Thursday, October 30, 2008

Twelve by Twelve Down Under

Issue 126 (November 2008) of Down Under Quilts magazine features a profile of our very own Kirsten Duncan. But wait, there's more! Under the heading of "Global Quilting", there is also a three page article about the Twelve by Twelve Collaborative Art Quilt Project with insights (and photos) from Australian members Kirsten and Brenda. Grab a copy from your newsagent, or order online, today! Issue 126 (Nov 2008) Down Under Quilts

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Math -- it's like being in school

My Maths quilt is looking less like pattern drafting and more like a research paper.

I spent a good part of today reading and searching for numbers to illustrate the concept of my quilt. I was pleased to see that at least I had appropriate fabrics in my stash (this is why I won't get rid of ANY fabric -- I've had these for 15 years!).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Story of Maths

In England, the BBC has been screening a four-part series about the history of mathematics, presented by Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy. Helen, have you been watching The Story of Maths?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

4, 16, 32

Fractals and spirals and chaos theory! I actually think there are a lot of Mathematicians who are also quilters, and us quilters who are not are probably using a lot more math than we give ourselves credit for.

I went straight to traditional quilting on this one and found 4-patch, 16-patch and 36-patch designs that looked like larger or smaller versions of each other and kinda melded them together to make one 12 x 12 composition. It's mathematical in it's division and near-fractalness. It looks pretty much how I expected it to, but even if (or maybe especially if) I used "mathematical" colors like tints and shades and transparencies of each other, it would look like something made by cutting edge quilters from the seventies when Michael James and Nancy Crow were making perfectly gradated, precisely pieced strips and optical illusions. It just looks like a traditional quilt to me.

I'm going to have to keep working on this theme -- going further back to basics: ones, tens, hundreds, counting, accounting, pattern, predictability, and keeping track of things. Counting something in those groups of five comes to mind, as does an abacus. A loaded phrase like "You do the math," leads me to statistics -- perhaps a comparison of something considered woman's work with something not...

Chaos Theory

I started this quilt for a "My World in Black and White" challenge, but of course my crazy, chaotic life took over and I didn't get past some quilting and painting. My thoughts on it go along with Helen's previous fractal post. The larger spiral is made up of smaller spirals, which in theory would then be made up of even smaller spirals. The pattern would continue infinitely. I can't quilt quite that small, so you will have to imagine it being made of smaller and smaller spirals.
I remember from my younger days fractals and chaos theory being connected, but it has been years since I have exposed myself to theoretical mathematics. I have to admit that I was quite the mathematician in my younger days. I finished college calculus junior year in high school, attended the national math convention in Huntsville, Alabama, and was accepted at MIT. It was in Alabama that we attended a lecture about chaos and fractals. Unfortunately, we had a red-eye flight from Seattle the night before and our entire group, including our math teacher, fell asleep during the lecture. Maybe that has something to do with why I don't remember too my details beyond pictures of cauliflower. After high school I turned my back on math and became an art school drop out. Now I have a chance to recover that lost side of my intellect and merge the two.


I learned something tonight - see this picture above.. a simple geometric quilt pattern? Nope. A fractal. Which is some high falulutin' mathematical concept.
Specifically this is Sierpinski's carpet fractal.
The mathematicians say,
"The construction of the Sierpinski carpet begins with a square. The square is cut into 9 congruent subsquares in a 3-by-3 grid, and the central subsquare is removed. The same procedure is then applied recursively to the remaining 8 subsquares, ad infinitum. The Hausdorff dimension of the carpet is log 8/log 3 ≈ 1.8928" (from Wikipedia)
Me? I say it is a series of nine patches.....
Maybe I can do this maths related thing after all. In fact fractals are shapes which can be divided into smaller units which all have similarities in shape.
See some more complicated (and fabricy) versions here and here

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Notecard winner

The winner of our notecard competition has been chosen by our scientifically randomised number generator. ('Den! Pick a number between one and twenty five....')

It is Lindi but we are grateful for all your comments. Ironically she lives in Australia and I only have the cards to deliver becuase Brenda brought them to the UK from Australia for me to deal with while she was busy in the US....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Chance to Vote!

The poll in our blog side bar closes in just a few hours. At present, Dandelion is way out in front as the favourite collaborative quilt mosaic so far but maybe there will a last minute surge for one of the other themes. (Statistics can be fun, and may provide some inspiration for our next theme of "Mathematics".)

