Better than Before: Pseudo Book Review with Shop Update

half triangle stripes pillow full view

How do you combine a pseudo book review and shop update?


I recently listened to Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives. As a side note, I have no affiliate links to Amazon, so, though the Jewish mother in me asks” Why are you not reading this book? It could only help. Do it for me, ” I have no financial stake in this. My point in bringing this up, other than recommending this book, is to describe how her advice has helped me and brought me to posting pictures like this:

half triangle stripes pillow full view

Now Gretchen (we’re on a first name basis) didn’t tell me how to dye this fabric or quilt the pillow top.She didn’t give me handy tips on adding the zippered backing, but she did help me understand how I respond to expectations and how I can apply that knowledge to the habits I want to adopt or shed. For those of you familiar with the book and the four tendencies, I’m an obliger. half triangle stripes quilting detail

She, or rather her book, also helped me with scheduling my time, a must-do for someone who works freelance.

So, over the past week or so, rather than just make a simple to-do list, I’ve actually been listing the day’s tasks alongside blocks of time. And, you know what?

in the amber 1

I’ve gotten a lot more accomplished.

mini slices in red and yellow 3

I’ve patterned and dyed more fabric, both existing patterns and new ones, made more finished items, and designed more quilt patterns.

skinny stripes in wasabi and black 2

Also, though I’ve always enjoyed my work, I’ve been having more fun lately because my work seems more focused and organized.

new bundles april II

I’ve also read more this week, a habit I definitely wanted to improve, and taken care of some long-standing nagging tasks.

new scrap bundles april

And…drum roll…I even blogged and updated my shop.

That may not be much to everyone else, but for me, that’s definitely better than before.

So, if you’re interested in anything pictured here, click here to see more. They’ll be more items added, by the way. No amount of scheduling can make the day longer than 24 hours.

And, if you’re interested in Gretchen’s book follow the link above. If you’ve read the book and want to share your thoughts in the comments section, I would love, love to hear what you have to say. The next best thing to reading (or listening) to a good book is discussing it.

I’ve Said it Before

floor at cocoa and cinammon 2

I hate to use a cliche. Well, actually, I don’t really hate using cliches. I do it all the time. If I want to know if my daughter is ready to leave the house I ask, “ready, Freddy?” And if we’re going our separate ways I shout out, “See you later, alligator.” Truth be told, I’m a lover of cliches, so, I’m going to embrace that about myself and declare, “Inspiration is everywhere!”

I was in Durham, North Carolina this past weekend visiting my eldest daughter as she makes her way through her first year of Law School at Duke University and got a chance to look around.

Guess what? Yeah, inspiration is everywhere.

farmers market mushroom 2

Like at the local Farmer’s Market. There’s no denying the shape of the mushroom is beautiful, but how about the color combination of the pale gray mushrooms and the intense turquoise baskets they’re nested in and the ‘block-like” quality of all the boxes lined up in rows?

mushroom up close

The stripping of the interior of these mushrooms is pretty spectacular too. Definitely reminds me of thin strips of fabric improvisationally sewn together.

floor at cocoa and cinammon 2

It’s not exactly a stretch to see the quilt/fabric patterning inspiration in this floor at a downtown coffee shop called Cocoa Cinnamon.

nasher 1

Yesterday we went for Brunch at Duke University’s Nasher Museum. It’s a small, but beautiful space and it happened to be Family Day, so we strolled through the galleries once our bellies were full. Interesting though, or maybe not, I was less inspired by what I saw at the museum then by what I happened to catch in the previous couple of days just walking around town.

Despite that, I’m sharing a few pieces that I think relate to quilts and fiber.

The above piece ranged across a very large wall with all manner of mostly polyester clothes patched to the wall at varying angles. It was very colorful and felt a bit like a tee shirt quilt gone amok, a quality which would probably improve most, if not all, tee shirt quilts.

nasher 5

I also came upon these yarn figures hanging on the wall. I like that they seemed almost to represent words or symbols, that I wanted to “read” them. I’m not absolutely sure I thought they held much interest beyond that.

nasher 7

The quilt inspiration is pretty obvious in this painting by Gerhard Richter. I think I’ve even pinned a few of his painting to my “inspirations” board on Pinterest. It was nice to see and a bit heart warming. Simple shapes rendered in beautiful, intense colors have a powerful impact.

It’s good to know I still think that’s true.




Huzzah! New fabrics

klees trees three color ways

Apparently when you renew listings on Etsy or re-list items that have sold out, a little message appears at the top of the page reading, “Huzzah, you’ve added new items to your store!”

