Taking Stitch to Cloth and Paper

What do I need to Learn Here?
Thomas Crum

For many years, I worked with Thomas Crum as we introduced people to what we called the Discovery Model. The premise is that as long as the questions you ask yourself in life are along the lines of “What do I need to say or do to be right?” you are not operating at your full potential. Indeed, a look at the truly great inventors over time revealed that their frame of reference in trying new ideas as setbacks and failures occurred was more typically the question, “What do I need to learn here?”

As many of you are aware, I have been exploring the art of hand stitching with Karen Ruane for a number of years…what began as an interest in learning hand embroidery has grown to an exploration of expression using stitch on both fabric and paper.

The start of my current project was innocent enough. I was interested in creating a small art quilt from a glacier photo taken on a trip to Alaska last summer. Initially I thought I would follow my typical process of drafting a sketch from a photo, fusing various fabrics to muslin to create a base and then free motion quilting to complete the art quilt. It has been a bit since I had followed that model but it had always satisfied me before.

An interesting thing though happened as I began to work on a muslin base trying out various fabrics. Nothing satisfied me. The more I searched for fabrics, the less pleased I was. I finally realized that some paper I had collected to use in projects with Karen was pretty close to what I wanted. It was time to let go of the traditional and come from discovery!

I began constructing a base of fabric and possible papers for my scene:

In the above photo, I found that a matte frame really helped give me a sense of direction. The central portions in the scene are all layers of paper while the sky and water are fabric.

I wisely did not permanently attach anything to my muslin base. The more I looked at the scene I realized that while it was a fair representation perhaps of the photo I had chosen as a base, it wasn’t what had stood out for me as I remembered our trip. We saw many glaciers in varying light and, as you would expect, varying colors of both ice and water. The glaciers as a whole left us humbled by the power and raw strength of nature that created and moved them. I realized that I needed to create an art work that captured what spoke to my heart as I had gazed at all of them rather than concern myself with reproducing a specific photo.

Once I accepted that reality, I really began to make progress with my piece. I changed some of both the fabric and paper layers and added some dabs of paint.

From there I quickly began experimenting with stitch on the glaciers. I found that a combination of seed stitch and french knot offered the effect I wanted.

This piece is very much still in progress. I currently am playing with stitch for the water. In my earlier stitching stages, I worked without a batting layer as I didn’t feel it was needed and I had given myself permission to create without being bound by the current day definitions of an ‘art quilt’. As I played with possibilities for the water on test pieces, I concluded that I will now add a batting layer to the piece as I like the textural effect the batting lends to the hand stitching for the water.

Bullion loops and running stitch

Over the coming weeks, I will be stitching in the water and then exploring how to interpret the mountains and sky. Promise an update soon!

As always, linking to Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Friday.

A Sneak Peek!


I am pleased to be an invited artist for “The 100” fiber fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that Virginia Spiegel has created. On February 4, 2015, you will have the opportunity to vie for being one of the 100 patrons who will receive an artwork from the contributing artists.

Here is a partial peek at the art quilt that I am contributing:


Extend Ki

Extend Ki

The piece is entitled Extend Ki. It measures 13.5″ x 14″. The phrase Extend Ki comes from my background in the martial art of aikido and my many years of work with author, Thomas CrumKi is a Japanese word that best translates as energy. The many brightly colored shapes emanating from a solid block express the concept of reaching out into the world from our centered base of self.

To learn more about how you might be the lucky person to receive this art quilt, or one of the other 99 pieces being offered in this fundraiser, please go to ‘The 100″ website for details.


Linking to Off the Wall Friday.

Hand stitching saves the day!

hand embroidered lettersThis summer season has gotten off to a busy start…….and the traveling doesn’t look to let up. Thank goodness that I made that decision a while back to begin studying the art of hand embroidery with Karen Ruane! It means that I can take my art projects with me, wherever I am. 🙂

As a result, while I was visiting my granddaughter this past week, I was able to add to those embroidered letters I mentioned in an earlier post.  So, the word “YES!” is now formed. While I am home over the next few weeks, I hope to complete quilting the piece that they will be added to.

But, first, I am off for a weekend of aikido at Rowan University. I may have mentioned that I practice a style of aikido called “Kokikai Aikido.” I am teaching with a group of nine other senior instructors at a seminar at Rowan. I am looking forward to seeing friends from around the country that I have practiced with for years. If you are not familiar with Aikido, I encourage you to read a bit about it. It is an art of de-escalation – where you move off line of attackers and work with their energy to end an attack. One of the most wonderful aspects of studying the art is the application in daily life. Your ability to remain calm under pressure increases. You also cultivate a heightened awareness of others. A dear friend whom I worked with for 25 years wrote one of the quintessential books of taking aikido off the mat into relationships – Magic of Conflict by Thomas Crum. The mind/body skills necessary to practice aikido can be learned by anyone. Tom was one of the first aikido practitioners to appreciate this. He is still traveling the world teaching those in management, education, health services, and even the armed forces. And, Magic of Conflict is the base of all his workshops. Whatever your calling in life, there are some ideas in Magic of Conflict that will help you along on your journey. Hope that you will check it out.

Make Your Life of Work, A Work of Art – Thomas Crum

P.S. Linking to Off the Wall Friday. Check out the other artists there!





1I spent the last week creating