At the same time as the poll closes, we will be closing the celebration draw for some special Twelve by Twelve notecards. It's not to late for you to leave a comment so that your name can go into the draw.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blast from the Past

Hey Kirsty, remember these? Growing up in New Zealand in the 1970s, cuisenaire rods were integral to my early mathematics education.
I'm guessing that cuisenaire rods are not around in schools any more and certainly not the smooth wooden ones like I used to have.

Friday, October 3, 2008


In the current era, my first thought on finding out the theme was this quote from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Mr Micawber speaking....

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Topping Off or Topping Out

In building construction, topping out, or topping off, is a ceremony held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building. The term may also refer to the overall completion of the building's structure. A topping out ceremony is usually held to commemorate the event. Here on the Twelve by Twelve blog we are celebrating by inviting our readers to leave a comment before 5pm on 15 October to go into a draw for some of our special notecards. You might also like to vote in our poll to nominate your favourite collaborative art quilt mosaic so far (see the sidebar).

Now all of our shelter-themed quilts have been unveiled, I have compiled the collaborative art quilt mosaic:

I always get a thrill to see how our quilts come together in the mosaics. In the Community mosaic, you will recall how Kristin and Gerrie's quilt both featured a similar cross motif. Then in the Illumination mosaic, Gerrie's pears were echoed by Terri's lightbulb. This time, the shape of Diane's cave doorway and Karen's Lost City could almost be the positive/negative of one another (how spooky is that!) while Gerrie and Nikki are channelling orange. What do you see?

PS: Don't miss out on seeing what others have to say. Here is the link for the comments feed on this blog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

and the Next Theme is ...

The study of the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols.

Over the last year I have spent a lot of time thinking about this theme. Ideas have come and gone, but this is the one that has continually stuck. I almost abandoned it thinking it lacked definite visuals or it was too broad. But this is suppose to be a challenge! I have no idea what I am going to do, so I have no advantage over everyone else. So now it's time to explore the other side of our brains.


I was excited by this challenge... because I have a penchant for house blocks!! But, after a little consideration, I reminded myself that I have a personal challenge amongst all of this to make something that is not my first inclination (most of the time I succeed!).

As I considered "Shelter" the idea that returned over and over was of the safe and loved childhood I enjoyed. My childhood was spent on a large block of land where both my parents and my maternal grandparents had houses and I was adored and spoiled by all of them. There was a huge vege garden and an orchard and Dad built us an enormous sandpit. The more I thought about it all, the more I realised that an attempt at a realistic image would never express all of it, so my quilt became more and more abstract.

Until, it was this. More or less a schematic (I hope I am using this word correctly!) of the land and houses. It isn't to scale but it does contain both houses, the sandpit, important trees (including this one) and even my Grandfather's truck which was always parked in the same place.

The name for my quilt is "Everlasting". The benefit of a loving childhood has an everlasting benefit on ones life. It is also a reference to the first lines of a hymn which ran through my head as I considered the impact of my blessed start in life:
Everlasting arms of Love
are around, beneath, above...


Shelter From the Storm

This challenge was the hardest for me to get going on and maintain momentum. I'm not sure if it's because I had too many ideas, or not enough good ideas, no focus, or as Karen suggested, my head just was in another place due to our move.

I toyed with a wide range of ideas and kept circling around the shelter of a mother's care and a sheltered life (not unexpected ideas from a geographically single mother trying to balance how much to expose her kids to or not). The concepts in my head didn't match what my hands were willing to do though. Finally, about a week ago, I was looking out the window at some very dramatic clouds moving over the mountains towards us, and decided to just keep it simple.

Log cabin construction reinforces the house/shelter and a contrast of warm colors for the house with cool, stormy colors for the outside hopefully tells the story. I had a lot of fun finding meaningful "stormy" fabrics like the swirling leaves, puddled water, driving rain, and of course, storm clouds. If the Japanese ones at the top look familiar it's because they were a gift from Jude of Spirit Cloth, who has also used them to great effect in her own dramatic work.

Let's celebrate!

Our latest challenge quilts have started to appear online - only two to go! When we started this collaborative art quilt project a year ago, we had little inkling of how much fun it would be for us. We also hope our readers have enjoyed following our challenges with us.

The "reveal" of our shelter quilts marks the midpoint in our challenge timetable. To help us celebrate this milestone, we invite our readers to leave a comment by no later than 15 October (blog time) to go into a draw for a special set of notecards featuring some of our collaborative theme mosaics:

Dandelion Chocolate
Community Water
Illumination Shelter

While you are at it, you can vote in the poll in the sidebar. Let us know what is your favourite collaborative theme mosaic so far!