Well, huzzah, is right. I have added new  fabric listings to my online shop. And not just re-listings of already existing patterns, but brand, spanking new patterns in new color ways.

Like these:

klees trees three color ways little rectangles current color ways Adinkra in orange and brown 1

It seems only appropriate that I introduce these patterns properly.

klees trees grey and blue 2

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites but, I have to admit to being pretty in love with this pattern.

klees trees in yellow and amber 2

It’s called Klee’s Trees and is inspired by my quilt pattern of the same name.

klees trees white and black 2

The stamp for this pattern is carved out of a wee carrot and then applied to the fabric with melted wax. The wax functions as a resist to the dye and that’s how you get the tree pattern. The advantage to working this way is it allows the fabric to sit, completely submerged, in a dye bath for long, long periods of time. When all is rinsed and boiled (yes, I boil the wax out of the fabric) the lengthy dye times yields a fabric that is intensely, richly colored. It’s really kind of magical.

little Rectangles in red and black 1

This pattern, Little Rectangles, probably rivals the previous for the “most humble stamp” category. It’s patterning tool is fashioned out of an index card. Yep, folded three times and held together with tape. That’s how I make this stamp.

little rectangles in white and grey 2

After enough applications it’s safe to say that the seal is actually held together with dried wax, but I’ve never removed the tape. I don’t know what would happen and the notion has a strangely Pandora’s Box-like feel.

adinkra in orange and brown 4

Considering the stamping tools I used for the other two patterns and that this fabric is patterned with a store-bought tool, it seems rather sophisticated in comparison, but this pattern, I’m calling it Adrinka, is created with a potato masher. Simple and humble, but I love the idea that “lowly” tools can be used to make a thing of beauty.

All these fabrics are currently listed in half yard increments, but I plan on listing them as yard and quarter yard pieces as well. Also, look for more new patterns and color ways as the inspiration seems to be flowing and the wax pot is hot.

I’m Back is the New I Never Left

stack of improv pillows resized

I debated whether to reappear in this space and pretend I’d never been gone or to “explain” my absence.

I went with explain. Not with excuses like my dog ate my computer, though if you knew my dog and his penchant for pens, deodorant, advil, and tomatoes, you wouldn’t be shocked, but rather with a brief note about what has kept me from this space.

It hasn’t been anything physical; I’m as right as rain. It’s been partly work; I was prepping for Quilt Market, then QuiltCon, but it’s also been a desire to find a new direction for my blog, a desire to say new things in a new way.

Have I found that direction? Not yet, but I missed you guys. I missed having a reason to take pictures with a real camera as opposed to just my phone. I have been super active on instagram if you follow me there. I missed writing because without a platform and a reason I’m not likely to just journal. And I missed putting the words and the pictures together.

So, here I am. Not with anything new in terms of content, but with new finished items, shot in what I’m hoping is my new space for taking pictures.

Simple strips improv 2 resized

I took these photos of my latest Black and White Improv pillows in a little run behind my house.

simple strips improv 1 resized

It’s shaded so glare, especially up against the fence, isn’t much of an issue.

In my old house I had a wonderful south facing wall that I painted green and to which I bolted an IKEA display line. I probably took 90% of my shots there.

simple strips detail 1 resized

I had some trouble finding that spot in my new house. I set up the IKEA line in my studio, but because of the location of the wall and the window in the room, there always seemed to be an annoying shadow to deal with.

zig zag improv 2 resized

Then, as often happens with new ideas, at a moment when I wasn’t trying to “figure” out my problem, when I was just staring out my bedroom window at the run, it dawned on me. Why not set up and shoot in this space?

So I did.

stack of improv pillows resized

I’ve lived in this place for about a year and a half without really having a sense of where I wanted to photograph my work. That seems like a small, insignificant thing, but it had a domino effect. Because I wasn’t sure where to take my pictures, I definitely slowed down on how many pictures I took. And, because I didn’t have as many images documenting my work, I didn’t post to my blog as much because, hey, what I do is very visual and without pictures I don’t feel like I have as much to say. I’m curious and hopeful that this discovery will change that.

So, that’s my excuse…and, also,  my dog ate my computer.

Under the tree

flying geese improv 2

There might be

A lovely note for you.

A sweet wish for a merry new year

all in hopes of bringing some cheer.

If you’ve really been good and tried hard

The note may accompany an Etsy gift card.

