Friday, January 30, 2009

Extinguish burnout with quilting passion

One glimpse of Karen McTavish's smiling face, especially after receiving Teacher of the Year award from MQX, you know she has passion aplenty. The photo captures the excitement at the Machine Quilting Expo in Manchester, New Hampshire, April 2008. This award is presented to instructors who have made an impact on the longarm industry in the prior year.

Karen's quilting h
olds testament to her passion for the craft. One look at her quilts and there's no doubt she's dripping talent and innovative creativity. But she has multi-passions. Her family most definitely, and her music. When not quilting, writing books about quilting, judging, or teaching groups and individuals the art of quilting, Karen performs with her heavy metal band "Grounds for Dismissal."

Note her 'passion' for tattoos that reflect her quilting patterns
as can be seen on her upper arms.

Photo: Silver Threads Shadow Trapunto - this award winning trapunto quilt was a combined effort with her mother, Janet McTavish who had a dream and asked Karen to come up with a design to surround Janet's silver hand embrodiery work. This quilt has taken Viewer's Choice at the Minnesota State Quilt Show in 2007. The shadow work uses black velvet under batiste.

And now the guest blog in Karen's own words:

Quilting is (or should be) passion.

If you don't have passion - you wont get anything done when it comes to quilting.
This is especially true if you have too many ugly quilt projects that you are no longer in love with - you will "burn out."

Dudes, you have all been there - let's talk about it. For example, if you have a teenager who is skipping school or a son who is playing video games 13 hours a day - you will want to quilt to escape this situation. Or if you have too many dishes, or you can't face cooking another meal for your family - you need an outlet - which, my friend - is quilting.

So - too avoid household chores, - we quilt.

To stay sane, we quilt - and avoid our responsibilities as good parents who have out of control children, we quilt.

You will know you are burned out on quilting when you would rather scrub the floor than go applique'.

You will know you are burned out on quilting, when you would rather bring your daughter to her AA meeting than quilt.

Here is a list of things to do in order for you to avoid "quilters burn out": -

  • Never, I mean, ALWAYS - get obsessed with your quilt project. The quilt you are obsessed with, always gets finished.
  • Remind yourself that if you stop working on this quilt project, it will add to the other projects that are half way done, and this one will never get done and it wont happen again!
  • Keep your eyes on the prize - never think about how long a quilt will take to complete - stay in denial as long as possible.
  • When you give that amazing quilt to a friend or family member, who says "Thanks for the blanket" not get burned out - simply use this as an excuse to cut them out of your life. Forever. They were never really part of the family anyway.
  • When your sister, gets kicked off a plane, for not shutting off her computer, and you are now the official "good daughter" because you have never been escorted off a mid-air flight - you get to feel like a supreme being, a much better human being than say....I dont know...your can run around buying thread and fabric, knowing in your heart you deserve this - because you are after all, the better daughter.
  • Always, I mean, NEVER, worry about how much things cost, or whether you need them or will eventually need them, you just don't know it yet.

When you are truly, in a burn out situations - I highly recommend a big ass pair of scissors just to cut your batting with. Having these scissors will make you feel special.

And if you forget that you are special -- remember, you have not been escorted off a plane by Air Marshals.

And your sister has.

Contact Information:
Karen McTavish
McTavish Quilting Studio
Duluth Minnesota

Longarm machine quilting allows Karen to combine her two passions: Wholecloth and Trapunto. She specialize in crafting award-winning heirloom quilts using techniques which allow machine quilters to replicate traditional hand-quilted effects. Karen have been featured on PBS Quilt Central, and HGTV Simply Quilts. Her work has appeared in Joanne Line's books, Quilts from the Quilt Makers Gift #1 and #2, Helen Squire's Mix and Match Patterns and numerous national magazines and journals. Karen has authored four books in four years with On-Word Bound Books. For information on books and other products please see

Karen has been a full-time professional longarm quilter since 1997. She works and teaches from her studio and travel all over the country teaching McTavishing, Trapunto, Wholecloth Design and advanced longarm machine quilting workshops. If you are interested in taking in a class please contact me at any time. She lives in Duluth, MN with her family - Dan, her partner, daughter Allison (20) and son Storm (age 3).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thank you hardly seems enough -- Thank you!

