Passacaglia Update

Not sure that this is truly the right moment to be trying to write a post…my camera is once again challenging my editing “skills”..(.more like the “lack thereof”)… I am WAY beyond frustrated.  My cogs are looking good on the table, but not on the screen.  I will keep trying; I think I need a new blogging strategy, but for today (since I know what the rest of the week looks like), I am going to just go with what I have.

img_6091The thing is moving along.  That is the true beauty of this quilt (and probably how most people manage to actually get it done).  There is always some part of it that can be moved forward…whether it is the tracing and cutting when one has the light and time to consider the interplay of colors and patterns; the basting, taking advantage of odd moments, here and there;  or, the actual hand-piecing of the rows of shapes.  (The stars are surprisingly fun to stitch!)

img_6084 I am working on multiple cogs at one time in an effort to have the final layout be “one song” rather than simply a compilation of pieces and parts (literally!!!)  That said, one has to truly pay attention to the working diagrams…which has led to some “waltzing” around of the circles/cogs I had already stitched; the big cog had one too many stars!  I have learned my lesson though…count twice, check again…THEN, stitch.

Time to Address the Mess

IMG_6056Sanded and painted my “Disney” cabinet in record time.  It is now in place in the “paper” studio, where everything that is not stitched gets worked on.  This room has also become the dumping ground for any and everything “not fabric” for the past three(!) years. The ten foot long table in there is a far-too-tempting flat surface for whatever is in hand…(a habit I hope to break in the very near future).

Before I spent most of Friday in there sorting things, finding spots in the cabinet for the things that “stay” and making piles just outside of the door for the things that don’t, I took photos (intending to impress with my organizational skills).   “Ah!  So many messes!  But look!  Presto!  a table is under there!”  But none of them even survived editing!   …the consequence of trying to move off of the AUTO  button (forgot that “one crime at a time” thing…blue photos, anyone?)

I had sorted and organized for hours.  The table got neater, outside of the door did not.  Hope reigns, though.


ps:  The observant reader will notice that there is no photo of the table top after those “hours of organizing”.  It is a bit of a work in progress.

Not Quite Sunday…

IMG_0581Saturday leads to Sunday; it is inevitable.  We spent last Saturday at a “mud auction” (think I have written about these before).  They are unique to our area…co-operative fund-raising efforts by the local fire companies and the Amish/Mennonite communities.  Early Spring and  “just-about-now” are mud-auction seasons (when it is either too muddy to be out in the fields, or when most of the harvesting is done).  On any given Saturday there will be at least one in a town nearby…Most everything (except for the yummy local food) is sold by auction: antiques, handmade birdhouses and yard “ornaments”, farm and carriage equipment,  random donated “stuff”…and plants.  The last are what entice us to spend a day outside under a tent.   We haven’t quite figured out the economics of it (are they donations?  consignments? not home-grown, but certainly local).  Vendors bring wagonloads of stock, set it all out for perusing and admiring…and then, auction it off.  A  few dollars can score a treasure!

We always have fun considering the possibilities, envisioning garden spaces full of color (in lieu of weeds).   Inevitably when driving home, the van is loaded with flats and pots, even the occasional tree!   But the excesses of Saturday bidding mean that Sunday is spent planting…and thus, no blogging.


That isn’t to say that nothing is getting done.  I think these will be rounds 5 and 6 in the first BIG rosette.  I vacillate between thinking the color switch is “great” and wondering if it is all too much.  Up to this point, most of my center rounds look pretty subdued…not sure if that is a “sophisticated” take on the pattern…or just  a “safe” one…


On a far more pressing issue:  Scored this quirky cabinet for $25.00 at the auction last Friday night!  I have been looking for a good (read that as “classy, and therefore, rather “sedate”) storage solution for the mountain of art supplies piled on top of the studio table.  Finally, gave up.  Bought this.  Have just finished sanding it.  Am going to paint it with Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.  The room is “somewhat” purple…am thinking “robin’s egg blue”…”sedate” is over-rated and probably has no business taking up space in the studio anyhow…headed out now…stay tuned…


Passacaglia Update

IMG_6025I am truly into it now.  That might be a somewhat optimistic view, given the over three thousand pieces in the finished quilt.  I probably have two thousand five hundred to go.  What you see above are just a few of the tiny pieces used for the FIRST row of stars and diamonds…

The process starts with a simple center of five diamonds.  Mine are cut from finely woven ikat cottons woven in Indonesia.  I have “embraced” the variations in the patterns, figuring they will only add to the quilt’s “charm”.