What to do with that sweet, little token?

I’m so glad we’ve spoken.

Because I have a suggestion or two.

See if any of these appeal to you:

pillow stack improv circles 1 flying geese improv 2 improv star 2

Of so, you can find them here.

I wish you a sweet and wonderful new year!

The Thanks-for-Letting-us-Stay-at-Your-House-for-the-Marathon Coasters

marathon coasters 4

That title just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?

I realize an explanation is in order and I will provide one, but, first, I’m going to announce the winner of Sujata Shah’s book, Cultural Fusion.

She is:

Aileen says:

What a wonderful review of this book. I am so fascinated with those quilts. The colours blaze!

So, Aileen, I need you to email me at with your mailing address. If, based on the fact that you spelled the word “color” with that distinctively non-American U, you live outside the US, you will receive a coupon code for a free copy of the e-version of this book.

Either way, you’re in for a treat and congratulations.

Now, on to my story.

When my middle daughter graduated from high school she gave me a gift. Thankfully, because she was 18 years old at the time, it wasn’t some cute, little, unintelligible drawing that I was expected to coo at in great delight while really wondering exactly what it was supposed to depict. She gifted me a pair of beautiful ceramic coasters she had purchased at Anthropologie. As she handed me the bag with the coasters, she said, ” Thanks for raising me.” So, I dubbed these beauties the Thanks-for-Raising-Me coasters.

I use these coasters almost daily and they proudly sit on my coffee table. In fact, the other day, my girl came over to work on a school project and as she absentmindedly place her chilled and sweating glass on the table I encouraged her to use the Thanks-for-Raising-Me coasters rather than leave a ring on my table.

This past weekend we traveled to Bryan/College station to run the BCS Marathon/HalfMarathon and were invited by a very nice couple from our running group to stay at their house nearby. These folks went above and beyond just providing beds, but made meals and served as incredibly gracious hosts. All that despite the fact that they too were running the marathon.

To let them know how much we appreciated their hospitality I made them a set of coasters and have named them the Thanks-for-Letting-us-Stay-at-Your-House-for-the-Marathon Coasters.

marathon coasters 5 marathon coasters 2 marathon coasters 4

If you’re my friend on Instagram then you’re familiar with my recent interest in crafting, particularly improvisationally, in black and white with pops of color. I used this coaster project to explore playing with simple free-form patterns in the context of a limited palette.

marathon coasters back 2 marathon coasters back 3

I also used this project as an opportunity to use on my newest and most favorite hand dyed and patterned designs. I’m currently making lots and lots of fabric for my booth at QuiltCon, but thought I could spare a bit for these coasters.

They are, after all, meant as a special thank you to some terrific folks.

News Flash:: Long Lost Sister Found

sujata 9

I’m taking a break from my blog break(yes, I see the silliness inherent in that statement) to let you all know that I have found a long lost sister I didn’t even know was missing.

That sister is this woman:

sujata portrait

Sujata Shah, author of the wonderful new book, Cultural Fusion Quilts: A Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions. No matter that she is originally from India and I was born in Tel-Aviv and that both our parents may disagree with my statement, Sujata and especially what inspires her to design and craft quilts speak to me at my very core and, so, we must be sisters. No other explanation is possible.

I first met Sujata at Quilt Market this past October when she came by my booth to introduce herself and her book.I think I flipped through for about 2.3 seconds when I realized that I LOVED the quilts and the idea behind the making of this book.

Sujata is a combiner, a take-from-something-over-here-and-add-it-to-something-over-there kind of crafter. And, just to add a cherry on top of that she does it all with a wonderful sense of play and discovery and a passion for improvisation.

Cultural Fusion opens with an explanation of how Sujata came to make the quilts that she does, her love of different textile traditions, and how she combines disparate influences in every step of her process. She walks the reader through her process for selecting fabrics and piecing blocks with a joyous free-form approach that naturally yields a quilt bursting with energy.

You don’t have to take my word for it. I realize that because she’s my sister, I may be biased. So, just take a gander at these beauties:

sujata 9

sujata 4 sujata 1

Folks, there are 15 block/quilt designs in this book. And each design is linked to what Sujata calls a “root connection”, a pattern or textile influence.

Like this one:

sujata 7

Also, though the construction of the block and quilt is thoroughly illustrated and explained, you don’t have to necessarily make that particular quilt. Each design has an accompanying page called, “Possibilities”. These are alternative block settings you can try or play with to encourage you to put your special stamp on these designs.

sujata 6

This is definitely a book you want to add to your library. Also, if you don’t have a library yet, this is a book you might just want to start with.

