Saturday, July 07, 2018

Iceland Highlights and Recommendations

We had a fabulous trip to Iceland. I really could go on and on, but several people have asked for recommendations, so I'll share the highlights in this brief post. Maybe I'll share more inspirations and details in another post later.


Read the many recommendations and blog posts on I Heart Reykjavik. I got lots of great info there including restaurant recommendations.

Take the I Heart Reykjavik Walking Tour. Our tour guide was charming and offered us a great mix of history, art, architecture, pop culture, recommendations and personal stories. Pricey, but worth it. This blog post about why you should book her tours sold me. Here we are with our guide.

Get a cinnamon roll at Braud and Co. They have lots of other pastries too. Try those if you want but don't miss the cinnamon roll.

See the three highlights on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir. Decide whether you're going to rent a car and drive it yourself or take a tour. Pros and cons for both. We drove ourselves. Here we are overlooking Gullfoss.

If you drive yourself, plan to have lunch at Fridheimar Tomato Farm. This was super unique, delicious and fun. If you decide to take a tour consider one that has a stop here.

If you want an additional stop on your Golden Circle tour, Kerid Crater is really cool.

Splurge and go to the Blue Lagoon. Everyone seems to love it. We did this last time we were in Iceland (17 years ago) and the price has risen dramatically.

Or get the geo-thermal spa and water experience at Fontana instead. (Or another pool or spa, there's several.) That's what we did. It was cheaper, already on the way to something else we were going to see and less crowded than the Blue Lagoon. But there is no silica mud mask. I'd say both are in stunning locations. Blue Lagoon in the middle of a lava field and Fontana on the shore of a lake. See the lake behind us here? You could soak in the naturally-heated pools, then walk right out into the naturally-COLD lake. (I didn't, but Jeff and Claire did.)

Walk along the shore from Harpa to Sun Voyager.

We didn't have time for many museum stops, but Tales from Iceland was pretty fun. It exceeded our expectations.

We really enjoyed the live theater production of Icelandic Sagas.

Walk around the old harbor area near the Maritime Museum -- I believe the area is called Grandi. It's trendy and nice. We ate at Lamb, Flatey and Valdi's. I wish we could have taken the tour at Omnom chocolate.

Obviously, there's lots more to do. Of the things we enjoyed, these were the highlights. Let me know if you use any of our tips.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Art Quilt Collages with Florabunda!

RJR Fabrics, Quilty Box and Melanie Testa are hosting an Instagram Florabunda! introduction and fabric GIVEAWAY and Blog Hop running June 7 through 16.

I was delighted to create a series of small art quilt collages with Melanie Testa's beautiful new fabric line, Florabunda! RJR sent me this selection of fat quarters. So inspiring, right?

I started by fusing everything then cutting, slicing, tearing, combining, mixing and layering these beautiful prints with a few other fabrics from my collection including some of Leslie Tucker Jenison's Urban Garden line. I added a few lines of handwriting for visual texture and interest -- and because it's one of my go-to details for my creative style and voice.

Then I had this wrinkly collection waiting to be fused.

Fun, right? I was really excited to add stitching both by hand and by machine. The stitching always elevates the work and adds interest and texture.

Here's one of the pieces all flat and fused... waiting for stitching.

And here are the finished pieces. They are all 5x7 inches and finished with a tiny line of stitching and a painted edge. You can barely see that bit of color, but I love it as a finishing method. (It's described in my book, Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.)

See!? The stitching brings it all together.
Spring Sprout

This one is probably my favorite. I love the messy French knots I nestled in amongst the leaves.
Graceful Greens

A fussy cut leaf and a stitched leaf!
Floral Fusion

This charming bud is perfect for a focal element.
Blushing Bud

These last two I actually mounted and framed. Don't they look great?

I'm loving this pink and black color combo.
Rising Rose

Here's a little closer look at the frame...

And the title notation on the mat.