First Shelter

Was the first shelter a tree? An outcropping of rock, to huddle against for protection from sun or rain? Or was it the discovery of an opening in a wall of rock, leading to a cool, dark cave? Imagine the relief of finding a covered, protected hole, away from the beating rays of the sun. Privacy. Safety. Shelter.
I had so many ideas as I explored the concept of shelter, and the one I'd *planned* on doing involved the concept of "animal shelter." We are heavily involved with our local animal shelter and all of our pets have been shelter-rescue animals, so the subject is dear to my heart. But even as I drew sketches and starting working on the dog that I'd planned to feature, I kept coming back to this cave idea. And so I just had to put the dog away, and work on this.
My stash of batiks allowed me to find an array of values, colors and textures I liked for the rock. I sewed this by folding strips and laying them on top of each other, sewing them down in a very unstructured log-cabin sort of style. In person, the flaps have a fair amount of texture and a bit of dimension that I really like for this concept.
Here is a detail shot, where you can see the overlapping strips better.
When I showed this to my art workshop group recently, half of them saw this as standing outside a lit cave at night, looking into the warmth of shelter inside, and the other half saw this as being inside the cave, out of the sun, with the rays streaming in. That last perspective (being in the cave looking out) was the one I was thinking of when I made this, but I like that it has that ambiguity. Which did you see when you looked at this?

Cedar and Stone

For this art quilt, I wanted to continue to explore some of the techniques and styles I've been working on lately. The "shelter" theme gave me a wonderful focus and when I finally let go of the need to make a piece of art that was obviously about shelter, I was very inspired by colors, shapes and lines from various shelter images.IMG_5467.JPG
My main inspiration was this photo of an adirondack shelter.
This piece also is very similar to my Construction: Concrete and Stone quilt. You can see it here.

I was really excited to work in the color palette of brown, green and gray. I simplified the shapes in the photo so I could focus on the fabrics and the surface design in the different areas of the composition.


I really enjoyed adding the embroidery -- in both short and long stitches -- but I'm not sure it shows up well enough for it to be effective. It's hard to make design decisions in a 12x12 area. I didn't want anything to stand out too much.

I added a layer of black tulle to reference the shadows created by a roof line. I did a pillowcase finish which worked really well for this piece. I like that clean edge.


This art quilt has so many elements -- literally and symbolically. I've got paint, commercial fabrics, hand dyed fabrics, thread, floss, tulle, free motion quilting, embroidery, stamping and stenciling and more. Symbolically, there are planks of wood and stacks of stone. I'm thinking about fireplaces, walls, shadows, forests, tall trees and tiny vines. It's about mixing order with irregularity. I'm not sure all that says "shelter." But that was my starting point.

A Roof Over My Head

The theme of "Shelter" could relate to only one thing for me—home. My husband and I have spent the past year remodeling and moving into a new-to-us home. It has been a difficult year and discouraging in many ways as the housing market deteriorated and more recently the decline of the entire economy has thrown us all into a state of anxiety. Much of my anxiety revolves around the house we have not been able to sell as well as the new house that we are now unable to complete to our satisfaction. Still, home is and must be, a shelter from the outside world and a refuge from anxiety and fear.
I planned to use the words "my home is my shelter from the storms of life" in this piece. I started a piece using these words. In it I depicted a woman looking out a window. My intention was that she would look safe, at peace and secure inside her home. As I worked on it I realized she was, instead, reflecting my own feelings of anxiety and a degree of sadness. I moved on to another idea—the welcoming front entry to our new home. I finished this piece and stood back to look at it and realized I hated it. It felt overworked, jumbled, chaotic. Again, I'm sure, a reflection of my own mental state. "Breathe," I told myself. "Relax." I closed my eyes and what I saw was simple. The basics of shelter. A roof, walls, support and space. Clean, uncluttered and solid.
So, this has been a process and I think it has been instructive. I have recognized my anxiety and worked through the details and distractions to come to a realization that shelter can be both a structure and a feeling and a state of mind. And I really kind of love this piece. It feels optimistic to me and I hope that is where it has taken me.
You can see my first two attempts on my personal blog,