Karen Sayd generously listed Subversive Stitchers as one of 15 blogs deserving of a Premio Dardos Award.

Thanks you Karen for your thoughtfulness and forgive me for being so slow to pass the award along. It is thrilling to know that others see my blog and take something with them from it that hopefully enriches them or encourages their creativity or simply makes them smile. Thank you for thinking of me and Subversive Stitchers!

In keeping with the rules of the award:

The rules are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I would like to present this award to the following sites in appreciation for all the effort, knowledge, and encouragement they offer to their readers. I'm limited to blogsites it seems, but there are several I thoroughly enjoy.

Virginia Spiegel
C&T Publishing
Gary Presley
Internet Review of Books
Rose Kim Knits' Hell Thursdays
Black Threads
Caron Mosey
Hope Clark's
Sandra Friend
The Renegade Writer
Voyage of the Artemis
Writer Woman
Alpaca Addict
Carol Wiebe
Sock Pixie

Real Men and Quilt Shows

Whenever I visit a quilt show, with or without Derrol, he will be there with me in the memory from one we enjoyed together years ago. I wrote about it for Christian Science Monitor and started this blog with it. I'm reprinting it here for your enjoyment.

Real Men

by Dawn Goldsmith
(previously published in Christian Science Monitor Home Forum; the photo is from this year's Cabin Fever, a tribute to the long suffering husbands of avid quilters.)

He loves me. I know he loves me, but when my husband, Derrol, agreed to accompany me to a quilt show on a Midwestern May perfect-for-fishing day, I got an inkling of the level of his devotion.

He had second thoughts while hunting for a parking space in the crowded lot. He watched the clusters of women streaming toward the entrance and muttered, “I’ll be the only guy there.”

And walking in the front door of the local community college, he issued an admonition, “Don’t you dare ask me to discuss these quilts with you.”

I agreed to his terms, knowing how little he liked to analyze anything except accounting reports and spreadsheets. I grabbed his arm and joined the queue of women, anxious to soak up the display of fine fabric art and imaginative interpretations in cloth. Maybe my enthusiasm was contagious; for it didn’t take him long to stop dragging his feet and start eyeing the various ‘blankets,’ as he called them.

“That one’s not bad,” he volunteered.

“I like the colors,” he said, admiring a vibrant black and orange creation.

We strolled up and down the corridors bordered on both sides by bed-size pieces of art that not only provided beauty but a more basic offering of warmth. What other kind of artwork can wrap around its admirers in a fabric hug?

I ohhed and ahhhed over the tiny stitches, more than 16 to an inch. I stood back and leaned forward while examining the fabric, color choices, intricate quilting designs and perfectly executed piecing and appliqué. I marveled at the teeny tiny pieces of fabric sewn in place, the perfect place, and held there by invisible hand stitches. Thousands of stitches in each quilt. I saw the same pattern used by various quilters and admired the totally unique quilts that sprang from the same triangles and squares, but took on one of a kind personalities through color and quilting, borders and appliqués. My favorite geometric quilts held Derrol and me captive as they performed their illusions. One minute we saw ocean waves, with a turn of the head or a squint of an eye, the pieces broke apart like a kaleidoscope and presented another design.

We had almost completed our tour of the auditorium when a PA system announced the guest speaker, California master quilter Patty McCormick would soon begin her presentation. She would speak about her role as a ‘quilt expert’ during the filming of Steven Spielberg’s movie “How to Make an American Quilt.”

“Do you mind?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Sure, whatever you want. Any excuse to sit down.”

We sat in the last row of chairs gathered around a makeshift riser and a backdrop of quilts that had been featured in the movie. I couldn’t wait to examine the colorful appliquéd quilt, the central figure of the movie, and I admired the simplicity of the African picture quilt, but my eyes kept returning to the black velvet embroidered baby quilt. The thought, “I could do that,” kept running through my head like a streaming tape until she began to speak.

