Fiber & Cats

When looking through my digitized slides and photographs the other day, I came across a bunch of silly cat pictures… If you have cat/s, you know that they love fiber and must be in the center of it all, supervising or testing. For you cat lovers, here are some of our kitties over the years including a bit of history of my life creating textiles…

These are the kittens we called Big Boy, Little Boy and Caraway. We brought their mother, who was hugely pregnant, in from our apartment complex parking lot and she had these 3 before we’d even decided what to do! (Kept Caraway, and gave away the other three.) This is vintage 1970’s fiber, showing a latch hooked rug of my own design as well as a wool coiled basket. The basket was appropriated by Sassafrass (below) and never was completed.

Three kittens

And here is the very naughty Sassafrass, who was the first kitten we adopted who survived, sleeping on some wool shawls that were just off the loom. She was the Queen Bee for 19 years! She took it upon herself to nip every kitten we got after her in the ear – a sort of a I-guess-I’ll-let-you-stay marking.

Sassafrass on a shawl

We’ve had many cats who like to sit on the loom on whatever piece is in progress. This is Caraway on my first set of looper rugs. She was always a tiny girl because her mother was so malnourished.

Caraway & looper rug

Basil was one of our dearest cats. He was a stray who wandered to our back door one cold November night and was one of the most affectionate cuddlers we’ve ever had. He is napping on a Peter Collingswood double corduroy rug in progress. Yow – whatever was I thinking??? It was a gorgeous rug but how was I planning to keep it clean with four cats? I made it to replace the latch hooked rug and it only lasted a few years until it was just too catty. (That dragging the rug on new fallen snow business didn’t work for cleaning this rug.)

Basil on double corduroy rug

Widget is sitting on the diningroom table in Shanghai, China (a poor scan of a poor photo!). On the wall behind her is one of my entirely hand-made quilts. The pattern is called nosegay and is a favorite of mine. The plain colors were dyed to match the printed fabrics, which you cannot see. The shiny bits are buttons. Widget was a wonderful cat and was good company for me (along with Schminky) when we lived in Asia. She lived in three counties and three states and spent 17 years with us.


Jasmine just likes to be in the middle of whatever project I am working on.

Jasmine quilting

Gizmo is  more of an equipment and procedure guy. He likes to get in things and sleep in them. This is a rug hooking frame!

Gizmo framed!

He also likes to make sure that I get my dyeing recipes done correctly and clean up well after I’m done.

Gizmo dyeing

This last picture has nothing to do with fiber, but I had to include it. This is Kascha, our only dog, sleeping with Schminky, her best friend. Schminky grew up with Kascha and we were fairly sure that she thought she was a dog. Kascha would run after the frisbee and Schminky would run after her and they would end up in a flying heap as Kascha tripped over her. Most nights they slept together. It was a sad day for Schminky and Peter and I when we had to give Kascha up before we moved to Asia. Schminky was never quite the same.


I know many of you have animal helpers and couldn’t manage without their aid. I hope you’ll add a comment or link to your post of animals and fiber in your life.

The Last Runner/Mat…

… was annoying to weave! I carefully calculated the length of the warp allowing plenty of room to make three mats. I decided to knot the fringe after weaving, which was where things went wrong. I feel as though I allowed too much space for the fringe and ate up too much of the warp. By the time I got to the third runner, I knew it was not going to be long enough for the kitchen table. It is not fun to keep weaving, and advancing the warp, and weaving and wondering how long the &%^%^# thing is going to be!

Here you can see the cardboard I put between the mats and how much space is left for knotting. {It was too much!} I should have done hemstitching on the loom, which I much prefer to do, or perhaps I should have hemmed them, as Karen at Warped for Good did.

Fringe for the mats

It is barely long enough to be usable on the diningroom table, but it does work.

Navy rag runner/mats

Ah well. On to the next project!

More About the Woven Runner/mats

When I first wove rag runners many, many years ago, I would sit at the sewing machine and sew the strips together on the diagonal, as I would for a quilt binding. When I had a fat ball, I’d wind it on a shuttle and weave. At some point I realized though it wasn’t as tidy-looking, it was much faster to cut and overlap the fabric pieces as I go. It’s also more fun to weave because I can place the colors where I want them.

Splicing rag strips

Look at that fat roll of runners on the beam! And look at the floor around the loom! I usually don’t tidy up until the project is finished.

