August Reading List

Comp book cover. Sewing pattern by Angela Bowman, surface design all me

Recently sewn: Comp book cover. Sewing pattern by Angela Bowman, surface design all me

This post is a little later than I meant, seeing as how we’re somehow already halfway through September. I did slightly better with my attention reading span in August, reading six books:

The Things We Wish Were True, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Truly Madly Guilty, Lynne Moriarity
Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander *
All American Boys, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely *
Relativity, Antonia Hayes

As usual, I’ve starred some. The New Jim Crow wasn’t what I’d call enjoyable to read, because of the subject matter. I’ve starred it because it’s such a worthwhile read. I thought I knew about systemic racism, but I learned so much more from this book. And I suspect my reading of Another Brooklyn suffered because the e-book I downloaded seemed to be cut off in parts when I tried to read it in my phone browser, and the overall result was choppy. I usually borrow books in the Kindle format but it wasn’t available yet. I probably won’t try that again.

Art Quiltlet: 36/52

I swear I have other stuff going on besides these quiltlets, which I have such good intentions of posting about, and then the week goes by in a whooosh! of driving kids to schools and bus stops and picking them up again and cooking and packing lunches and cleaning and eking out some time to actually sew or read before falling asleep drooling at a ridiculously early hour most nights. But! I’m keeping up on quiltlets. Sometimes I finish one and immediately think, This one has to go bigger, too. Like, for instance, when I finished this week’s.

Symbols art quiltlet at

I took photos as I went with this one, because I knew it was going to be a multi-step process. First I added color to white fabric using Neocolor II water-soluble pastels; they went on dry, then I wet with a brush.

painted fabric

While that dried, I made a foam printing plate. But scratch foam printing results in a block of paint with the scratched-out part allowing the paper (or fabric, in this case) to show through. I decided I wanted more of the fabric visible, so I decided to cut a stencil out of freezer paper. I drew this free-hand, not terribly worried about getting everything exactly even or all the shapes the same size. Here’s the stencil ironed onto the fabric.

freezer paper stencil

Then I painted it black, let it dry, and heat-set the ink. After peeling off the stencil, I had this:

freezer paper stencil

Finally, I added the white geometric stitching, cropped, and finished. As I was stitching, my husband walked by and said, “I like that fabric.”

“I made it!” I said. And how cool is that? I really need to finish gathering the dyeing and batik supplies. That’s one of my goals for September–to have everything I need by the end of the month. Another is to freshen up this site a bit. And post a little more. Goals are good, hmm?

Art Quiltlet: 35/52

Playing with Curves art quiltlet at

All three kids are in school as of this week, which you’d think would free up lots of time, but it’s not feeling that way. It’s a three-and-a-half hour stretch in the morning between wake up (to make sure my oldest is moving) and dropping off the final child. Five-and-a-half hours later, I start picking them up again. It’s about the same amount of time I had last year, except I’m much more tired and needing to go to bed much earlier, so I’m useless at accomplishing anything in the evenings. So, it’s net much less productive time.

Anyway, all that to say that even with my supposedly free days, I didn’t get to this week’s quiltlet until Thursday, finishing on Friday. My inspiration came from The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood. I decided to try “template-free layered curve patchwork.” It was tricky at times and the curves don’t show up a whole lot at this scale, but I enjoyed arranging them and adding free-motion stitching. Here’s what it looked like before I cropped it.

art quiltlet before cropping at

The book, which Amazon thought I’d like (so I borrowed it from the library to see) has some interesting ideas for piecing that I want to try, but I’m skimming a lot because I’m not interested in the life advice part (the subtitle is A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously). I think I’m content to get my quilting inspiration and my life guidelines in different places when it comes right down to it.

The year is winding down. Thirty-five weeks gone. There’s nothing like a weekly project to keep you mindful of the passing of time, geez.