Patty, a middle-aged pixie, reeled us in with her energy, humor and ease. We relaxed and listened, laughed and applauded.

“Let’s meet her. I’d love to get a picture of her and me. Would you mind?” I asked Derrol at the conclusion of her speech.

He jumped up, shouldered the camera case and said, “Let’s go.”

We headed toward the front where the speaker and author of “Pieces of An American Quilt” signed and sold copies. By the time we worked our way through the crowd Patty had stepped away from the table and was mingling, attempting to find the exit and escape. I tentatively asked, “Ms. McCormick, would you care if we took a picture?”

“I would love it,” she crowed and threw herself into my husband’s arms. “I saw you at the back of the room and so appreciated your smiles,” she said grinning up into my husband’s beaming face. “It takes a brave man to spend the day alone with hundreds of women.”

I hesitated, gaped, then reached for the camera and asked them to pose.

Patty wrapped her arm around behind him and leaned against his chest, snuggling into his arm that automatically embraced her just like he held me. She lingered a moment after the flash and said, “I enjoy seeing a man who appreciates quilts.”

“Oh, yeah. Quilts are great,” my husband responded, not moving.

I took another picture.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Florida with Fabric Flair

When moving from the Midwest to Florida, I didn't think that quilt shows would change much.

Of course I also didn't expect to see birds preying on cats, sink holes swallowing houses, or little anoles serving as my signs of hope. I truly live in a Dr. Seuss world and I'm not alone in that thinking. Here's a quilt "UR Makn Me Kraze, by Norma Schaut of Merritt Island that says it all!

I went blithely to my first Cabin Fever quilt show in January 2004 and began to fall in love or at least 'like' with Florida. After a summer here I realize that cabin fever is a real thing when temperatures and humidity combine to keep most of us tied to some form of air conditioning for months on end. Yet in that first January, a month after we had arrived, I saw a glimpse of what others find so delightful in this land of sand and sunshine.

I return each year to charge up on the tropical beauty and quirky sense of humor (note the photo of the beach flip flops quilt by Josephine Steege of Orlando) and the truly Florida quilts I find at the Cabin Fever Quilt Show held around the 20th of January every year at the fairgrounds on West Colonial Drive, about 40 minutes from my home.

This year disappointed because two of the biggest names in Florida quilting circles and members of the Cabin Fever guild chose not to display any quilts -- Nancy Prince and Mary Sorensen. They are sadly missed at least by me. But others have stepped up with beautiful work to fill the gap.

Merritt Island award winning artist Diane Smith's work always draws me in. She mans a booth "FiberSmith" each year where she sells her dyes and chemicals, Angelina Fibers, SHIVA paintstiks, Tsukineko inks, her own hand dyed fabrics. Diane also offers fabric dyeing retreats, workshops and lectures. and some of her beautiful work. It was her sunset silhouette that first made me find the love of Florida. (See photo above.) She surprised me at her diversity, creating some of the most amazing geometric abstracts, too.

The Three Crafty Ladies from Sanibel Island (a beautiful area) set up shop each year and bring in their quirky Florida patterns that include an unusual network of fabric sea shells and star fish that loosely connect into a table runner. I always think of crochet when I see the way the tips of one object are loosely stitched to the next.

Another very simple pattern that always makes me smile -- a big fat fish shaped place mat. (See him to the upper left in accompanying photo.) Strip pieced and complete with one round eye, it shouts Florida! And the fabrics and colors that are pure Florida.

The quilt show is well attended, hosts a fine merchant mall, outside dining (can't do that in Ohio in January), demonstrations nonstop throughout the day and smiles all around. They also host a silent auction for small quilts the members have made and this year they opened a boutique to sell quilts that the members have for sale including a sweet Nancy Prince thread painting.

I bought a wall hanging 4x4-foot for only $35 at the boutique. And I think I'm in love! Shimmery batik fabrics, metallic thread, a beautiful use of colors and cloth. Simple but striking and made by Joyce Scarbrough of Orlando. I had admired her work in several categories throughout the show and was excited to bring home a piece of her work.