Woven runners, scraps

This second runner wasn’t as much fun to weave as the first one. I loved these sunny Summer colors when I picked them out of my fabric bags, but the weaving of it was boring. Luckily it looks happy on the table. This is the kitchen table and Peter and I sit across from each other the long way. With the shrinkage, this one is just long enough so the fringe hangs down…

Kitchen table runner/may

The strips are cut 2″ wide which is what I use on the floor as well. It’s a good thickness for sturdy runner/mats, but I really like to use 1″ strips for a more “elegant” feel. A good width to make these mats is 17″ – 18″ wide so that the plate and napkin and silverware are on the mat. And the fringe should hang over the edge but not be so long that it sits in your lap and you pull the runner off when you stand up. ;-D


The First Runner/Mat Design

Did you notice that I am weaving again???

Peter took the loom apart more than usual for the move and so I needed his help to get her together again. While gathering her pieces, he decided that she needed to be oiled and cleaned. Wasn’t that nice of him? Doesn’t every girl like to be fussed over? While he was working on her over several days, I got cold feet about what I might weave on her first. What did I want to weave and would I remember how to do everything? I feel this way after every move. So of course I decided to start simply and making my usual rag runner/mats seemed safe. My first idea came from a quilt on a Modern Quilt website that I thought it was a bit dull for a quilt, but seemed like it might make an interesting rag runner/mat. I found some leftover muslin fabric from Santa making for the center section and I have lots of  bits of hand dyed cotton samples which I stripped into 2″ pieces to add at either end. It was a bit fussy to weave, but I am very pleased with the result.

Fussy striped woven runner/mats

I meant to measure the runners before washing them, but I was too excited! Shrinkage after washing is a fact of weaving and it annoys me when weavers sell pieces (which will eventually need to be washed) and don’t wash them! When it looks entirely different after washing, the customer thinks something is wrong or that it was poorly constructed…

These mats are much “messier” than I usually weave with rags. Adding colored strips on either selvedge is a bit tricky and then the spliced overlap of the natural and colored fabrics really shows. After working on it for awhile, I decided not to fret. I like the nubbly texture and the selvedges are pretty darn even given what I was weaving. I don’t usually do anything special where the center of the runner/mat will be. That area usually has candles, or a bowl of fruit or things like salt and pepper or pickles or jam!

I was planning to use this runner on the kitchen table, but decided I would prefer it in the diningroom. I put the runners across the table, so we can use them as placemats, hence the term runner/mat. I bought these multi colored plates many years ago at Tang’s Department store in Singapore. I have always loved them and I think they look very special on this runner/mat.

It feels good to have finally woven something!

{Should you need tips on Macomber looms: }





Itajime Shibori

with Cindy Lohbeck. I’m in Phoenix for an AQS quilt show, enjoying the lovely weather and the company of quilters.

Of course I know a lot about shibori and I have done some Itajime, or folded dyeing, but I thought it would be fun to take a class and play with others. {I really wanted to take her ice dyeing workshop, but it was at the same time as another class I’m taking – of course!} Since I teach dyeing myself and it is tricky in many locations, I was curious to see how Cindy would handle the need for lots of water and mess! And here is the answer – the whole floor had plastic on it and water was brought into the room in garbage bins!
Itajime classroom

On the table are the amazing kits that she puts together. She had lots of samples to show us and if you check out her website, you will find lots of information and all the supplies you could want for creating shibori on your own.

Cindy Lohbeck


Itajime shibori

It was just a three hour class, so Cindy kept things moving! We learned the different ways to fold the fabric and clamped a variety of shapes on them. The dye was applied with squeeze bottles because we had soaked the fabric in soda ash beforehand.

Dyeing shibori

This was my hotel bath tub last night. I needed to rinse and dry my samples in order to get them home – without getting blue dye on the towels or anything else it could dye.  Happily this morning all the samples were dry and ready to pack up.

Bathtub of shibori

More about this when I get home…

The Incredible Work of Salley Mavor

I have followed Salley Mavor’s work for a very long time. I think the first time I saw it was in Fiberarts Magazine’s annual book. I was blown away by her tiny people/dolls and all the amazing details that I could see. Happily, she has a show at The Upcountry History Museum in Greenville and I was finally able to see her work up close and personal! I’m not sure where to start with all the pictures that I took…

The show was called A Pocketfull of Posies, the title of a book that she wrote and illustrated. Thus the tags by her work were about the Nursery Rhymes and not how she did what she did and it was billed as a children’s exhibit… Let’s start with two very familiar Nursery Rhymes, Old Mother Hubbard and Hickory Dickory Dock. Her dolls are all about 4″ tall! Look at all the wonderful details from Mother’s cutwork apron to the wooden pieces for the furniture. Salley has written several books about how to recreate her work and I read that the heads are wooden beads and the armature is usually pipe cleaners!