Art Quiltlet: 34/52

hand stitched collage art quiltlet at

This has been an interesting week. My two older kids began school (the youngest starts next week). I have three kids at three schools on three different schedules, and two of them need transportation. My oldest began high school at a magnet STEM program, so he needs to be driven to the bus stop, and I’ve been getting up at 5:30 every morning to make sure he’s up. (High school. When I began blogging, at a long-gone blog, he was four.) Sunday night I messed up my sewing machine, which was well overdue for a cleaning anyway, so I was without that all week. I also had an allergic reaction to a new detergent we tried, specifically for sweaty workout clothes, and my skin has been flaring and miserable since Sunday. I fell down the stairs very early one morning. Getting up at 5:30 stinks.

So, anyway, without a sewing machine, I completely hand-stitched this week’s quiltlet. It includes flannel (which I sometimes use as the middle of the sandwich, instead of batting), gelatin-printed cotton, organza, tulle, and plastic netting from a clementine box. I stitched the layers together with the blue embroidery thread stitches, leaving some of the flannel exposed. When I cropped, I stitched the crop line with regular thread, then finished the edges with blanket stitch. This took me all week, in fits and starts, which is actually the kind of time I had. My youngest and I were doing things together while her brothers were in school, and that wake-up schedule has me pretty tired anyway. I need to get used to it.

Next week we add the final moving part into this logistical challenge of getting the kids where they need to be, and on time, every day. Hopefully it doesn’t all fall apart.

Art Quiltlet: 33/52

Leaf art quiltlet at

Earlier in the week I saw this photograph come across my Instagram feed, and I liked it quite a bit. It stuck in my head, and definitely inspired last week’s quiltlet (completed on Saturday, just posted late). This quiltlet uses several techniques, and I like that I’m getting more comfortable mixing different methods. It’s also great to have expanded my technique toolbox, so to speak, so I have more options and a better likelihood of portraying something the way I see it in my head.

The top of this piece is composed of three layers. I wanted a lighter value green than any I had in stash, so I took a white piece of fabric and used Neocolor II watersoluble pastels on it, then sprayed with water and brushed to blend. The green is the middle layer, with the coral on the bottom and the purple on top. I stitched the leaf and then ripped away the fabric around it using the stitch and slash method, except I used scissors in places for a cleaner edge and I trimmed the green close on the outside edge rather than letting it show. Then I printed the coral with stripes of darker pink paint. After making a quilt sandwich, I free-motion stitched around them, cropped, and zigzagged the edges.

Leaf art quiltlet, detail, at

Leaf art quiltlet, detail

This came out about how I’d hoped, and was a fun bit of play on a Saturday afternoon. I need to bring my sewing machine in for service on Monday–I have thread tangled around the tension discs and it’s not something I can remedy at home (it’s overdue for a cleaning anyway). Depending on how long they keep it, I may be doing this week’s quiltlet entirely by hand. I could borrow my daughter’s Hello Kitty machine–but there is something appealing about adding another layer of challenge.

Art Quiltlet: 32/52

art quiltlet at

Back to Neocolor water-soluble pastels on this one. First I stitched the oval shapes, then colored them in and added water. (They bled a bit more than I intended.) Once the piece was dry, I added the running stitch with hand embroidery, cropped, and finished the edges. Hmmm I don’t know, it’s a departure from anything I usually do. I’m still deciding how I feel about it.

Art Quiltlet: 31/52


This one is simple and slow. First I carved a two-inch pinwheel quilt block stamp, which I then block printed on some fabric I dyed in a class a few weeks ago. I also dyed some thread in that class as an experiment, so I used it to outline on the diagonal by hand. Then I cropped and finished the edges. It’s simple, but satisfying. And I enjoy hand-stitching. I stitched this while watching the Olympic opening ceremonies with kids who wouldn’t stop talking.

So, I did finish this on time–it was completed Saturday morning–but the weekend was busy so I’m posting it now. Thirty-one weeks in and I’m still on schedule with making one each week.

Patterns quiltlet detail at

June + July Reading List

I'd rather be here than in Maryland.

I’d rather be here than in Maryland.

