Jon Visits Me and Fate in my Studio

January 27th, 2016

jona dn fae2

Some Stardust For Sale

January 27th, 2016
Stardust Potholders

Stardust Potholders

I still have four Stardust Potholders available.  They’re $15 each + $5 shipping and made the old way, with insulated batting.  Each one also has a piece of an old quilt top incorporated in it, you can see the octagon shapes from it.   If you see one you like you you can email me here at  I take checks and paypal.

Flower Breathing Dragon

January 26th, 2016

lace tree

I’ve been wanting to use an idea that I saw in a book of  Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work.  A grid of small squares, each with an image of one thing.   They’re prints for  Loteria, a game similar to Bingo.  Yesterday when I looked at my quilt with the lace tree on it, hanging on my wall, I thought the “Loteria”  idea would work perfectly.

I used my own images, my visual vocabulary and things that were right in front of me as I sat in my studio drawing.   My sewing machine, an outlet, a goddess, a donkey, a chair.  Each square, its own little world.


Posada’s wood cuts for Loteria

lace tree detail 2

This morning I hung the quilt on the back wall of my studio.  I needed to see it from a distance.  I sat in my chair and looked at it, waiting for it to tell me what needed to be done next.   What it  called for was something that I hadn’t drawn.

So I started going through my stacks of fabric, looking for the right thing.   I was thinking snake, but found a dragon with the movement I wanted.   His mouth was open, teeth bared  and by the end of the day I knew he was breathing not fire, but flowers.  Just enough to embrace my Snake Goddess.

lace tree all

Is still have to sew the dragon and flowers down, but this is what the quilt looked like when I left my studio tonight.


Kim McMillan, The Artist Emerges

January 26th, 2016
Kim McMillan

Kim McMillan

I wanted to make a toast, clink our water glasses over lunch at the Round House Cafe.  I wanted to thank Kim for sewing my potholders for the past three years.  For being my first employee and helping me learn how to work with someone, for all the good work she did for me.

But we got talking and I forgot all about the toast, the reason we were having lunch.  Which is that Kim won’t be working with me anymore.  She’s moving on and will be using her creative time to do her own work.

I sold Kim’s felted wallets and handbags each with its own  vintage button at the Bedlam Farm Open Houses.   And I  plan on selling them again in this June’s Open House.  So Kim will still be around,  but in a different way.

The first time I met Kim she told me she never made her own designs and wasn’t interested in doing that.  She always followed a pattern or copied what someone else did.  At the time, I knew she was perfect for what I needed.  Someone who just wanted to make some extra money sewing.  Which is how Kim has made a living most of her life.  (She started  sewing in an underwear factory  when she was a teenage).

Yesterday Kim told me she realized that she can draw.  It’s just a matter of looking and focusing she said.   She always thought it was cheating to use a photograph as a reference, that her drawings had to come right from her head. I could make a collection of all the  excuses I’d heard  that  stop people from doing the work they really want to.  One of mine was  that I thought my work had to be original.  That kept me from working for years.

So no more factory work for Kim.  The artist inside her is emerging and from now on Kim will spend her time creating.  Although I’ll miss her sewing my potholders and Vintage Hankie Scarves,  I couldn’t be happier for Kim.  This, after all, is part of my work, part of my place in this world.  To encourage creativity.   I don’t think I so much actively encouraged Kim as just did what I do, which allowed her to see the possibilities.

I’ll keep you updated on Kim’s work and as for me, I can’t wait to see what she does next.

One of Kim's felted handbags

One of Kim’s  hand embroidered, original designs, with vintage buttons,  on her felted handbag.


Good Morning From Bedlam Farm

January 25th, 2016

A little late, but Good Morning From Bedlam Farm.  (I took the video this morning, I just forgot to put it up)


Patti Smith, Continuing the Conversation

January 24th, 2016

shadows and reflections

I never thought much about Patti Smith until I read her book Just Kids a couple of years ago.  I still carry images from that book in my head.  Not from her photos (which are often haunting), but from her writing.  Now I’m reading her new book M Train, and each time I sit down to read it I enter a moody world where dreams, the past and the present are interchangeable.  Sometimes her words create distinct images in my minds, sometimes they wash over me like poetry, leaving me with a feeling or  hint of something just beyond my reach.

Since starting the book I’ve been listening to her music. I’m inspired to use images the way she uses words.  Creating fissures in reality that lead to new ways of seeing and thinking.  All the time aware of  the mundane.

Also since reading M Train I’ve been dreaming a lot.  Long continuous dreams that I remember.

In one I was visiting Patti Smith and her husband in a house that was filled with little kids.  There were two bathrooms in the house and both toilets were overflowing.  I didn’t really know her and was  feeling uncomfortable, like I didn’t belong there.  Trying to make myself useful and liked,  I asked if she wanted me to help mop up the bathroom floors.  She was sitting on a kitchen table,  her feet touching the floor and she said to me, (like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland)  ” Don’t waste my time with such questions”.    All my shyness left me.  I was roused from my stupor.  “Ha! I shouted, what a great answer!”

I understood that she was telling me if I wanted to spend my time mopping up shit I should just go do it, she didn’t care.  But she was there for me if I wanted to have a real conversation.   I woke up after that.  We never got to have the conversation I would have liked to have had about art and living a creative life.  But the  dream’s message was clear to me.   Not to let the crap in life get in the way of my creativity.  To use my time and gifts well.