Valley Mavor Old Mother Hubbard

All the arms and legs are wrapped and the figures have shoes. I should have brought my reading glasses to see even closer, but it looked like the dolls even have finger nails!!! I believe this part of the piece is Daffy-Down- Dilly. I took this close-up so you could see the embellishments that she used. I found myself examining the leaves in all Salley’s work. The stitch is button-hole and she usually has several layers of color.

Salley Mavor Daffy-Down-Dilly

What a charming sense of humor! Do you see the Old Woman’s house? (Perhaps it’s not such a joke since Salley is a New Englander after all.)

Valley Mavor Old Mother Hubbard

The sheep lover in me was entranced by the next two photographs. Here is Baa Baa Black Sheep and you can really see the lovely felt she used. In perusing her website, I discovered that she did purchase hand-dyed (and perhaps hand felted) felt. The colors were soft and uneven, adding more depth to the work.

Salley MavorBaa Baa Black Sheep

And here is Little Bo Peep. This piece was interesting in that the girl has a felt face, rather than a bead. Notice her apron…

Salley Mavor Little Bo Peep

What exquisite chain stitching; so tiny and so precise. I wondered what this was doing in the show, but then realized that it was for the frontispiece of the book. (Or perhaps not called the frontispiece but the pages when you open the book?) Her work is framed in lovely shadowbox frames made by her husband. I tried to get out of the way when I was photographing.

Salley Mavor frontispiece

I believe that this show is done traveling, but if you look at Salley’s website, there are other shows to look for. Salley’s website and blog have a wealth of information, should you be interested. She has many videos which I am looking froward to watching, as I think I must make a doll! In the latest blog post, Salley announced that she is selling these pieces! I would love to have one…

Seasonal Projects – Finished!

I began a set of four seasonal cross stitch samplers by the very wonderful  Birds of a Feather some time ago, I’m not sure when! I got this one out in January and finished it up, and then continued throughout this year. I’m very proud of myself.

Birds of a Feather Holiday Seasons

As you may remember, I just love these quirky patterns and the brown background is fun to work on, though a bit hard to see. This pattern is still available – buy here. All of them are now framed and I tried all over the house but could not find a place or a way to photograph them without reflection, so here is the pattern so you can see them all!

Birds of a Feather Pattern

I enjoy changing pictures and artwork on the walls. I began doing seasonal projects when we lived in Singapore in 1993 and 1994. Singapore is about 50 miles from the Equator and the weather there is hot and humid most of the time. The “locals” say “same-same. It is a bit depressing for those of us used to four seasons. I started a Prairie Schooler cross stitch pattern and then sewed it in the middle of a quilt square. And I did more and more. The squares are not finished; I staple them on to a stretcher frame and hang them up at the proper time.

Turkey cross stitch quilt square

Before I began quilting, I was an avid cross stitcher and thought it would be fun to combine both crafts.

Watermelon cross stitch quilt square

I was a very new quilter then, and it was fun to leaf through my pattern books and find and draft a quilt square that enhanced the cross stitch.

Rabbit cross stitch quilt square

There are a few “holes” – – – I haven’t made any new squares for quite awhile. I need February and May and July, I think.

Santa cross stitch quilt square

Perhaps when I have some spare time and no other projects to work on, I’ll get out my box of cross stitch patterns and do a new one!  ;-D

Itchin’ to Stitch!

I have been working outside for months. Not complaining, just saying. It’s so hot now, I keep thinking I won’t work outside so much, but the gardens call to me, there’s always something to do or pick! I go into the studio to read e-mail, write posts and browse Pinterest, but I miss creating. At times like this I need a mindless sewing project. I did a little shopping at one of the quilt shows I recently attended and picked out all these cool, pale batiks. I am always very influenced by where we live and all this hot weather makes me want to have cool colors around me. Aren’t they wonderful?


So what do I mean by mindless sewing? Something I can do for a few minutes and then move on. I decided on a double nine patch. I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head for a new quilt for our bedroom. A coooool quilt! Here are some nine patches mindlessly sewn… ;-D

Lots of nine patches!

And here are a few double nine patches sewn together. I know that you can’t see the background fabric I am using in the double nines. I bought it quite awhile ago – it has small concentric circles in pale grey or green. I know it reads like white, but it’s not white. I rarely use white.

Some Double Nines

So I had a bunch of squares done and thought I should get on EQ7 to decide on a layout. That’s what I like best to do with that software is play with layouts. In The Dark Ages, I colored patterns on graph paper, which I really still like to do. Then I would give them to Peter who would photocopy them in the office. When he brought them home, I would cut the squares out and lay them all over the floor and ponder ideas. And then one of the cats (Widget or Schminky in those days) would run through and that would be that!