June and July’s books-read list is short, comparatively. I’m not enjoying summer in Maryland. Actually, I kind of hate it. I thought it might be better than last summer seeing as how we had time to line up a few activities and we know our way around better. It’s not. It’s disgustingly hot, so awful that for a stretch there my always-outside younger two kids couldn’t handle it. There is no beach. Nature is far away. I’m sick of suburbia, I miss the ocean and my yard in Rhode Island so much it hurts. Who knew you could miss land that much? I used to love summer. We had our favorite places–not just the beach, but other spots near the water, rocky shore with tide pools, aquarium and seaport, picnics and parks. You could do things outside, most of the summer, except for a couple really sultry weeks in August, but even then, you could gather up the kids after dinner for a sunset walk along the shore, where the air was cooler and the breeze tasted of salt. I didn’t take it for granted when I had it, but that didn’t stop me from losing it anyway. I knew I was really lucky to live in a place I loved so much–and it was the nature, absolutely, that rooted me in Rhode Island, not family (which has scattered) or friends (ditto). It was the way I could always find happiness in my natural surroundings. Summer filled me up.

Here, summer is wearying. It’s hot. We don’t get out enough. We’re fractious. I’m tired. We all sneeze and are congested a lot. My attention span is pitiful. All this is to say, this is all I read in June and July. I abandoned many, many books partway through because they couldn’t keep my interest (they’re not listed). I flip through magazines. I lay on my bed a lot, under the ceiling fan, kind of worn out and sad and homesick.

Anyway, here’s the list. Ones I especially liked are starred.


Don’t Be A Jerk & Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, by Brad Warner * (mostly read in May)
We’re All Damaged, by Matthew Norman*
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman*
Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen
The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Raising Demons, by Shirley Jackson


The Trials of Apollo, by Rick Riordan
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson*
Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God, by Alom Shaha*

Art Quiltlet: 30/52

Mountains art quiltlet at

I finished the year’s thirtieth art quiltlet on Saturday night, so it had to wait until today to post. It’s hard to do justice with a photograph, but here we are. I bought myself some new art supplies this week, long-coveted Neocolor II water-soluble wax oil pastels (except I bought them at my local art supply store, and how I love having one!!). To create this, I used a watercolor painting I made a while ago (I didn’t date it, shame on me), which was inspired by a photo in the National Geographic Instagram feed, which I can no longer easily find because if there’s a way to sort favorites on IG, I don’t know it.

watercolor at

To create the art quiltlet, I laid dry color down with the pastels, then blended with a wet paint brush. When it was dry, I made my quilt sandwich using flannel rather than batting, and added the stitching. At that point I decided to add a little more color in some spots with the pastels. More drying, then I was able to crop and finish.

I love the pastels. I’ve been wanting them to use with fabric for a while, but they are a little pricey. However, a week of triple-digit heat indices and driving round and round Annapolis dropping people off and picking them up, and I decided I was worth $30 pastels.

Since this is quiltlet number thirty, it’s time for another group-of-ten photograph. Quiltlets 21-30:

Art quiltlets 21-30 at

I’ve been asked more than once what I plan to do with them all when I’m done. I don’t have a plan. Right now they’re in an overflowing box (I need a second box). The point of this exercise was never about the end product. It’s about the process of committing to making a small piece of textile art every single week and seeing where that leads.

Art Quiltlet: 29/52

Crying Flag art quiltlet at

I did not watch the RNC on TV this past week. I “watched” it via Twitter, live blogs, and news articles, and that was sickening enough. I have never lived with the delusion that America is a perfect and great country, while maintaining optimism that this democratic experiment would one day bear fruit for all. Women were left out of the Declaration of Independence; blacks were reduced to 3/5 of a person in the Constitution. I am well aware this country was created by privileged white men, for privileged white men. Gains for the rest of us have been slow coming, and incremental. This past week saw an established, long-standing party’s leadership gather behind and support a truly conservative stance in the strictest sense of the word: “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established” (Merriam-Webster). What was established was governance for and by white men; what has been imagined and hoped for and lauded through the years is liberty and justice for all.

Crying Flag art quiltlet detail at

I see those ideals fading, buried under racism, misogyny, and fear-mongering, and a candidate and a party who has allowed and encouraged those angry, hateful voices to get louder and louder.

This week’s quiltlet portrays a crying American flag. It is how I feel.