Backpacking ... in Rhinestone Heels

Welcome to my blinged version of Boulder Shelter, a backpacking shelter in the Olympic National Park. I've never actually made it all the way to the shelter, but I have hiked part way on the trail in years past. My husband, on the other hand, did the hike with his dad in the winter. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hiking and even an occasional backpacking trip, but I require more "shelter" during most of our northwest weather than that of a hut in the woods or tent. I'm one for a comfortable, dry bed at the end of the day. When I think of hiking in comfort, I always think of some hikers my husband and father-in-law encountered one trip. While they were hiking along the trail, a woman approached wearing all white with a tennis sweater around her shoulders. She looked like she had just stepped out of the country club. She was enjoying the outdoors the best she could. A ways down the trail she was followed by a man with a hundred pound pack, stacked up above his head. He could barely move with all the stuff he was carrying. We figure the only way he was going to get his wife out backpacking with him was if he carried everything and spared no luxury. So, at least I'm not that back. I can carry my own.

Inspired by that story, I decided to turn a backpacking shelter into something it isn't. Forget the soft weathered grays and browns of exposed wood, bring on the color and sparkle. I used three different fabrics in each of the colors. One was white muslin quilted and then painted with watered down acrylics. Another was painted fabric quilted with metallic thread. The final was fabric paper created by gluing decorative papers and tissue to muslin and painting it with acrylic paint. I sewed these together with gold thread to create panels for the different parts of the shelter. I then sewed on glass "jewels" and shiny wire to add to the fantasy element of this shelter. The binding was a challenge. Nothing I tried seemed to work, so I decided to simply color the edges with a gold leafing pen. I like the look, but I think it would be best mounted on mat board as apposed to hanging in a quilt show.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this piece. At first I was trying so hard to create "Art," something meaningful and important. Nothing was working. Serious just isn't me. Creating, at this point in my life, is my way of getting away from all the pressure and worry of life. I don't want to turn it into another stress with unrealistic expectation. So, I decided to experiment with something different, but also with my own signature touches. Now I'm finally feeling like I am getting over the slump I've been in all summer and I look forward to playing with the next challenge (more to come about that soon).

Lost City

Right off the bat I have to say that this is my favorite piece so far with Twelve by Twelve. It is the lost city of Machu Picchu which my husband Ted and I visited a few years ago. When I started thinking about this theme, I went from abstract to realistic and everywhere in between. I drew pictures of people pushing shopping carts and sleeping on park benches, I thought about collaging, and finally, when I was reviewing my photos for ideas, this one clicked. I started with a piece of hand dyed in some very muted cream, peach, and pale blues. I added some painted interfacing in the colors of the photo, building it up slowly, and when I liked this background, I made a (actually 2) thermofax screen of the picture and screened the photo on. I loved it but felt I needed to do a little stitching to highlight areas, so I just added some machine stitches where the mountains and fields needed it.

Machu Piccchu was built around 1460 by the Incas and abandoned 100 years later when the Spanish invaded Peru. It was rediscovered in 1911 by an archeologist named Hiram Bingham and is now preserved, although it has started crumbling under the number of visitors it receives.

The reason I decided to use this image is the idea I have that shelter is transient, and ultimately, all it is is shelter, a place to be. This may be important to us as we look back to study civilizations, but what is really important is the people who live in the various shelters of our lives, those that came before us, those that follow us, and those that we will never know, living their lives in places we will never visit,but living their lives just the same.

Rainy Day Shelter

An umbrella was one of my first shelter ideas. Then, it was mentioned in all the banter about shelter, and so I decided to go in another direction. You can see the other shelter piece on my blog.

I remembered seeing a photo taken from above, of a red umbrella on a rainy sidewalk, with just a pair of boots showing beneath the umbrella. That was my idea. I kept making umbrellas from different silk fabrics, trying to get just the right one.

As I was playing with the pieces, I had an epiphany that a trio of umbrellas would make a more interesting composition. I bought rain drop shaped beads and different paints as I was going to try to make the whole thing look rainier, but in the end, I could not muck it up. I decided that the hand-dyed sidewalk fabrics would be enough to give the feeling of rain and the addition of beads just seemed trite.


