Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Back when I was making doll clothes with joyful abundance, I had two Ginny dolls. I dressed them alike, in that I sewed the same dress for each, but in two different colors. Yellow and pink being a favorite combination (hey, they were just dolls already).

Making coordinating sets of things is fun. So, here is another tiny quilt in red and greys. The matching twin to one I posted last year.

"Out of the ashes, dark"
2013, 8.5" x 8.5", hand appliquéd and hand quilted.

Monday, April 21, 2014

influences: Leo Babuata

For the past five years, I've been a devoted reader of the :zenhabits blog. For those of you not familiar with it and curious, start here.

Leo encourages readers to simplify their lives, to focus and to tweak their behavioral habits to improve their lives. It's basic and powerful stuff. Reading his blog has helped me make some serious changes in my life and become more courageous. I exercise more, weigh less, no longer eat meat, sold house and cars, quit my job, moved aboard the sailing vessel Red Ranger to explore, started FloatingLeafQuilts Etsy store and this blog.

Certainly none of these changes could have been made without the assistance, encouragement, and commitment of my partner, Captain Steve, but it is Leo I turn to for the personal kick in the pants.

I know that making tiny quilts is something I love. Selling them is entirely different matter. Seriously, they aren't useful at all, but making them is fun. But nothing ventured, nothing gained (as my mom always told me).

This post is particularly inspiring for me - The courage to startup

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


thinking about the role of constraints in art.

Consider Haiku.
  1. 1.
    a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.

It is within this structure that the poetic form exists. By constraining the form, the art flourishes.

There are other examples of constraints in art forms that by their very nature, allow the creative process to expand. There are constraints in materials, constraints in space and time, and constraints in color, texture, line - basically any aspect of art can be constrained, both by physics and by a choice of the artist.

Tiny quilts already have several constraints that I have chosen to work with:
Materials: They are made of 100% cotton fabric. I chose this because I like the feel of the cotton and the saturation of the dyes. Since there is no variation in the texture or surface reflectivity, the choice of homogeneous materials places a greater emphasis on color interactions.

Size: They are small. I've chosen to work on a small scale due to (mostly) to time considerations, although storage and cost play a part. I want to be able to work on a design quickly and with a small time commitment. I like doing hand work, so speeding up the process by using a sewing machine is not very interesting to me. 

Method: Working by hand is another constraint. I have done much more intricate appliqué designs using a sewing machine that does not require the 1/8" turnover allowance. Handwork limits my angles and curves somewhat. My shapes are more simple done by hand, but I find the edge more pleasing than what the sewing machine produces. 

I think a lot about color. While I would love to have hundreds of colors to choose from when I design a tiny quilt, that isn't practical from a storage and investment standpoint. So, color choices have become a form of constraint. Rather than bemoan that constraint, I am trying to play with it. I take lots of pictures of color combinations I meet in the world I travel in. I've also been known to pocket paint chip cards from hardware stores. 

Here's a shot of the signage in The Plot, an open space in downtown Norfolk VA. This set of colors has already been carefully vetted by a designer to evoke basic colorations of elements in the park. It's a constrained set of colors, but I find it very inspiring. By whittling down the hundreds of colors available to these seven, the designer has created a palette that has become a jumping off point for many tiny quilt ideas spinning around in this sleepless artist's head.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

laundry test

The fabric I use to make the tiny quilts has not been washed to remove the sizing. That's usually the first step when making a quilt, to wash all the fabrics so they won't shrink up when the quilt is eventually washed.  I make tiny quilts to hang on the wall, so washing usually isn't part of the drill. I like the sizing (stiff, crinkly-ness) still in the fabric because it works better for the tiny appliqué seams I make.

I thought I'd better test a tiny quilt, though. Just on the off chance I wanted to make an appliquéd crib quilt someday that might need a few spins in the washer from time to time. So I whipped up another Fiesta tiny quilt and keep throwing it with every load of our laundry. We don't have laundry equipment (other than a bucket and plunger) on board, so this test piece gets washed and dried in various commercial laundry machines wherever we are hanging out.

Not so shocking news: they do shrink. This one started out 8.5" square. And they wrinkle.
Better news: the appliqué seams are holding up so far. This is after 10 washings.

This is before the washings

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


This is number two in my new food series. I'm fascinated by organic shapes and I love food. I mean, love. food. 

I think I first started sketching citrus forms about 10 years ago. It's just a variation on my favorite circle within a square. The shapes never got made into a full-size bed quilt, because big quilts took so long to make that the sketches piled up fast. And I wasn't sure if I would like a whole quilt of these. Now that I've made this one, though, I quite like it and I can see it would make a nice full-size quilt with the square repeated in different colors. 

Making one tiny quilt is much more satisfying than spending months on a big quilt. This one was completed in a few hours. Now, I can move on to explore more food forms. 

"Citrus slice"
2014, 12" x 12", hand appliquéd and hand quilted