Thursday, December 20, 2012

Working on "Paradise"

Merry Christmas!
Walk to the beach.
Where does your inspiration come from?   Mine comes from everywhere, especially when I travel.  I am so grateful for the sweet time I have at the end of this busy year to just reflect.   It’s been a great year but there has not been a lot of pure creative days, one right after another. I should be making Christmas cookies and putting up lights but I have had this quit idea I'm about to show you  in my head for the last 6 months.
Coconuts scattered on the beach. 

That is why it's been so sweet to go to the studio and play in fabric day after day.  What a beautiful gift.  Thank you, God.  Soon, these days will be over and back on the road I go.  I still get to work on my art but not weeks at a time to play.

Here is a little of what has been on my design wall. It all started with my trip to Australia this summer, which was winter in Australia.  I taught at Quilting in the Highlands where they even had a Christmas in July luncheon. So I did have an early Christmas.  After my teaching gig we took a much needed holiday and flew up to the town of Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef.  It was warm and sunny there, closer to the equator.
The Great Barrier Reef is out there somewhere.
I sat every day with my little child’s sketch book that I bought at the MOA museum in Sydney and painted the beach and the palm trees, the waves and the rocks and even a picture of Joe I can’t show you.   The paints were not that good but the exercise of looking closely embedded the views in my mind.  So, of course, when I got home I had to recreate my images into fabric and thread.

Paint set.
I was so happy to find this paint set at the museum. The paper was the wrong kind and would curl when you added the wet paint.  The paint brush was the size of a tooth brush but I would have painted with a stick.
Jungle outside our tree house.
So here are some of my photos, my little paintings and my art quilt, Paradise. The painting of Joe in going in the vault.

Morning light on the beach.

 New quilt called Paradise.  This is what I have started from my painting and photos.
Cutting table. 

Palm trees overhead.

Yes, I cut every one of those pieces.

Working on the refection in the water and the clouds in the sky.
My paints at home.
PS. If you want some Christmas Joy read my last post for a good laugh.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Candy Dish

Sometimes we just need a good laugh and I have one for you today. With Christmas breathing down our necks, it’s good to have some holiday humor.  Most of the stories I tell are of goofy things that happen to me as I travel in the quilting world but I think that some of my foibles may have been inherited.  Maybe it’s a genetic mutation in our family genes.  It is clear that I am not the only wacky member of the Hopkins family.

Joe and I are getting ready to visit the family down in Southern California.  It’s an all day trip on the main California highway that will be a 2 lane, pot-holed, chock full of 18-wheelers nightmare.  I can’t wait!
We are all getting excited to be together, so let the Christmas decorating begin!
Now, decorating for Christmas in the Hopkins house has always been a big deal.  I have been blessed to always live in a beautifully decorated home even when we had no money.  Which was always.  You don’t need $ to have a beautiful home, just creativity.  I have now carried this tradition over to the Bula household but not this year.  I am going very low-key this holiday season. 
Having a mother who was a fabulous interior designer makes the holidays very festive.  I have always said that Martha Stewart has nothing on Lavonna Hopkins.  Except for a funny first name.  

So let the decorating commence.  I am sure my dad was on a ladder with his head up in the attic, pulling down all the dusty Christmas boxes containing the lights for the house, the nativity scene, the 18 foot tree, the Santa’s village to be displayed on the baby grand piano and all the little bells and whistles she has always done.  As time goes by we all start to get a little older and my sweet, creative mother has been battling some memory challenges that can seem sad but sometimes they are just downright funny.  It’s interesting how she still remembers how to decorate but has forgotten how to cook.  She can’t remember who was on the phone but knows everyone in an old photo.  We are all grateful that she can still decorate for Christmas and, most importantly, wants to.  She told me she didn't do too much but I assure you, she has.  It’s not going to be quite the same decorating that she did back in her heyday but it will be pretty. She sounded so excited on the phone and that made me happy.

Then I get the following  email from my sister, Jacqui, that has set the mood for this upcoming trip:

Okay this is too funny!!!!!!
Mom has decorated their whole house for Christmas, it looks really nice.
She has her Christmas candy dish on the coffee table in the family room - - - - - - -
It has been there for about 4 days I saw it - - - - - - -

Jillyan just called me at work and said Mom (Nana) has filled the candy dish with TUMS!!!!!!!! Like full about 35 TUMS

Jillyan went to see what kind of candy they were, pastel colored round disc candies and said each one has TUMS printed on it!!!!!

I had a good laugh; Jillyan is going to let Papa know asap. I don’t think we should be snackin on TUMS (however they do help with strong bones).
Just though I’d share - 

I sent her a response and I got this email back:

Okay – And the funniest thing is when I told Dad about it last night he said . . . . . . .
 I thought those tasted funny!!!!!!  Then he said to me “well it won’t hurt you, you could eat 8 of them and be fine”! (Yeah a little constipated).