It is entirely possible that this quilt has way too much symbolism in it. See if you can distinguish between was really intended and what I am chucking in at the end to justify bad workmanship ( see previous post). When I discovered the theme I was reading a book written by a dutch refugee and it set me thinking about my time as a lawyer working political asylum cases.
Also, the international law is meant to act as a kind of shelter from persecution. I decided to print words from various treaties which give us 'human rights'. For obvious reason a log cabin format seemed appropriate to display them and I chose browns as a reference to physical log cabin shelters but also chose the courtroom steps setting to refer back to the law. Also the log cabin is usually associated with the Amish who of course fled Europe to escape persecution. I left in all the imperfections which occurred in the making to reference the myth that the Amish put deliberate mistakes in their work, to reflect the rough hewn nature of real log cabins and to represent the imperfections of the law and its inability to prevent persecution happening.
However, that seemed rather simple and my participation in this group is all about stretching myself with design ideas and techniques I have not used before. Also, I found out about the theme when using the free Internet in the Troppenmuseum in Amsterdam which has several replicas of shelters from a Mongolian yurt to a Moroccan cafe. I had also been thinking about the emotional shelter that quilts can bring. How we give them as gifts to people who are ill or bereaved. How we snuggle under them when we are sad or tired and need to get away from life for a while. I decided to make a 3D piece with the quilt as the actual shelter. I printed a photo image of the holocaust on Lutrador to give a nice hazy effect, framed it with fabric and made a sandwich of it with Fast2Fuse to give a nice rigid backboard. I chose a photo of inmates of Auschwitch in barracks to give yet another persepective to the 'shelter' theme. However, I am carefully not revealing that photo here as although I thought it was OK to use it it turned out at the last minute it might be copyright and need replacing. Sigh. The edges were stain stitched. then I made 'doors' of the same fabric and Fast2 Fuse and quilted them with a barbed wire pattern inspired by a drawing in my sketchbook of a picture at the Franz Nussbaum museum in Osnabruck, Germany. These were creased about an inch in from the edges with a line of stitching and then satin stitch hinges added over the background piece. The quilt is sewn to the top of the background so that when the doors are pulled partially open the law operates as a physical shelter over the holocaust scene.

I am pleased with the idea but ashamed of the quality of the work. Really this should be the model and I should have done another one to show but time has run out and this is it.

Two snails on a tree

Some time ago, I took many pictures of a tiny snail slowly travelling on a huge tree. I used these images as a starting point for my shelter piece.
The little shell and the big tree both offer shelter to this fragile creature.
And I thought the little guy was looking very lonely all by himself. That's why there are two snails on my quilt...
I hand dyed and screenprinted the fabrics. As usual, I used machine and hand stitching.
More pictures on my blog...


This log-cabinesque quilt was conceived and executed so rapidly that it is hard for me to accurately track its development (not helped by leaving the work-in-progress images back in Australia while I am travelling) but here goes.

The roof graphic that accompanied Terri's announcement of the shelter theme reminded me of a tent. For me, camping has mostly happy associations with the great outdoors but I was mindful that for many people, tents are a necessity as they flee their homes due to war, famine and natural disasters. When I searched online for images of refugee camps for inspiration, I also found photos of shantytowns and suddenly I was back in sixth form geography class studying South America...

Favela by Brenda Gael SmithFavela

My home, my shelter, overlooks the beach of Copacabana. By contrast, the hills above the "other" Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro are densely crowded with irregular, improvisational shantytown structures known as "favela" providing shelter to a more than a quarter of Rio's citizens.

Favelas have their origins in the 19th century. When soldiers returned to Rio after quelling an insurrection, the government had yet to build housing it had promised in exchange for their services. In protest, the soldiers camped out on Rio's hills and nicknamed it “ favela ” after the favela plants that they encountered on their military campaign. Other favelas were formed by fugitive and freed slaves left with no place to live. With successive waves of rural people seeking work in the city and urban poor displaced from flood-prone areas, favelas have blossomed into self-made, strong and vibrant communities. Notes from the Hillside: The Funk and Favelas in Rio de Janeiro by Greg Scruggs offers fascinating insights into these communities as does this Washington Post article by Sean Green.

Rooms for Rent

I had an advantage, I felt, on this theme as I was the one to choose it. As soon as I figured out that the theme would be shelter, I knew what I wanted to do.

I enjoy birdwatching. In order to do that, I feed the birds throughout the year as well as provide nesting houses for them. I always get excited each year when certain birds return to the yard. This year, I think most of my nesting houses remained empty and I know it's because my cats scared the birds away. I can't blame the birds. I even sat the cats down and had a long talk with them about those nesting houses, but evidently it didn't sink in.

I love trying new techniques, and for my quilt I remembered an article by Liz Berg on abstract design that she wrote for Quilting Arts magazine. My background and the grasses and flowers are based on that technique. For the birdhouses, I just had to add some bright color to spice up the quilt.