I have made many more of these than I will need…more on that later.  The next round are the elongated diamonds.  Originally, I thought to make them all with a pattern on a black ground.


But, as I started to figure out what I might do for the next round, the dark centers began to look too much alike…so I began “branching out” with some color (a slippery slope).


Round three, a ring of ten hexagons, is actually surprisingly fun to sew together.  I am using hand-marbled fabrics that have been hoarded for YEARS (too “special” to use?).  I “fussy” traced and cut each hexagon to be able to play with the movement of the colors within the shapes…


Changing in and out the center stars is entertaining…have made very few “commitments”.


Round four is a somewhat? intimidating ring of stars and diamonds.  This is when the construction of the rosette begins to get “interesting” (challenging???)  There are SO many variations possible in this row.  I really like the stars, though.  So not sure how much I will play with other possibilities.


To tally up my progress:  I have sewn together all of the 37 star centers, plus about ten more.  I have stitched most of “round two”; still have the “color” ones pending.  I know I will have far more than I need.  Maybe they can be used “here and there” on the border or the back?  About half of the pentagon rings are stitched.  I am beginning to wonder if having them all be made of marbled fabrics will be “boring”, or, if “boring” is even possible given this pattern…The star row in the photo above got plopped down on a “pink center” as stuff got pushed aside to make space to work…and it POPPED!  Stopped me mid-shove.  So, am considering that.  The last thing one wants to do when paper-piecing by hand is to have to rip anything out.  This is a quilt that requires COMMITMENT!

Which brings me to the question under-laying this post.  The way I have been working on this quilt is entirely unlike my usual process.  I like to make way too many of the chosen block/motif; to play with colors, stick them up on the design wall, move them around… and, tease the “vision” that inspired the work in the first place.   The Passacaglia is such a dynamic (and, brilliant) design.  But it proceeds slowly: very, very slowly.  It is stitched entirely by hand.  Each piece is traced one at a time to make the most of a fabric’s print or color; and then, pressed.  (I baste by hand, and the iron makes that work so much easier.  I know the current wisdom says “glue-basting is fine”;  but, I just can’t go there.)  The basted components are then hand-stitched together with  very small, and close overcasting stitches (making them extremely tedious to “un-sew”).  The goal is for very even stitching that doesn’t show on the front (a worthy goal, at least).  As the rings around the center star begin to radiate out, the number of pieces (and, pieced pieces…those little stars???) grows quickly.  By the final rows one might be tracing, cutting, pressing, basting and stitching together  more than 60 shapes to complete the ring.  How much experimentation does that process encourage?  What if I “guess wrong”?   More to the point, will it still be “fun”?

The jury is out.  As Jerry Jeff sings, “sometimes you have to trust your cape”.  Still flying; still playing…just a bit more thoughtfully.




Engaging at Last (hopefully…)

IMG_0577It is Sunday.  Since the last time I tried to post an entry of any meaningful content, a lot has changed…(apparently, also including the software to edit and upload any photos, as I just found out)!!!  We will see how it goes.

Even though it must seem that not much has been going on blog-wise here at danglingthreads (given that entries have been spotty, at best), as often is the case, much has been going on behind the screen.  Not exactly one to relish the effects of “new update available”, I didn’t update my computer’s software for years…literally.  Well, Apple got its revenge.  Then, wordpress decided to get in on the fun.  White screen; no content.  “Error” this, and “Error” that.   Luckily I have kids who are beyond generous with their time and expertise…so, though I may be running as fast as I can to catch up (and, cope) with all of the new nits and bits, maybe, now finally, posting might become a regular thing once again.

That said, the sound of running, dripping water at 11:30 last night, reminded me that I am not queen of my empire.  A broken feed to the toilet on the second floor “failed”…meaning that water flooded the bathroom, dripped down through the ceiling lights on the first floor, bubbled up the walls and ceiling on my newly finished paint job and then continued on its merry way into the basement.  Only a few drips managed to hit the kayak stored just below there…the rest, did its best to soak all in its path…On the bright side…we were home, and since the Olympics are going on, we were awake.