They offer a variety of displays of fabric art created throughout the year for and by special interest groups they support. And Teddy Pruett, an American Quilt Society certified appraiser was on hand to offer her wisdom to place value on family heirlooms.

Not everything is kitch or even tropical or Florida inspired of course. Many of the members from the Space Coast and on into Central Florida have taken classes through their local guilds who bring in well known teachers and many beautiful quilts result from these encounters. Many produce some exciting traditional quilts and the art of hand applique and quilting is still alive and well in Florida. Yet, they manage to capture the essence of Florida's lifestyle. I've included several photos and hope you find them as delightful as I did.

Note the use of citrus colors, makes my mouth water, in this quilt, Silver Celebration, by Mary Beth Krapil of Orlando. She made it to commemorate Cabin Fever's 25th anniversary. What a clever use of log cabin blocks.

An abundance of metallic thread and shimmering batiks made there way into several quilts. Of course nature inspires many of the Florida or tropical quilts on display. Such as "Night Birds" by Norma Schaut of Merritt Island -- photo below.

These are but a sampling of "Florida inspired" or inspiring fabric art at the Cabin Fever Show, and I haven't even touched on the art quilts....

That's for another blog!

The Sunshine State Quilters Guild offers a list of quilts you could possibly win in the state of Florida this year. Visit their website and see what events are planned in the Sunshine State and what quilts are being raffled, including the Cabin Fever raffle quilt (which I hope to win!).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The story behind the art: Virginia Spiegel

Into the Wild - The Inspiration Behind the Boundary Waters series artwork
by Virginia Spiegel

Virginia accepted my invitation to write her own story for my blog. Below she lets us see a bit of her inspiration as well as the extended bits and pieces that became a part of her Boundary Waters series. As you will see it is not just about communing with nature, but finding family, a true sisterhood. The number of art pieces influenced by these wilderness trips now number 42. (Boundary Waters No. 37 'Bird on Branch" is shown here) -- Dawn

NOTE: Boundary Waters 37 is part of six artworks in the Boundary Waters series that are slightly surrealist views of my favorite things from our trips. There’s my sister in her trusty yellow life jacket in the back of the boat and joining her is one of the many eagles that we have seen. I included this particular eagle as a remembrance from a specific incident in which we had come ashore to leave the Boundary Waters after quite a trying journey and an eagle swooped down over us three times in big lazy circles as if to bid us farewell.

In 2003, I asked my sister (Nancy J. Spiegel Rosman) if she would consider taking me to the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters is a 1.1 million acres of lakes and forests on the border between Canada and Minnesota set aside, after a very contentious battle, as a place where Mother Nature reigns supreme. Visitors must secure a permit and enter on a specific day at a specific entry point. There are no signs in the Boundary Waters. No one checks to see if you are doing OK. The only full time inhabitants are wolves, moose, bears, beavers and loons. And, of course, mosquitoes, black flies, and ticks.

After she finished laughing, she agreed.

My sister and I are five years apart in age and I regarded her as the spoiled baby of the family and she regarded me as a stuck-up intellectual. But I had changed. After walking across England (190 miles), I realized, "Hey, I'm not the physically inept person I had internalized from my very painful high school gym experiences. I could be tough and I love a challenge."

She had made two trips previously with her young sons and church groups. So, off we went in a rented canoe, with my newly purchased children's life vest and a borrowed paddle. My useless sleeping bag required me to wear all my clothes and sleep wrapped in a garbage bag to survive the nights. Our tent leaked and it rained most of the time. Lightning struck so close we smelled burned toast.

AND we had a blast.

We went out paddling our canoe and explored portages that bears evidently used, but no humans had been on for quite some time. Along the way we pulled each other out of giant swamp sink holes, survived a flipped canoe. (I did it when I didn't check to see if Nan had both feet in the boat.) And generally we laughed at adversity.

We were hooked by the serenity and the challenge of the Boundary Waters. We have returned eleven more times in the past five years, reaching 110 days total in 2008. See photo above of Nancy (left) and Virginia with canoe and equipment.