I loved fussy cutting those pink shapes and turning them into flowers. (They could be birds too!)
Floral Flutter

Florabunda is such an inspiring collection for art quilt collage. Every print and colorway talks to each other in interesting ways. It's perfect for fussy cutting, layering and mixing with other tone-on-tone prints or original surface design patterns. As an artist, I love using botanical shapes in my work and the leaves, flowers, vines and patterns in this collection are beautifully realistic but have a true hand-designed quality about them. You can see the movement of the dye and paint Melly must have used in the original designs. The subtle chevron print may be my new favorite fabric. It's perfect to ground a design and the colors are familiar but slightly unexpected. You'll definitely see bits of Florabunda pop up in my work in the future!

Blog Hop Details and Chances to Win!
Visit and like all Florabunda! blog hoppers on Instagram, including @RJRFabrics @QuiltyBox @MellyTesta to increase your chances to win swag! RJR Fabrics will post chances to win Florabunda! Swag daily June 11 through 16. 

You can also check out Melanie Testa’s blog each day. She'll be posting highlights and interesting knowledge nuggets about each participant! With pictures! (I wonder what she'll write about me?!)

June 8: Deborah Boschert
June 11: Kathy York
June 11: Teri Lucas
June 12: Leslie Tucker Jenison
June 12: Heidi Kelly
June 14: Debby Brown
June 14: Susan Brusker Knapp
June 15: RJR Fabrics Social Media Event
June 16: Melanie Testa

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Art Quilt Collage with Beagle and Lab!

I love dogs! I was delighted to donate some 6x6 small art quilt collages to the Craft Napa fundraiser. I posted them on Facebook and a high school classmate really loved this one.

Since it wasn't available to purchase, she commissioned me to make one like it -- but 12x12" and with her two dogs. How fun is that?

She wanted this same color palette and composition, but in order to make it interesting at the larger size, I'd definitely need to add more fabrics and stitch motifs.

So, I began by pulling these possible fabrics.

Fun, right? I knew I wanted some handwriting surface design (which was also in the original small piece), so I created that piece at the top. Just light blue fabric with the blue Sharpie Stained fabric marker. You can see I was also thinking about how I might use a selvage edge.

It took me a long time to figure out the right fabric and shapes for the dogs. I ended up painting fabric specifically to look like a beagle and a gray lab. Here they are!

Even though I pulled all those fabrics, I settled on these for the final fabric layer.

I was leaving lots of space for stitching by machine and by hand, but adding those fussy cut flowers also filled in the space nicely and framed the dogs.

And here's the finished piece.

I fussy cut and spliced the selvage of Leslie Tucker Jenison's fabric to include the word "love." 
And you can see the embroidered purple sprouts and the more-subtle free motion quilted sprouts. 

Orange Y stitches as in the original.

The dogs got just a bit of contour stitching. You can also see the wavy, hilly, gentle lines stitched in the teal background. (I stitched them and then fused the dogs on top.) 

So, there you have it. Dogs! I am so happy to say my friend was thrilled with the result.

Also... here's my dog, Lincoln. He's smiling!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Super Fun (and cheap!) Art Lessons from Cloth, Paper, Scissors

I was thrilled to create two Art Lessons for Cloth Paper Scissors. These are digital products that include a 19 page pdf document with tons of images and step-by-step instructions for the project AND links to how-to video tutorials. It's an amazing combination of a magazine article, mini-workshop, video lesson, image gallery and inspiration board! They are only $3.99 -- a great deal, I think.

Here's Expressive Surface Design.

These are the three art quilt collages I created for the art lesson.

Want to see close ups?

The art lesson covers creating surface design with handwriting and stamps...

*I love those Sharpie Stained markers!

also tips for creating a pleasing composition...

and even ideas for free motion stitching motifs.

Seriously, it's full of tips, inspiration and instruction that you could use in all kinds of mixed media art. I hope you'll check it out.

And here's Tiny Textured Treasures.

I created decorative plant stakes for this project... but you could use these sweet ornaments in lots of ways.

This lesson includes ideas for selecting a fabric palette...

and suggestions for composition...

plus tutorials for some of my favorite improvisational embroidery stitches!

I'd love to see what you create with inspiration from either of these Art Lessons. Show me your handwriting, stamped patterns, free motion quilting, art quilt collages and tiny embroidery stitches!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Big Blue Tree Art Quilt is Done!