Enough of the rant.  Creative work has truly been happening all along.  Much of it has been “pick-up work”, done in the very early morning hours, or, savored after finishing a daily stint of painting…At the moment, my version of the Passacaglia, the paper-pieced wonder by Willyne Hammerstein, is starring… (photos to come, I promise…)   That said, although my intentions are ALWAYS good, the work routine that used to happen, just doesn’t anymore.  For years, I could count on blocks of time every day…mornings for creative, new work; afternoons, for quietly hand- stitching, or quilting…or, whatever else suited my fancy…(a luxury, I know).  These days, I no longer have “weeks and then, weekends” (those important Sunday afternoons for blogging, especially)…the days simply wend out one after another, with surprises nearly everyday.  “Plans” seem to exist only to be abandoned!  Those (the surprises) have added a true richness to my daily life, but have wrought havoc with any kind of steady progress to be shared in these pages.  SO, there is now a subscribe button up there on the right…it lets me off the hook a bit…I do intend to try to post regularly (but am looking forward to not feeling so guilty when I just can’t).  And, it seems far more respectful of you and your time…if you are game, click on it.  You will get an email anytime there is a new post.  Nothing else.

ps:  a footnote about the photo at the top…(edited with that new, pesky software, if you are thinking it falls short):  In a bit of a hissy fit over my seemingly unending paint job, and just to get that big (guilt-inducing) maniIa envelope off the counter, I tossed out the ton of dried-up zinnia flower heads saved from last year onto the bare dirt outside my window…VERY late in the season.  They should have ended up as gourmet bird food.  But, a few days later…green sprouts!  Then, stems, leaves, and, buds!…and they grew!  Flowers…hundreds and hundreds of flowers!   And, then…THEY came: the butterflies!  BIG. Beautiful.  All kinds!  So many!  Everyday!  A gift…once again reminding me that not everything has to be hard.

post ps:  A free afternoon yesterday…could have read a book, but instead, I played in the basement…Citra-Solv and National Geographic magazines…collage fodder!




Take care.



It would be far easier for me to just “let the day go by” with no “wise words”… (Sunday, traditionally being my day to “post”).  But it seems disingenuous, somehow.  Even though few ever comment, I know by the graph that “oh so kindly” provides me that unknown readers do take the time to check for an update more often than I have managed to do for far too long.  And, I feel accountable for that, somehow.

Seven windows left to paint.  Doesn’t sound earth-shaking.  In the beginning, that would have been nothing…easy… after three years…not so sure.  Sometime in the next few days, all will be done.  But what I am not quite sure of is how one picks up the pieces at that point.  Think about it.  It has been three years since time in the studio has been a “given”…a way of life.  Projects were always in the works…on paper, on the table, on the wall.  So much has happened in the interim. (and not much of that “ART”).    Most of the “work” that has gotten done has happened more in spite of the state of things, rather than because it was “work”.  Art has definitely taken the back seat to “life”.   This is uncharted territory.  The things that used to drive any progress in the studio seem uninteresting, or just plain GONE…

There are two ways of looking at this.  The easiest…simply picking up the pieces…truly, no longer seems to be an option.   The harder thing will be to make new choices…can one abandon things in which so much time and energy has already been invested?  Not clear.  No one ever tells you that when opportunity knocks, hard choices have to be made…and, that clock is ticking…

Just Because it is Sunday…

Sunday has traditionally been my “blog day”…back in the good old days, it was the perfect day to share my treasures from the flea market…who could wait?  Not me.  The past month or so has been hard, mostly because I am just SO tired of the mess:  windows still to paint, in spite of extreme diligence on my part.  We took a trip south to meet up with Jame and Christina in Nashville.  That was good.  It felt like something a “normal” person might do.  Just get on the road for a bit; pick a few intriguing places to explore…drive for miles and stop wherever.  But the “price” for such a “fling” had to be paid at the other end.  Four foot tall weeds!  Everywhere.  Invading all previously civilized spaces…nature run amuck…or more than likely, just keeping us sure who is really in charge.  We have been fighting back since we got home.  No windows have gotten painted…which means the mess remains.