He said he had told Mom they tasted like TUMS and she said it was CANDY!

Merry Christmas!!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ice-Dyed Fruit Loop

As this year winds down I find that I still have creative obligations knocking on my studio door.  Houston International Quilt Festival is over for 2012 but planning for 2013 is already in the works plus I was just asked to be part of the faculty for a fantastic 2014 Panama Canal Cruise that Deb Roberts Tours and Road to California are planning.  This is going to be a big event. 

So we need some new patterns for that cruise.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that all these proposals have to be in by December 5th. 

So, for the last couple of weeks I have been working out the bugs on some new pattern ideas.  Not all my ideas have worked out and I thought you might like to see how it has been going.

This may not look like anything but a yellow blob but I have always wanted to do an orchid. Orchids grow all over the tropics - perfect for the Panama Cruise!  By day 3 my husband, who now works out of the house alongside me, decided to take one of his 3-4 "breaks"  during the day to visit my studio and inform me that maybe this orchid might be a little too hard for a cruise.  Remember the gals on the last cruise?  They didn't  want anything too challenging, they just wanted to have fun.

 To be finished on another day..
OK, he was right. This may be better for another day.  Back to the drawing board. 
Then I found the perfect tropical subject matter and it's not a flower.  How about my favorite bird, the toucan? 
He is so cute and has such personalty and I made him in 2 hours.  Now this is more like it.  I started adding leave to the background using my ice-dyed green fabrics.   It gives the leaves a  watercolor look without having to use a lot of different fabrics, which is great for the cruise because the cruisers don't want to bring that much stash with them.  I will have the ice-dyed greens in their kits. 
Finally, he is done.  Next is the stitching, which will have to be done at home but the pattern will have details for how to quilt this cute little guy.  I think he needs a about Fruit Loop?
He looks hard to make but he's really easy.
Now, for all you orchid lovers out there, don't worry,  I am still working on the orchid pattern - just not right now.  It will be a great one day class for the future.  Maybe at the next quilt show near you? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Its Here at Last

Stop the presses!  Hold the wire and kick the cat! I think that might be kick the can?  Oh, well...that explains why the neighbor cat doesn't come around anymore.   I have exciting news - my book, Cutting Garden Quilts has just been reprinted.  Martingale/Patchwork Place is the publisher.  I think this is the fourth printing, but who is counting?   They arrived  just in time for my trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston this last week.  I did feel a little sorry for my UPS driver having to pack the 4 heavy cases up the 8 steep stairs of my cute country porch in the rain.  Joe is now carrying the cases off my cute country porch back down to the garage in the rain.  Those books go more places than I do.  I love men with muscles but if UPS guy and Joe ever compare stories I may end up having to move all my stuff myself.   Happy to say the case sold out in 4 days of classes and I didn't have enough for the Saturday sampler.

Well, happy days are here.  I do not mind that I had to cut a deal to get the book back out,  it's worth it.  Why? you may ask. This is the one and only first book that shows you how to create a flower quilt from your own flower photo as an artist paints a painting.  It's like having me in your sewing room helping you or messing up your sewing room just like I do here at home.  What could be better than that? You cannot get the basics of my technique, unless you get the opportunity to take a class,  anywhere except in Cutting Garden Quilts.  Yes, I have learned so much more over the last 5 years of teaching you, my students, and I will be putting that in the next book but the basics are a classic to build upon.  As my art teacher always said, Melinda, you cannot break the rules until you know the rules.

The pictures and layout are one of the best.  It is like a fine coffee table book.  The book also has 5 flower patterns that turn out beautifully. Many of my students have won ribbons on the quilts they have made from this book.  Love That!

This peach rose is called Just Joey.  It was given to my husband by my mother after Joey's Mother died.  She always called him Joey.  It produces wonder fragrant flowers in our garden and can now bloom in your home.   I recently sold this quilt to a wonderful quilt collector couple on Cape Cod.  That was how I was able to get Joe to go to Australia with me.

I have learned many new tricks since writing this book but the basics of developing your own flower into an art quilt is still the same.

I love this flower, the clematis.  I just taught 3 fabulous classes in Peoria, Illinois and one of the classes was the clematis.   I had a great time and the clematis flower class was from this book.  Here are some of the pictures of their wonderful flowers.

You can now go to my web site and order your book if you do not already have it.   If you have it, but can’t find it (believe me, it happens) you may need another.

I love this student.  She was bold and creative and not afraid of color in any way. Her flower turned out amazing.  The only other student that has done this color way was Helen in Ukiah, California and she rocks!