So, how do you get this book?

How about here.

How do you see more of Sujata’s work?

Umm, here.

How do you follow the Cultural Fusion Quilts Blog Tour as it makes its way across the internet?

Check out these sites tomorrow and in the following days:

Tue. Dec. 9 – Sherri Lynn Wood

Wed. Dec. 10 – Bonnie Hunter

 Thu. Dec. 11  Jake Finch
 Fri. Dec. 12 – Jan Burgwinkle
 Sat. Dec. 13  Janet Treen
And, most importantly, how do you win a free copy of Sujata Shah’s AMAZING Cultural Fusion Quilts: A Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions?
Well, just leave a comment here letting me know how much you love my sister’s book and I’ll randomly pick a winner at the conclusion of the tour.


Look, I made a book

screen shot of look book cover

Well, not exactly a full book, but a Look Book.

It’s an enrollment bonus for my CreativeLIVE class, 10 ways to Love Improvisational Quilting and surprisingly, it too is entitled…

screen shot of look book cover

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am learning the Adobe Creative suite, I mean really learning it, taking a class, consulting with others, the whole shebang. Well, I LOVE it. It is the quickest path to so much fun. And the possibilities? Freakin endless. I recommend the process to anyone and everyone.

I’m about halfway through the Indesign course and feel like I have enough know-how to craft this Look Book.

Each page features one of my 10 hopefully helpful hints for embracing improvisational quilting along with a pretty picture or two.

Here’s another sample:

screen shot of look book step 4

Interested in getting a copy? Watch my class this coming Wednesday and Thursday FOR FREE and, if you decide you’d like to purchase it for future perusal, the nice folks at CreativeLIVE will send you your very own copy.

As for me, I’ll be doing lots more of this kind of thing. Learning this process has spawned so many ideas; as learning often does.


Improv(e) Me!

improv zig-zags

Sometimes you work on a project and you think, ” I’ve done this before; I know how it goes.”

That’s how I entered the process of prepping for my CreativeLive workshop, 10 ways to Love Improvisational Piecing. It’s nor that I’d taught this workshop in this forum before, but I’d taught it to guilds and groups many times.

I didn’t expect anything new to appear.

Boy, was I wrong.

Maybe it’s because this particular workshop is two days and will cover a lot more material or maybe because when you’re working within a different media (this being an online class versus a class that happens once in real time), or maybe it’s because I really, really wanted to do a good job, but I have made new discoveries and stumbled upon new ideas and unearthed new avenues I want to explore more fully. With more fully meaning AFTER Quilt Market at the end of the month.

A lot of these newnesses have come about through making step-outs and sample blocks for the class.

improv zig-zags improv stars

In making these sample blocks I was simply trying to show some possibilities for improvisationally working with half-square triangles, but I think I learned much more than my students will. For now, I’m going to keep it under my hat what direction I see myself going with these, but these block, along with some of the other ones I’ve created for the workshop and featured here are definitely pointing me in a new direction.

For today, I’d like to point you all in the direction of the blog tour that is hot and heavy and helping to promote my class.

9/30 – Modern Sewciety
10/1 - House on Hill Road
10/3 – Fresh Modern Quilts
10/6 – Cheryl Arkison
10/7 – Wisecraft Handmade

Take a moment and check out these amazing blogs and enter to win a free copy of my workshop, 10 Ways to Love improvisational Quilting.

Planning to Wing it

step out for class

Based on the amount of prep I’m doing for my CreativeLIVE class, 10 Ways to Love improvisational Quilting, I’m not planning on winging anything. Kind of ironic considering this is a class focused on learning to go with the flow of piecing and letting one step dictate the next. But, as I’ve pointed out to my students in the past, working improvisationally doesn’t mean you don’t have some framework, some parameters.

So, to make sure I’m ready, set, go come next Wednesday when filming starts, I’ve been making these:

step out for class

Step-outs for pretty much every part of the process.

And sample blocks like these:

improv block for class improv block detail pinwheel block for class

I’m also putting together an inspirational Look Book for those who enroll in the class and am working with the marketing team at CreativeLIVE to promote the class. Check out my post yesterday at CreativeLIVE to read about the quilt that most inspired me.

Also, follow the blog tour starting with Stephanie Kendron’s fabulous Modern Sewciety to hear more about the class and enter to win free enrollment.

Back tomorrow with more about my class and the tour!