Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Favorite books from 2011

I have read a lot of books this year. Most were very enjoyable; a few were standouts. Here's my list of standouts. I have included the Amazon link for each of them, not so you will order from Amazon but so you can get reviews and author information. My library "saved list" is full of titles I want to read in 2012

I Married you for Happiness
History of Love
State of Wonder
The Imperfectionists

Country Driving, A Chinese Road Trip
America Aflame, How the Civil War Created a Nation
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
Emperor of all Maladies: a Biography of Cancer
House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I’m reading

The book list starts off a Michael Connelly book, Nine Dragons  In my very limited opinion, he’s one of  the best crime writer today.  Add to the list John Grisham books, The Summons  and The Broker, Nelson DeMille’s Spencerville and John Sandford’s Buried Prey. Tom and I listened to them on some recent travels. Best of the bunch, the Michael Connelly or Grisham books.

The book I’ve been reading for the past two months is America Aflame, How the Civil War Created a Nation. It was fascinating reading, but over 500 pages. It read more like a textbook than other non-fiction books I’ve read lately. If you think political squabbles, ineffective legislators, greed, financial collapse are something new to our era, this account will change that perception. The relevance to today’s events was uncanny.

Two quick reads were A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff and I married you for Happiness by Lily Tuck. Vintage Affair was about a young woman who resigns from Sotheby's auction house to open a Vintage clothing boutique. It is filled with descriptions of the clothing and the designers who made them. The plot however is more serious. If you enjoyed Russian Winter, you would like this book.

I Married you for Happiness is a slim book that is spare, but very powerful. On the first page you learn that the narrator's husband has died and the rest of the book is remembrances of their lives together. Sounds maudlin, but it's not. Lots of mathematics and probability references. I'm not a mathematician, but I found them very interesting. It is a post-modern book, so the does not move in a straight line, and often dreams are mixed with the present as well as the past. Not an easy book to read, but compelling. It will make the best of the bunch list for 2011.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Orphan block tote bag

I just finished a baby quilt, and had left over fabric and an orphan block. After an evening in the studio, here’s the result.
giraffe tote
I used Molly’s 20 minute tote pattern as my starting point, but added some additional features.  I quilted the fabric to canvas to give it body, covered the straps with companion fabric to dress them up, added interior pockets, boxed bottom corners, and added a bottom to the bag.
Here’s the quilt that inspired the bag.
giraffe love quilt

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting ready for Christmas

I am still obsessed with the fabric circles and wanted to find a way to use them with my Christmas decorations. I’ve beaded them and added ribbon and toppers. The toppers are meant to be slightly bent and remind me of a Dr. Seuss  illustration.


I stopped in my favorite thrift shop and picked up candlesticks and plates and made stands for them using instruction from prettyhandygirl. I wanted them to be all white or frosted, so I painted the clear ones with acrylic paint. As my mother would say, I did a good job “tackifying” them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New addition to the studio

A few years ago I bought a Horn sewing table for an extra machine in my studio. It was never quite right. It was not possible to adjust it to fit two of my machines in the flat bed area, and it was too high for my serger.
My sister started sewing again, and bought a new machine. I sold her my table and went shopping for a replacement. At a thrift store I found exactly what I was looking for at the unbeatable price of $10. It’s the perfect height for a sewing machine or serger. It is just the right size to fit against my existing table and it’s on casters.
serger table

Now that my serger is out all the time, it needed a cover too.  I used some existing fabric, quilted it using two threads in the needle (a metallic and a variegated) and added the beaded fabric circles.

serger cover

Now if I could just become master of my serger. Right now it is the boss of me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crimson Heart Studio Giveaway

Get right over to Crimson Heart Studio and enter her drawing to win the red and green fabric circle tree featured in the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts.