If, you like, I will sign the book to whomever you want.  Christmas is right around the corner and this would make a great gift.  It is a classic because when the publisher stopped printing this book about 5 months ago, the book was selling on  for up to $1,000 a copy.   So hold on to this one because if I have an an  .. unforeseen accident, and there are a few here in town that have me on their short list, this book could really be worth something.  Enjoy!  And a big Thank You to Martingale for re printing this valuable book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Renegade Thread Play Coloring Class

Renegade Thread Play Coloring Class
The Next Step

There has been some confusion about my Renegade Thread Play class in Houston on November the 2. So let clear up all the mess so you can feel prepared for the class.  This is a techniques class, but we will be making a flower to practice on.
We start with the basics of what Renegade Thread Play is.  Then we will practice a verity of stitches.  Work out all the kinks and hopefully after lunch, we will start our flowers and use the stitches you have just learned.  
The pattern we will use is my sunflower.  However, it does not have to be a sunflower.  Make it in the colors you like.  So bring your favorite flower colors to class.  Here is a value chart to help you with fabric amounts next to each value.  You will also need three greens that you like with your flower.  Fat quarters yards work great.

You will also need a background fabric, cut to 18” x 22”.  A low loaf cotton-batting cut to 30”x 30”.
For the back of your quilt, you will need 1 yard of any fabric you like, to use as a fabric border on your quilt and as the back of your quilt.  A few medium size safety pins to hold your quilt layer together, quilting gloves, 1 spool of Aurfil 50 weight cotton thread in a color that blends with your backing fabric colors.  1 package of Jeans Denim or Top Stitch Needles, Size 80/12, white chalk pencil.

I will bring some fabric kits if your bags are just to full. Any question, please email me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Running with Scissors?

mary michaela murray

The right scissors can make your job so much easier.   What kind do you have in you sewing room?
I thought so!

Running with scissors was a big no-no as a child.  We where told never to run with scissors. Mothers and grandmothers for  hundreds of years would tell us horrible stories about kids that ran with scissors so right away I was afraid of the dangers of  this very sharp tool that now had to be respected and used with care.  We were taught to walk with the points down even across a small room.  After cutting we would lay them down oh so carefully and if small children came into the room, we would  remove these dangerous demons quickly to a higher shelf.   That's why dad could ever find the scissors - he didn't look up.

I remember my sister and I where sick with chicken pox and dad brought us home each a big box of paper dolls. It was like Christmas to me but trying to cut paper with those little blue plastic round tip scissors just made me so frustrated. So after a couple of hours try to cut paper with a stick, I quietly got out of bed, tippy-toed down to my mother's sewing room and "borrowed" her scissors.  That is when I learned that you aren't supposed to cut paper with mom's "good" scissors!  Searching for the "good" scissors was a weekly ritual in our house and someone usually got a spanking when the "good" scissors where found and it was usually me!

The problem I see with this shock and awe toward the mighty, sharp scissors is that it has created a fear that is associated with using them. Some of us still carry that fear.  I see it all the time in class.  The fear comes out in the kind of scissors we bring to class.  Old, dull, bent, rusty, the wrong size or some bought because Kmart had a deal.

It's as if, before we leave the house for a class, we open the family junk drawer in the kitchen (don't be ashamed, we all have one, even Martha Stewart) and just grab whatever we can find. In my house those scissors may have cut wire, quartered a chicken and dad probably cut his toenails with them. Yikes!
Then we get to class and struggle to make a clean, nice cut into fabric but all we get is a raveled,  shredded, mess. The other fear is the price. It costs too much.  $35.00 is way too much?  Well yes, if you're cutting your toenails with them, but not if you are creating a beautiful garment or quilt.   Now, would your husband or partner think about the price when buying a hammer, computer or new motorcycle helmet? Never!  We need the right tools for the job.  It took me years before I bought myself a good pare of  Gingers.  After my first cut I was hooked and I wondered why I waited so long.  I was afraid to spend the money on a tool for my little hobby.  Was I not worthy of the almighty, very sharp scissors?

We all go and get new blades for our rotary cutters but then come to class with the oldest, dullest scissors that don't even cut bread.

We can't sew without scissors. No rotary cutter will ever take the place of a good pair of scissors.  I want you to make sure that you have at least 4 good pairs of scissors in your sewing room.  I didn't get mine all at once. It is like a fine collection, you add one at a time. My dream sewing room would have 50 scissors at every station and then I'd fill the kitchen junk drawer with the Kmart specials.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Larger, heavy 8" dressmaker shears like Gingers. I have 2 pairs, one for fusible art quilts and one for regular fabrics.

2. Medium size with a serrated edge. I just got a pair of Karen Kay Buckley's new scissors that I love.

3. Small, sharp embroidery.  These are so sharp and pointy I have cut my fingers on them many times but these are a must for applique. I have them in every project bag.

