up of the beach grass in the foreground ...

It was free-motion machine quilted with this variegated thread...

Next up is a presentation of the final eight that will be the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild's entry to the Guild Challenge in next summer's AQS show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Red Violet Challenge

As a member of the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild, I took on the challenge contest for 2013 ... blindly choosing a spool of thread, then using that thread color to create a monochromatic quilt. This is mine ...
I sorted through several huge bags of scraps for bits and pieces of fabric and thread and yarn that related to red-violet to create a lake scene ...

I suspect the intention is for us to use all the different values of one color ... the addition of black and white to make lighter and darker hues. I've also included the muted shades of red-violet ... those hues made by adding gray or the complementary color. It will be interesting to see if my piece qualifies.

The reveal is at the November guild meeting this next Tuesday evening. After that I'll post a photo of the finished quilt (the above picture is the first step of laying out a foundation layer in my collage process). Now I need to get back to finishing the construction of the back. Interestingly, the art part is all machine work while the backing and hanging parts are mostly handwork.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beyond The Rainbow

I had made this art piece in my early years of quilting. At that time my thoughts and intent were design oriented. I loved the whole process of creating it.

"Beyond the Rainbow" 1998 (31"x25")*

In 2006 it took on new meaning. My mother and several friends lived through the experience of breast cancer and this piece had evolved to reflect how their diseased breast(s) affected their lives. A cancerous breast becomes detached, or isolated, from "normal" life. It is the main focus in the center of an out of kilter personal universe. All that is happening to the treated breast is reflected not only in the life of a woman but in those who love her.

I never dreamed it would reflect my ongoing journey since that tiny shadow was found on my mammogram in early May ... that I would join the ranks, the sisterhood, of the many women who are forced to fight this battle. Nothing in any of our lives stays the same. However, big changes happen at an accelerated pace for us and our partners and families. As often as I've said, "I just want to get back to my life" there is no going back. I can only go forward ... making adjustments and reconciling to what is now ... and making art.

Here's a closeup of the focal point...

Technique: Hand-quilted, hand applique, hand embroidery and needle lace, machine pieced.
Materials: silk fabric; hand-dyed, upholstery & commercial cotton fabrics; acrylic paint; beads; mono-filament, metallic, and cotton thread; polyester batting

Monday, October 15, 2012

Breast Pockets

These are my contributions to Melanie Testa's "Breast Pocket Project"

Melanie's goal is to collect 1000 pockets for this project to raise awareness for those of us who decide against reconstructing our bodies. This all began with a challenge from a reporter, "If you can get 1000 pockets, contact me, we will try to do a story."

My pockets are made from fabric that was trimmed from a garment I reconstructed to wear for my debut "as just me" when I was a featured artist for Gallery Stroll weekend at Good Good's Gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan recently. There were several compliments about what I was wearing. I doubt my lack of breasts was noticed ... even my husband didn't take, nor make note, of it.

Standing next to two of the Orange/Gray series pieces
"After the Storm"
"At the Break of Day"

The patchwork of that fabric which I cut off-grain represents the skewed journey through the experience of having and being treated for cancer. I made this one fastened with an old brass button with "1" imprinted on it especially for Melanie ...

Each of these has the name of my friends as well as my mother, sister, and myself written on the back. I've also slipped a note inside the pocket ... a message of hope and well being sent out into the universe for each of us.

Melanie wrote an interesting article about "living as a flat chested woman after breast cancer." The link is here.

My cyber friend, Gail, has honored me by making 2 pockets with my name on them. Go to her blog, Expression Studio, to see them and read her wonderful post. The pocket I made for her is the one in the lower left corner of the photo above of all the pockets.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Quilting Finished

This is the quilt for which the set up in my previous post was rigged ...

It's composed of blocks made from my larger scraps. I construct those when I'm between projects or stuck trying to figure out what to do next on an art piece. Seeing these small pieces come to together and noting juxtapositions of colors and shapes has on occasion jostled ideas to give me direction to solve bigger problems.

I had sewn and cut all the elements for this quilt before I left Tennessee in May.

 It was a matter of finding time ... and inclination to get it all together.

 Here's the backside ...

It was gifted to a friend who recently became a first-time grandmother ... a quilt to be used, enjoyed, and explored at her house by this grandchild, as well as those in her future.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Quilting Set-up

As I've written before, my Studio North at the cottage is hardly more than a big hallway. I'm grateful to have a designated space to work, but it takes creative thinking to get it to work. Here's my "Rube Goldberg- like"set-up for machine quilting a large project ...
I just keep stacking stuff ... storage containers, boxes, even mounted canvas frames ... to fill in the space making it fairly level with no sharp edges for a quilt to get hung up. I need a cushion on my chair to raise my elbows to that working level height.

The quilt for which all this was set up is one of my scrap block ones.

 All the elements had been cut and the quilt designed back in my Tennessee studio earlier in the year ... just waiting for an opportunity and the inclination to get it all together.