But maybe I shouldn't tell you...I want to win it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Trip to the Fair

The county fair opened today and I went to view the home goods entries. A significant portion of the exhibit area was devoted to tableaus designed by many of the county schools on the theme of Barnyard Beach Party. I found this backdrop from the juvenile detention center alternative school display to be peculiar.

barnyard beach party

On one level, it is funny and creative; cow in orange jumpsuit, barbed wire border, expression changes on the characters,  but on another level, it begs the question,  “Where will these kids be when they are 18?”.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My take on the Fabric Forest

In this post, I wrote about my obsession with the mixed media topiary trees in the 2011 Cloth Paper Scissors Gift magazine. I am fascinated by these little circles. I knew I did not have the patience to hand fray the edges of the circles and I was not happy with the results of washing them with a load of towels, so I beaded them to add texture.
The process is positively addicting. I finished two trees today and have ideas for more projects I want to do with them.

beaded trees

Maybe they will be my holiday dessert. They do look pretty enough to eat.


Here’s an idea for a pillow from Fiskars that would use these lovelies instead of the pictured yo-yos.

Sewing Machine Cover

I admire Malka Dubrawsky’s style, and when I purchased her book, fresh quilting, I knew I had to make the sewing machine cover pictured on the cover of the book. I had saved a bag of scraps left over from a huge quilting project several years ago. That project involved painting fabrics and making 25+ full sized bed quilts for a retreat center in Monte Blanco, Bolivia.
children's quilt
blue and red violet
The quilts were absolutely gorgeous, and our congregation in Evansville was fully involved in painting the fabrics, designing the panels and sewing the quilts. There were a lot of scraps. I’ve been saving them for a project, and decided to make a cover for my machine. The pieces I had were 2” squares, so it involved a lot of piecing. I had to adapt Malka’s pattern to fit my machine and also allow for my smaller sized blocks.
piecing the scraps2
The construction of the quilt called for the seams to appear off kilter which suited my project perfectly.
putting it together
Here it is all finished
I’ll have to make a cover for my serger next.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fabric Painting Workshop

We had so much fun this week painting canvas and making projects. We started out with masking five inch squares with freezer paper or painter’s tape. These samples were later made into coasters.


and pillows

abstracttree pillow

and a tote bag


On the last day of the workshop, Joanna had been to a costume party dressed as “Old Mrs. Bunny”, Peter Rabbit’s mother. Cracks me up every time I look at the photos especially after she told us her beginning point was a Playboy Bunny costume.


Friday, October 28, 2011

My New Obsession

I was captivated by Cynthia Ann Dubbers article in the most recent issue of Cloth, Paper Scissors Gift magazine. The project she presented is Fabric Forest.  She had done several topiary trees, but the one I liked most was this one. I have lots of scraps and decided to try the project. Each 2 1/2 inch circle is made of five pieces of fabric and secured with a button. I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to fray the edges as she had done, so I decided to add texture with beads. I can’t stop cutting and stacking circles and deciding how to bead them. I don’t know where this project is going, but I’m finding it delightfully fun. Part of the enjoyment is remembering the projects that gave me such wonderful scraps. I have to find a way to include a scrap from my older daughter’s 7th grade shorts, and the vest with the feather print I made for my other daughter, and the red pants my husband wore out.
with beads

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Meet Alyssa

On the way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped in Fredonia, Utah at the Gas, Beer, Guns and Ammo Service station and met Alyssa. She had set up a stand selling pillowcases and toddler skirts she had made. I couldn’t resist and made a purchase. She said her grandmother was teaching her to sew and that they drove 80 miles to St. George, Utah to buy fabric at JoAnn’s.


Thursday, September 29, 2011


Tom and I are on a western states road trip. Today we were at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. These are the first petroglyphs we have seen. I think in addition to the horses, riders and sheep there are at least two dogs in the scene. I usually post at least one photo a day on Facebook, and a different one on Twitter. FB is Susan Cobb Clayton, Twitter is defling01.


Monday, September 26, 2011

What I’m reading

On a recent trip, we listened to two Michael Connelly books, The Closers and The Brass Verdict. Good listening, but not memorable

The Greater Journey by David McCullough was a wonderful book. It’s long, took me nearly a month to read it, but I truly enjoyed it. It is subtitled, Americans in Paris, and documents the influx of Americans to Paris between 1830 and 1900. I found the chapters on the siege of Paris at the end of the Franco Prussian war gripping, and the chapters on Augustus St. Gaudens fascinating. Recommend for artists, Francophiles and history lovers.