I now consider my sister my best friend as we have truly "had each other's back" in some interesting situations. And after being weathered in our tiny tent together for days on end, there is nothing we don't know about each other - good and bad.

We have experienced a moose breathing on our tent. We came upon a moose with a huge rack on a portage and baby-talked him into letting us wait safely for him to decide where to go. We heard a bear snuffle past our tent and convinced another not to take our food pack in the night. We watched our food (and toilet paper) supply diminish each day as we waited out an endless storm. Then we paddled twenty miles and made twenty portages in one day when said food and TP reached an end. And we paddled like no tomorrow when wind and waves come out of nowhere with no shore in sight.

We have seen stars too numerous to count, so close that you swear you could touch them. We spent days without seeing or hearing another human. Floating in our canoe we watched moose feed on lily pads, and beavers talking and working. There was time to write haiku, take thousands of photographs, sketch, and keep journals. Reflecting on all of them sustained us through long winters.

But mainly we listened to the quiet - a quiet that steadies our souls and hearts.

Bio: Virginia Spiegel creates textile art for the wall from her own hand-painted fabrics as well as mixed-media collages, artist books, and sculpture. She is the author of the eBook Art, Nature, Creativity, Life and for two years wrote the The Garbage Day Project blog which took a tongue-in-cheek look at garbage, art, and recycling in her neighborhood. Spiegel is the founder of Fiberart For A Cause which has raised more than $165,000 for the American Cancer Society since 2005.She holds a M.S. from Purdue University and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in non-art, and generally esoteric, subjects. She abandoned her academic career to become a full-time artist after surviving an auto accident in 1998.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fabric artist, Valerie C. White, included in Obama exhibit

Louisville fabric artist, Valerie C. White, and a dear quilting friend, was chosen to make an original project for inclusion in "Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebrating the Inauguration of our 44th president."

The exhibit was conceived by Roland Freeman, a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington. Also, he is head of the nonprofit Group for Cultural Documentation that is sponsoring "Quilts for Obama" with the Women of Color Quilters Network.

The show, additionally, features older and historical quilts, including one by Carrie Nelson of Georgetown, S.C., the oldest living member of Michelle Robinson Obama's family, according to Freeman. The exhibit, 801 K St. NW, ends Jan. 31. (It will be closed Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.) For information, call (202) 882-7764 or visit

Valerie is one of 44 artists chosen to contribute to this exhibit. You can see her creation in the photo above, taken by exhibit curator, Roland Freeman. For those hoping the exhibit will travel to their town, don't get too excited, it doesn't appear to be a traveling exhibit. But there is talk about it being made into a book.

Valerie said, "I had such a good time at the opening it was like old home week."

The Louisville newspaper, the Courier-Journal, wrote a well crafted article about Valerie, this project and her quilting life and history. Get to know Valerie and her
art better at her website, too.

If you happen to visit the Quilters World Magazine online you can view and download a pdf of Valerie's Fabric Jazz. Or pick up the February 2008 issue (not a typo, y
es it was last year) my interview with Valerie and photos of some of her work are featured. It was one of my favorite articles and most fun interviews.

And see Valerie in her workroom or creative central in her home in Louisville in the photo to
the right, taken by Pamela Spaulding of the Courier-Journal.

Valerie's life is almost as spectacular as her art. Way to go Valerie. Give Barack a hug for us!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nature's designs for inspiration

Several scientists look to nature's designs for answers to problems.

Andrew Parker, evolutionary biologist associated with the Natural Museum of London, examines a thorny devil, in the sands of Australia near Alice Springs. The little lizard whose name sounds more dangerous than the short little guy who stands only about an inch high at the shoulders teaches Parker how to absorb water. It wicks the water up through its feet someway, until it is covered with water and it eventually gets to his mouth. As the scientist watched, the lizard smacked its lips in evident delight as the water trickled down its throat.