Patti Smith has nine other books I haven’t read.   So I can continue the conversation from my dream.  Because I’m finding it hard to be a passive reader.  Smith’s words prompt me to act, inspire me creatively and help me to  believe I’ll always have another idea.

“You can’t set a sheep on fire”

January 24th, 2016


Well if I ever question the fire resistance of wool again, I’ll just remember the old saying Marcia left in a comment.  “You can’t a sheep on fire”.  Some very strange images of smouldering sheep come to mind, a good way to remember I guess.

Yesterday I did two things.  I threw my experimental potholder in the washer and dryer to see what would happen.   As you can see from the photo of it above is came out a little lumpy but didn’t shrink as much as I thought it would.

The second thing I did was take all the good advice I got in my comments and email  (thank you all) and  washed one of the big pieces of wool I’m using inside my potholders in hot water with a cold rinse then  put it in the dryer.  Basically I felted it and preshrunk it.

So now it’s ready to go.  I’ll experiment with using less layers of wool.  It’s a bit fluffier after the felting so I shouldn’t need as much.  Then I I’ll do the washer experiment again just so I can see how it comes out.

I ‘m liking  the way 100% recycled sounds.

Experimenting With Wool as Potholder Insulation

January 22nd, 2016
Jon making chicken sausage for lunch, trying out my new potholder

Jon making chicken sausage for lunch, trying out my new potholder

“My mother used to cut up old wool clothes and use them for insulation in her potholders” the woman  cutting 10 yards of Insulbrite (the insulated batting I use inside my potholders)  at JoAnne Fabric told me.  I thought of all the stories I heard about the early settlers dresses catching on fire when they cooked.  Weren’t  their dresses made of wool?

That was years ago,  and I never forgot what  the woman in JoAnne Fabrics said because I liked the idea of it.  If I used wool as insulation,  my potholders would be made of 100% recycled fabric.  But, in my mind, I kept seeing a 1950’s illustration of a pioneer  woman’s long skirt going up in flames as she leaned over the fireplace.

Then, a couple of months ago, Uta gave me 3 boxes of fabric.  One of them was filled with yards of gray and blue and black wool.  And when I ran out of Insulbrite last week,  I thought of the wool.

So I Googled, “is wool flammable?” and found the IWTO’s  (International Wool  Textile Organization) Wool and Flame Resistance Fact Sheet.  And it seems that the cotton fabric I use on the outside of my potholders is more likely to burn than wool.

So I put a big black X through the bad illustration of the woman’s burning skirt, in my mind, and did an experiment.  I made a potholder using one piece of cotton batting and three layers of Uta’s wool.   Then I gave the potholder to Jon to try out.   I would have tested it myself, but he was already making lunch.

First he used it on the frying pan handle, but that doesn’t ever get really hot, so then he used it to take the cookie sheet out of the oven that the  Kale was on.  Once I saw he didn’t get burned, I tried it too.  Not a trace of heat came through the potholder.

The potholder is a little denser and a little softer, which actually makes it easier to grab with.

I have a few more experiments to do.   I think I can use 3 or 4 layers of wool and leave out the cotton batting.   So I’ll try that.  But I also want to see how it washes.  I imagine  the wool will shrink if I put  it in the dryer, pulling the potholder out of shape.  Which would make my potholders  not as easy to clean.  But  would also make them more environmentally sound by using 100% recycled materials and having to line dry them.

I’m open to input, so if anyone know more about this than I do,  I’d like to hear what you have to say.  And I’ll let you know how it goes on my end.

My experimental potholder

My experimental potholder. Made from some  fabric from a quilt that Carol gave me and  some corduroy with wool inside it.

Taming The Confusion

January 21st, 2016

horses and zebras

It started with the Zebra print.  Then came the horses and riders.  But it was deadly serious so I sewed on the orange and yellow flowers.  The red and white plaid gave it some structure.

horses and zebras2

I started it yesterday, when I was feeling the anxiety coming on.  It’s partly menopausal, part  just who I am. Every month I think maybe the blood won’t come this time.  Maybe it’s finally over.  But then the symptoms start to show.  What feels like an electric pulse coursing through my body,  a humming under the surface.  My friend Suzy sends me a video of snow geese and I cry even more easily than usual.  Little things start to irritate me.  The cold air helps, walks in the woods.  And the slow and rhythmic sewing of two pieces of fabric together.

I’m often in a frenzy when I design a quilt, pulling fabric off shelves, piles of it on the floor.  This time I went slowly.  Every piece of fabric I used, I folded up what was left of it and placed it in a neat pile on my desk.  I did the same with the pieces I didn’t use.

horses and zebras4


I set out to make a confusion of color and pattern, then tame it with some blocks and strips of solid colors.  I  had less control over it than I thought.

I’m volunteering at the Cambridge Co-op this afternoon, so I’ll leave my quilt as it is for now.  But I think it might be done.  Having some space from it will do me good.  It’s keeps calling me back to make sense of it. My eye wandering around making connections.  The humming inside of me a little more distant.


Stardust Potholders for Sale

January 20th, 2016
Stardust Potholder

Stardust Potholder

I made these potholder listening to David Bowie’s music, just after he died.  So I’m calling them Stardust Potholders.  Twinkling with color and life.   Each has a piece of an old quilt top that someone sent to me in it.  A new beginning for something old and unused.

My Stardust Postholders are $15 each + $5 shipping for 1-2 and $7 shipping for 3 or more. (shipping is a bit more outside the US)  If any of them call to you, just email me here at  I take checks and paypal.