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook                                        Estabrook is a journalist who writes mostly for Culinary publications. In this book he begins by searching for what happened to the taste of tomatoes. His search takes him to the Andes where the first tomatoes were found, to the hostile infertile fields of Florida, to laboratories and to an old school farmer in Pennsylvania. Much of the book focuses on the plight of Florida migrant workers.   Recommend

Partitions by Amit Majmudar is one of those rare and beautiful books that is a treasure to read. It’s just over 200 pages, but each page is poetry set in prose. Every word counts. It is about the displacement of four people during the civil war in India following the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The travelers are an ageing doctor, twin five year old boys and a sixteen year old girl. Their journeys are separate, but strangely connected. It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time.

stack of audio books

We are going to be taking a road trip soon, here’s the stash of audio books we are taking with us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fabric painting

I continue to be fascinated by painting on fabric. Recently I came upon a post about the transformation of an knock-off Eames chair. I was intrigued by the look and wondered if I could do it in fabric.

First I tried the technique described in the Martha Stewart tutorial on paper.
herringbone notecard masked
Then I tried it on canvas fabric. Because both paper and fabric are more porous than wood, I did not add water to the paint and glaze mix.
herringbone notecard
There is something pleasing about the subtlety of the paint on the fabric, but I if I were going to do a major project with this technique,  I’d have to explore using house paints and the kind of acrylic glaze used by faux finish painters. Fabric is much more porous than wood or paper, so it used a lot of paint and glaze.
That said, I’m happy with the durability of latex  house paint on fabric. I washed my sample in hot water with detergent and dried it in the dryer. There was some very slight fading, but not enough to warrant using expensive fabric paints or fabric medium additive.
Just another technique for the toolbox.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Design on a Nickel—Finishing the pillows

Aft the pillow tops dried over night, a group of seamstresses came in to teach them to use a sewing machine, turn and stuff the pillows. I had in mind that they would hand stitch the opening closes, but they quickly overruled me and stitched them closed
Here’s one of the boys using my grandmother’s featherweight
daniel sewing



josh and connie
After washing old pillows in hot water, we harvested the filling to stuff the new ones.
stuffing pillows
pile of pillows
Just in case you were wondering about the durability of house paint on fabric, the striped pillow in the photo above was painted on canvas prepared with washing and drying. I did not use any fabric medium, and after a few days, I washed it in the machine in hot water and dried it in the dryer. No appreciable difference in color, and the paint is supple. Amazing. showing pillows
pillow crew
The final delivery of furniture comes this week, more pictures to come.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Design on a Nickel—Painting pillows

To prepare the fabric for painting, I purchased natural canvas fabric at JoAnn’s. It’s with the canvas duck, but it does not have the same finish as the colored duck.  washed it in hot water with detergent and damp dried it in the dryer, then finished drying it on a clothes rack. After ironing it I cut the fabric in 14” squares and 18” squares.
To introduce the painting to the participants, I had them work on 5” squares using freezer paper, masking tape and rubber stamps. We used the latex house paint left over from painting the room and furniture. They very quickly got the hang of it.
making samples
creating designs
helping designinstructions for pillows
painting pillows
Here are some of their artwork. We let them dry over night


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Design on a Nickel—Scraping and Painting

The young people’s event at church this past weekend was a big success. One of them is an aspiring chef and we started out with a wonderful dinner prepared by Chris and his sou chef TaShai. Yum!
Then they got busy scraping the peeling UV film off the windows, and painting some of the wood furniture.
daniel windows
more windows

painting bookcase
The coffee table for the room started out like this, a plywood topped activity table.

The legs were cut off so it’s 17” high, and it was sanded and painted. Later on, some decorative painting techniques will be applied.
After dinner we moved on to painting canvas to make pillows.