Unexpected consequences from not upgrading my software as I should have (for years) then resulted in not being able to access this page AT ALL…for weeks.  All has been fixed by my savvy (and ever-helpful) children.  Hence, this (once again) apologetic post.  I am working when I can…but, just staying “even” is the best I can do at the moment.  This is not an abandoned blog.  I am actually making progress every day on the Passacaglia…”pick-up” work…but, still…Feeling more like the turtle than the hare, at the moment.  Stay tuned.  There is good stuff coming…just not today.

Total Disarray

Since the contractors showed up (unexpectedly…two weeks early!!) on the first of April (looking for a fool, no doubt), all of my “lives” have been in disarray.  As promised, they cut and pried the stucco off of the entire exterior of our house (all apparently incorrectly applied in our part of the country, leading to extreme water infiltration and rot).  That process created a whirlwind of dust (once again) that settled into every nook and cranny.   It is STILL “settling” on every flat surface inside the house (just visualize the impact of that). Once that mess was made, they pulled out and replaced almost all of the windows and some of the doors.  The results of that created untold consequences on the inside of nearly every room in the house.  My oh-so-nicely restored trim was pried off with the exact results that you can probably see in your “mind’s eye”…you can’t imagine what it did to mine, up close and, very personally…And then, John’s mom got sick; she re-bounded for a bit, but then, not.

I think we are on the up side of the curve now.  More things outside the house are back together than are not.  The contractors should be done and GONE by the end of the week. My recovery will be longer.  I will begin re-painting this week; putting things back together; DUSTING…  Kids are coming home soon to spend a bit of time remembering and honoring their grandmother.  I WILL get back on track art-wise, and blog-wise…but, for a bit longer, things will be unsettled.  Check back in a few weeks…but, thanks so much for stopping by…

Moving on…




IMG_5986I filled my book with patterns…but think I am done.  (Above are a few of my favorites in the final 20 or so.)   I enjoyed it to the end, but truly have no interest in pulling out another sketchbook and continuing.  Part of it may be seasonal. It was a warm and cozy way to start my day before the light appeared on the horizon…click on the fireplace, snuggle under the quilt, and draw whatever came to mind.   All is not abandoned, though.  Am thinking to try carving stamps to create patterns…haven’t quite figured out how to make that a “habit” in my day, though…

Waltzing with the Passacaglia


As a crew of men chip the stucco off my house, piece by piece, I have retreated to the relative quiet(?) of my bedroom on the far end of the “project”.  Every window in the house is sporting blue plastic.   (Haven’t seen the sunset for days…)  Every thing in close proximity to a window or door has been moved away.  And, once again, plastic or drop cloths cover ALL.  Homesteading once again, I think.  This is the last big thing in our “house adventure(?)”.  We knew it had to be done going in…and am so glad it is underway…but, maybe wishing we did it first????    A total distraction.IMG_5960The bright spot in this whole thing (besides the fact that I am not out there chipping off stucco myself) is that it has opened up an opportunity to focus on just one thing.  There is a SINGLE clear flat space in the entire house: the dining room table.  So, I have settled into the Passacaglia.IMG_5962The proper name of the quilt is actually, The Passacaglia with Mr. Penrose.  It was designed by Willyne Hammerstein, a Dutch lawyer, and is one of many gorgeous quilts in her book “Millefiore Quilts”.  Though she did not do so, most who have taken on the challenge of making one are using English Paper Piecing.  A “passacaglia” is a musical term for a series of variations on the underlying bass of a melody, in slow triple time; Mr. Penrose was a mathematician.  The quilt is intricate (an understatement)) and totally engaging.  Google it.  You will see what I mean.IMG_5965I have never done any paper piecing.  Maybe making this quilt be my first shot at it will be a disaster.  But, so far…it is all good.  I am taking a slightly different approach than most. Using fabrics with repeated motifs is key (again, check the quilts others have made on Pinterest), but I also wanted to use many of the very special fabrics in my stash that I have been saving for years…ikats, hand-marbled cuts, batiks, hand-dyed (mostly vintage, mostly my own)…treasures which for a long time have seemed “too good” to use.   (Sounds a bit silly, right?  That is what I have decided too.  If not now, when?)IMG_5968This is quiet work.  Hand-stitching.  One can pick up a piece and make a bit of progress.  But, it is all adding up…IMG_5971

IMG_5970To be continued…