The best thing about this studio is the view of Lake Michigan out that wall of windows. However, there's no working in the late afternoon when the sun gets low over the lake. Not even a hat, nor sunglasses, makes the glare possible to work there.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Group Quilt Contest

Once again I've entered one of the weekly contests sponsored by the Quilting Gallery. The theme for this one features group quilts. My submission is this quilt made up of blocks featuring "flowers in a container" created by Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild members of Thursday Bee back in 2005.

 Psycho Deco Fleurs - 32"x 41"

The sashing and border fabrics give an art deco influence to the piece. "Silk" flowers are attached by their embroidered centers to border patterns, while old buttons from my collection secure the origami folded flowers to the center block.

The piece is heavily machine quilted with designs unique to the pattern of the block and its background fabric.

I'm distressed to say this quilt was stolen from the Cliff Dwellers gallery in Gatlinberg, Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This photo was taken last evening as we watched the sun set over Lake Michigan...

All day long I had thoughts and memories of this date eleven years ago. Living on the shoreline we have a wide open view of the sky. The vapor trails in the wakes of planes flying across that wide expanse are very much a part of what we see. Their absence was conspicuous when all air traffic was halted. I created this lake piece full of contrails in response to their absence during that time eleven years ago.

Contrails - 16"x 8.5"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blue Lake

Blue Lake #84 - 21"x 17"

It's been a while since I've added to my lake series. The last being the three gray and orange mini-series made especially for my Michigan gallery's 23rd anniversary show. This one was commissioned through Good Goods. It was completed the night before my recent surgery. I needed to make this one not only for the customer, but for my psyche. It's blue for her with the a touch of uncertain weather on the horizon reflecting my situation at that time.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Healing isn't easy, but I'm getting there. There are clouds in my journey to being healed, but I do see the light of future wellness. It's been 3 1/2 weeks since surgery and I'm looking forward to getting to the point of not regretting doing "too much" on the days that I feel pretty good.

I appreciate all the good thoughts and supportive comments from my cyber world friends. Thank you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Life

This photo very much represents my life at this time ...

On August 9th, I had a meeting with a multi-specialty team of four doctors and a genetic counselor, plus a mental health counselor to determine a course of action to deal with cancer cells that lay beyond the area that was excised by my recent lumpectomy.  Several options were offered. Most of them involved more surgery, but only one would guarantee that I wouldn't be back for additional surgery within a few years ... that missed cancer cells wouldn't migrate to other areas to cause major problems. 

I sensed a relief from my surgeon when I chose the one solution that would most likely get me free of cancer ... a double mastectomy. Fortunately my lymph nodes are free of cancer cells, so a "simple" rather than "radical" operation took place this past Wednesday, August 15th.  Having this surgery also means that I will NOT have chemotherapy nor radiation treatments. Also, since I've opted NOT to have reconstructive procedures the healing time is faster.

My post-0p meeting before we left for Colorado had freaked me out more than a little. I'm grateful to have had the 5 weeks to think about and consider my options ... in particular living breast free.

I'm back at the cottage being well cared for by Lee, Terra, and Alicia. Other family members will be here over the next few weeks to tend to everyday tasks, too. I feel loved and well cared for by them. The good thoughts, prayers, and encouragement coming my way are very much appreciated. I'm in good hands and good spirits, and am looking forward to getting back in the swing of things soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tropical Garden Finished

Jeong's Tiki Garden - 44"x 28"

Up through the day that I left Michigan, I worked to get this tropical garden quilt finished so it could be shipped on our way out of town. It's created as a gift in appreciation to special friends who live in Hawaii. The guys had met way back in 1957 when my husband had lived there for a year while his father was a visiting professor. We have visited and been royally entertained by the Jeong's on quite a few trips to Hawaii over the years since.

The tiki has special meaning. Lee's mother had made a shirt with fabric that had been hand block printed with it for him back when Lee and Kawiki met. Quite a few years later Lee had out grown it, so it became a part of my wardrobe for a number of summers. Now 55 years later, the shirt fabric is too fragile to wear. So I cut out the tiki and layered it with tulle netting to become a feature in this tropical garden.

This quilted tropical garden features my favorite Hawaiian flowers … Plumeria, Hibiscus, Orchids, Bird of Paradise, and Ginger along with the amazing Ti plants and foliage. The border of Impatience along the bottom edge were included especially for David. That plant being the answer he gave me when I asked him his favorite flower.
It's amazing how a swipe of pastels and a touch of paint brings the flowers and leaves to life.

Tucked in among all that tropical splendor are images of our all time favorite Rock 'n Roll singer, Elvis who also loved Hawaii.

I'm fond of this picture taken of it hanging on my clothes line with the trees and foliage of Michigan in the background.
I hang my work on the line to spray coatings of acrylic protectorate on the surface. This gets done at intervals during their construction. I like to use Krylon. It protects against dirt and fading of colors.

Getting lost in this project has also been my refuge during this period of time dealing with breast cancer. There's more surgery in my future to get rid of stray cancer cells.