Here is one idea, a horizontal layout. Lots of double nines and lots of empty squares for something. The double nines are about 14″ and all the quilt designs are drawn to be about 84″. The top of the bed is about 60″ so I want the quilt to look nice on that space.

Master bedroom quilt idea 2

And here are the double nines on point. I am always surprised at how different this looks and how the math changes. Geometry – not my best subject!

Masterbedroom quilt idea 4

In this version, the top and sides of the queen sized bed would be covered with the double nines. In the one above, the nine double nines { ;-D } would be centered on the top of the bed with a lot of background around them. It is almost like a medallion type design. The blank lavender squares will have something in them as well, which I will think about once I choose the layout.

Masterbedroom quilt idea 3

So as I piece and garden and swim, I can think about what layout I like. What are your thoughts???





Studio Update – the design wall!

I’ve always used a “design wall”. When I first started to quilt, I pieced on the dining room table and  taped work in progress to the livingroom wall, but the best scenario is a full-fledged screwed-in-the-wall-push-pin friendly one. It’s important to be able to see your work as it’s progressing, particularly if that work is going to hang on a wall. (If I’m making a bed quilt, I do often lay it on a bed to see how it’s looking.) So here it is –  the design wall is finally done! If you have moved a lot, you know this; anything you want to do in your new house always takes longer than you wish it would! I got a few of the studio walls painted in December hoping to get the board up, but we just completed the project this weekend. {sigh} The difficulty was, as it often is, that we couldn’t find homosote. In case you don’t think you know what homosote is, you do, it’s what a schoolroom bulletin board is made of. It used to be very inexpensive and easy to find, but not anymore. We had to special order it! I have used other material for a design wall, but homosote is the best. It’s thick and you can put long push pins into it. In Japan, we hung double-sided foam core from the ceiling. It worked, but barely. It was so thin that I had to use pins to hold up my designs and it curled in the high humidity. But it’s a good choice if you can’t screw into the wall. Peter is the best installer ever, so patient and accurate, and he has installed a few of these over the years.

Peter leveling

After you decide what to use for the design wall base, the next decision is what to cover it with. You could paint it, but then all the holes show and it can start to crack and fall off. When I was a Second Grade teacher I always covered bulletin boards with burlap and stapled the fabric on the back. However, many fabrics are too narrow and burlap usually is. For the design wall in Highland Park, I used the gridded flannel fabric from eQuilter. It’s a nice quality and a good width, but quite difficult to get the grids even – and if you’re going to have lines on it you want them to be even!  The homosote is  4′ x 8′ and we only cut a bit off this piece so the light switch could be used. I went to Joann’s to see if perhaps they had designer burlap, which is wider, and I made a great find!  The fabric covering the homosote is felt , it came in a nice white, and best of all, it’s 72″ wide. I discovered it in the store by the burlap which was not even 42″. (I hate seams on a design wall…) This baby is screwed in tight!

New design wall!

For some reason, having the design wall installed always makes me feel like I’m really home! 

Ready to work!

With the design wall hung, I was able to dig out the zinnia and sunflower from their moving package and carefully pin them up to inspire me. I cannot wait to quilt these two!!!

Happy Thanksgiving Preparations

The snow is swirling around the house and over the lake (really!), and I’ve been baking and collecting what I need  to drive to Summerville tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. The cats got terrifically sick last week after I brought them home from the new boarding place and are just starting to eat normally. We don’t feel like we can subject them to another experience away from home for a while, so Peter has kindly offered to stay with them. I’m not happy about it, but I haven’t seen my brother (the big birthday boy) for a very long time.

First thing out of the oven late this morning was white bread. We had to test it to make sure it would be okay to eat for turkey sandwiches….yummy!

For turkey sandwiches

We’re not big fans of pumpkin pie, unless it’s slathered with whipped cream. What we crave on Thanksgiving is Crumb Pie, a dry version of Shoo Fly Pie. Not Pennsylvania Dutch wet bottom pie, but a version my Quaker grandfather who was born in Lancaster County grew up eating. It’s really more of a cake and so yummy! The main ingredient is lard and in every other place we’ve lived, it comes in a pound block like butter. Not in South Carolina! The smallest size is 2.5 pounds and there is what looks to be a gallon tub too. I do use it to make my Grandmother’s cinnamon buns and in pie crusts as well, but I don’t think I will use it up anytime soon…

Crumb pie

I hope you all have a lovely and delicious Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving bouquet