Ever Arise Eventide, 44x40"

Way back in October, I was itching to start something new and I wanted some new work to enter in the Quilters Guild of Dallas show... and the Studio Art Quilt Associates new exhibition Dusk to Dawn. Each year the Dallas show includes a category called "show chair theme" and this year it is Tree of Life. So, I got it in my head to make a quilt with a tree in a nighttime setting that would fit both calls for entry. I decided the tree should be dark blue, so I went shopping.

Looks like someone had an accident -- at least they were in the appropriate color section.

I ended up buying these three pieces of fabric, the blue for the tree, the gray for the background and the stripe because I thought it would be an interesting accent piece. (I was wrong. It never worked itself in.)

Next I set about drawing the big tree.

I put the sketch up on the design wall to get a sense of scale and proportion that I couldn't see on the table top. You have to be able to step back. (True for art making and for life in general.)

Then I cut it out. (The blue fabric already had Misty Fuse fusible webbing applied to the back at this point.)

As I cut, I carefully preserved the negative thinking it could make a good background for a second big tree quilt. (My trusty iron should give you a sense of scale. It's a nice iron. And it's green!)

Ok, so I've got the tree. Now what? I made a few notes and sketches to help me move on to the next step. It was important to consider the size requirements of the SAQA call for entry. (Looking back at these notes, I see I didn't follow through with adding any new surface design techniques, but I did keep in mind "less is more.")

Not too many pictures from the next few steps, but I must have done lots of auditioning, considering, folding, pinning, scrunching, considering and reconsidering before I eventually ended up with this.

Next I needed to design a moon. I considered these fabrics.

I really liked that piece with the handwriting, but the scale was too large. So I added some smaller, tighter handwriting to a new piece of cloth and eventually cut out this moon shape. (Here is my video tutorial for adding handwriting to fabric from my YouTube channel. It's also covered in my Art Lesson Expressive Surface Design. Here's my favorite pen.)

So, here's the background with the moon. (That swirly gray print on the left by Leslie Tucker Jenison is beautiful, but definitely wasn't working here.)

I worked through several different ladder designs and finalized all the background fabric details. Then I fused the top to batting. (I like Hobbs Premium 80/20.)

I always add hand stitched details to my art quilts. Those stitches go through just the top and batting, so here I'm auditioning various thread colors.

Because this quilt is so big, I often had to lay it over the red loveseat in my studio to decide where the next stitches needed to go.

After the hand stitching was complete, I fused on a backing fabric. I love this stage when it starts to feel nice and flat and the backing gives it more structure and it's ready for free motion quilting. (Sitting on the ironing board is my workbook Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice. I swear, this isn't deliberate product placement. I'd just come back from teaching at Craft Napa and unpacked items were strewn everywhere. But if you'd like to check it out, you can find it in my Etsy shop spiral bound or pdf download.)

I wanted to create a bit of a glow around the moon, so I sketched some possible quilted motifs.

Here's what I ended up with.

Once all the free motion quilting was done, I squared it up. I didn't actually use the floor tiles to measure, but it's nice to see it lined up and straight.

And here is the finished quilt (same picture from the top of this post).

Ever Arise Eventide, 44x40"

I think the glow around the moon turned out quite nicely. Can you just barely see it in this picture? That's how it's supposed to be!

Here's a detail shot where you can see the sprout stitches and the Y stitches. (There is a video tutorial of both of these stitches in my Art Lesson Tiny Textured Treasures with Cloth Paper Scissors.)

I was also really pleased with the wavy, contour lines in the gray background area. They add really nice texture, but not too tight and stiff. They also suggest rolling hills which emphasizes the idea of a contemporary landscape.

Here's a detail of the top section including a perfect stripe from Turtle Hand Batik.

I took my time with this quilt, a full four months from start to finish. There were lots of things happening during that time. (I taught at Quilt Festival in Houston, Thanksgiving and Christmas, teaching in Nebraska and at Craft Napa, another trip to California to see my sister, and you know... just everyday stuff.) But, I enjoyed each step in the process and the pace felt just right.

I hope you're looking up in the evenings and noticing the shadows of the trees and the cycle of the moon -- and the cycle of ever moving upward.

(Note that all Amazon links in this post are affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase the product I get a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Thank you.)