This research, biomimetics, will help humans better deal with the dry desert and search for water. And this is not his first or only project.
"Parker is a leading proponent of biomimetics—applying designs from nature to solve problems in engineering, materials science, medicine, and other fields. He has investigated iridescence in butterflies and beetles and anti reflective coatings in moth eyes—studies that have led to brighter screens for cellular phones and an anti counterfeiting technique so secret he can't say which company is behind it. He is working with Procter & Gamble and Yves Saint Laurent to make cosmetics that mimic the natural sheen of diatoms, and with the British Ministry of Defense to emulate their water-repellent properties. He even draws inspiration from nature's past: On the eye of a 45-million-year-old fly trapped in amber he saw in a museum in Warsaw, Poland, he noticed microscopic corrugations that reduced light reflection. They are now being built into solar panels."
Fabric artists look to nature for a variety of designs and patterns, not so much to cure the world's technology or health issues, but as inspiration for unique original creations that make us think and grow. Sometimes the design is meant simply to soothe.

National Geographic has several photos available online for patterns in nature -- sand, minerals, plants -- whatever aspect of nature you see, there you will find patterns to inspire. The crystal below inspires me with its use of color and pattern, juxtaposition of shapes....

Maybe your inspiration is merely a footprint you leave in the sand or mud in your garden -- it impacts the environment and can inspire a piece of art that captures that moment and its consequences for good or ill. People have been inspired to memorable creations, even religious reinforcements, by things as small as the seed pattern inside of a tomato or apple.

What you see is interpreted by what you bring to it, what is already in your mind. And sometimes just the right leaf or beetle, fruit or sand formation will bring out something you didn't know existed inside your own thoughts. So I hope these photos will help to feed your muse and remind you that this is our world. We are its caretakers and many of us have been asleep on the job.

Anyone interested in putting together an exhibit of nature-inspired fabric art? Or maybe you already have a piece? I would be honored to include a photo here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Green inspiration and fears

If you are in need of motivation to make the effort to go green, help the environment or just live a healthier lifestyle, I can recommend two sites, to begin with, that may help you shift your attitudes to nature lover and environmentalist. My dear writing friend Sandra Friend has written about the Florida she loves. She lives the life -- walks the walk AND talks the talk. And her friends -- oh my! Photographers and environmentalists and nature lovers and people devoting their lives to capturing the beauty and saving the land.

The photo above is of a baby loggerhead turtle. She took the photo at the Turtle Hospital. Need I say more or use the word endangered with this little cutey?

Please take a hike with Bart Smith. By the way, he is one of the few who has hiked all of the national scenic trails. I've known several hardy souls who spent a year preparing to walk HALF of the Appalachian Trail and had to be rescued before they'd finished. Bart's more than finished the Appalachian Trail, he's photographed it and went on to do eight more such treks in the past 16 years.

I just took a picture tour on his website along the Appalachian Trail and I so wish I were there, just soaking up the beauty. And for quilters -- I saw quilt patterns wherever I looked. Looking for a landscape to recreate in cloth? Look at what Bart has framed with his camera. The Florida trail has some particularly interesting concepts for fabric artists, at least it grabbed me.

In Florida, Sandra urgently works to save our public parks and blogs about her concerns. Talk about a lone voice in the wilderness! When it comes to budget trimming in our legislation, perhaps they are trimming more than we can afford. On this blog site, she has set up an interactive map of the affected sites.

Maybe you wonder why you should care about Florida's woes. But you've heard the adage of helping others so that when the time comes there will be someone left to help you. Plus we all know there is more to Florida than Disney's creations, and we also know that we are the United States and helping another state is much like helping ourselves. And if that isn't enough, perhaps this is a wake up call for you to check out what your own government is endangering with their budget cuts.

Nature and beauty as we know are not indulgences, they are necessary ingredients, food for our souls. And without a healthy soul -- we're black-hearted robots! Or at least we're empty and searching for something.

I didn't start this blog as an advocacy for action or a letter writing campaign to our legislators, but maybe that's what it must be. This is a year for action. I fear we -- me -- sat too long trusting others to make the right decisions. Now it is time to needle someone into doing the right things. Saving our natural treasures is definitely the right thing!!!