4. Thread snips.  I like the models with the curved tips and keep them by the sewing machine at all times. Don't cut fabric with them, they are just for thread.  I learned that the hard way.

Now you can fill in your collection with your favorites. The more scissors, the better, and, by all means, get dad a new pair of toenail cutters.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Everything is Upside Down

Today, everything seems to be upside down.  Not just because I am dyslexic and look at things that way but because I think the world is just crazy right now.  Here at the homestead we have had a really frustrating couple of weeks.

I was trying to help my husband out with his crazy schedule, so I got him a gardener and a pool guy to take a little of the pressure off him. I know, I am such a great wife.  But within  the week the new gardener broke our sprinklers and the main water pipe coming into our house.  The new pool guy said our pool sweep was bad and we needed a new one at $$$$$, and my computer died.

So we come home last weekend from visiting our son and had no water. It is now Wednesday and we still have no water. That means no shower and, worst of all, no dying fabric.

Joe is soldering the water pipe out in the front yard as I write this. Joe found the pool problem - it was just a hole in the filter bag, an easy $35 to fix.  Someone is getting fired.

OK, before you get your violin out and play me a sad song, it really isn’t that bad compared to many of the years Joe and I had real struggles. I was trying to remind him of that last night as steam was shooting out of his ears trying to solder the pipe in the dark.  I have found that screaming at your husband to "calm down - you're going to have a heart attack" may not be the best advice.

How quickly we forget that not to long ago our lives where a constant struggle. One right after another. Sometimes 2 or 3 at a time.  Back then I wish it was just a broken water pipe but we all have them, things like serious health problems, family problems, finances, IRS, threat of being sued, yellow house incidents, drug addicted neighbor problems. OK, maybe yours are a little different.

Lets just say our faith in our fellow man is rapidly fading this week.

I guess it stared when I asked Joe to help me with my computer problems, which I seem to do all the time. I do have a direct connection to my own personal Geek Squad just a shout away.   He will patiently sit down and fix whatever mess I usually cause.   But this time it wasn’t me.  And it was really bad!
Wednesday, October 31:  Fabulous Fusible Flowers - Zinnia
While my sweet man was working on my computer he accidental knocked it to the floor.  And                                  that was the end.  Now fade to black if you’re inclined to act this scene out. 

It went downhill from there. So for the last 2 weeks I have had no emails, no calendar, no contacts. You get the picture?  And I forgot the best (worst) part - no photos.
Now the good part.  This amazing man has somehow fixed most of my computer by switching out the thing a ma-jig and downloading the widget and crossing the thing a de bob with the giz-mo and somehow I'm able to write this blog. I still cant take a shower but we are roughing it this week.

But my pictures are still a problem.  It seems that I like to take photos and there are hundreds of thousands in my computer.  That’s why I was having problem in the first place.  Photos take up lot of megs or midgets or something like that.  So when I went to write this blog there are no pictures of the Zinnia to show you for the upcoming class in Houston.  So I took more photos with my iPhone because my son still has my good camera (which I will never see again) and I downloaded the new pics and they all keep showing up upside down.  So I would rotate them and then they would still show up on the blog upside down.  Isn’t this fun?
So welcome to my world that is always in a state of crazy. And if you are moved to leave a comment that I should  have backed up my computer, I will come and get you. 

So here are the new pictures of the old Zinnia.  I am making up lots of different colored fabric kits for our classes so hopefully you can get the color you like. I will also make extra kits. Well, that is when we get the water back on.

For the class you will need to bring a yard of background fabric.  The yard is more than you will need but you may want to be creative after I show you some new ideas I have for this pattern. The color can be any color you would like your flower to be on.   The more choices you bring, the better. Black is always safe.  If you don’t like what you brought we can get more at lunch time. We are at the biggest quilt shop in the world!

HINT: In most applique classes you start with the background fabric, but not in my class. We will start with our flower petals first, then (about after lunch) add the best background color to the petals. We want our flower to pop off the page so I wait until you can see how it is developing to add the best background color. I will also give you some tips and tricks to help you pick the right colors.
Work on the petals first.
I just want you to know I will not leave you hanging in class.  I will help you all along the way. You won't be without any water, so to speak.  I want you to be successful and get what you paid for.
Then add the background fabric!
Then I will show you how to add other fabric colors that aren't in the pattern to add sparkle and highlights to your flower and makes it yours.
 Here I added some turquoise blue for sparkle on the leaves.
Thread Play on the back.
I will give you information in class on how to do the Renegade Thread Play to finish off your quilt when you get home.
Thanks to those of you who kept reading to the bottom of this blog.  I love this flower, even if the pictures want to be upside down.  If you have any questions about class or plumbing please email me at  I am here to help, even if I send you a picture that might be upside down.  Got to go, the real plumber just arrived.  Hooray!