Clamshell Variations for Quilts

Posted December 3, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Quilting

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It’s not too often I get excited by quilt blocks or new quilts. I love doing up sampler quilts and scrap quilts, but I also love complicated hand piecing and appliqué, and one idea keeps cropping up of a basic pieced clamshell shape, with the arc drafted for points like in a Mariner’s Compass or New York Beauty block. From there, you can take the idea anywhere if you can draft it.

Linda Franz has drafted up what she calls Clamshell Pickle and others call Clamshell Pickle Dish or Pickled Clamshells. She sells the pattern at Inklingo, where you can print the design right onto your fabric. She says it’s much easier to use Inklingo for this complicated printing piecing. It seems to be the only pattern available and costs $30.


I refuse to be dependent on my computer for printing and quilting so I would make hand piecing templates and forget printing on fabric. Thus, this pattern is overly expensive for my wants, so I thought I’d draft my own variation. This one has 11 triangles in the arc, and I saw someone else redraft it with 9 triangles in the arc.

I have the Electric Quilt 6 software, but I like to draw things out with graph paper so I bought an 11 x 17 inch pad of graph paper. Although liking the original Clamshell Pickle, I don’t have a lot of fancy large prints to fussy cut the centres, so I went looking for variations.


Then I found a scrap quilt by Karen Stone. Karen has a New York Beauty quilt pattern I’ve always fancied, however, she’s brought her eye for design to redrafted clamshells and although there is no pattern yet, you can see how inventive she has been in bisecting these and using appliqué inside the clamshell shape as well.


Ruth White is another quilter who has run with this idea in her New York Clambake series. Again, no patterns available but easy enough to draft with precision or more freeform as you wish.


You could draw up this sort of variation in several different blocks but piece them more conventionally with a light background fabric and traditional Clamshell layout. You can do whatever you want, which is what makes it exciting. You could use Gwen Marston’s ideas for “liberated” piecing of points and primitive appliqué.

I like to do do complicated settings and juggle prints around so this is an idea I’m seriously considering. I need to get out my old, old copy of Judy Mathieson’s book Mariner’s Compass: An American Quilt Classic now that I have a decent size of graph paper. Her drafting is meticulous on paper, but the idea of some wonky quilting à la Gwen Marston is appealing too.

The whole idea of making it up as I go along appeals to me. As I get older I worry about completing projects and leaving quilts unfinished. When something catches my mind like this I don’t want to let it go but I don’t want to make too big a project. What I might do is draft a few things out and incorporate them into what I call my “Blue Sampler Quilt” an oldie but goodie from the 1990s that I work on now and then.

Ideas, ideas…



Little Turtle Pin Cushion

Posted November 20, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Needlework, Sewing

Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been wanting to make this for months and finally found an excuse when I was reviewing a pretty deck of cards with artwork of animals. It was designed by Kathy Shaw from Shawkl Designs and is a free pattern.

I decided my turtle would be a sea turtle and chose sea green and reedy looking fabrics accordingly. I suppose he really looks more like a tortoise but that’s imagination for you. Gus is wondering about the mess on the drafting table behind him, wondering why I don’t tidy it up. It’s a mystery of life Gustifer, just swim with it, roll with those breakers of baffling human behaviour.


Gus’s underside.


His name is Gus for two reasons: When a friend’s husband was dying of a brain tumour and had gone into hospice care, he said his little dachshund Gus (who had died some time before) came to visit him. I suppose the tumour was pressing something in his brain and caused the hallucination, but it has always been my hope that perhaps it WAS little Gus and he had come to comfort his Dad.

His is also named Gus for Gus Ryder, the swimming coach of Marilyn Bell, the first person to swim Lake Ontario in 1954. My Mother had a terrible fear of water and if she couldn’t touch ground when in the water she would cry and start to shake. So every time she went in the water she would invoke a bit of swimming advice from Gus Ryder and toodle around doing the breast stroke.

Here’s to Dan and Isabel, two great people no longer with us. Gus is for you.

I wanted the pincushion to be a bit smaller so I printed it at 70%. I had fun embellishing it with silk ribbon and various silk and cotton threads and beads. The nice aspect of a project like this is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s a useful object, no matter what it ends up like.


Here is Gus with the Turtle card from The Messenger Cards by Sandra Kunz, the card that inspired me to sew him. Oh, it looks like a small figure of a sea turtle has come to join him in the celebration.


Swim on in the Sea of Life Gus.




Artsy Cards for Eye Candy and Rumination

Posted November 16, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Books, Card Collection, Nature

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I keep saying this, but this is definitely the end of the Christmas books as I am over budget. Fortunately, as the new and used books roll in via the post, they will keep on giving throughout next year. I am going to learn and do a lot of new things, which I like.

I have an animal deck with art by Sue Lion, but she has two others, one with mythology and one with nature and some wonderful trees. There are those of us who love trees and like a suitable picture. If you’re interested in a nice present for someone, try Sue’s lovely art and words. She has different gifts and ways to display and use her artwork.

She refers to these as “Affirmation Cards” but I refer to them as “art cards.” Same diff. Both images are © Sue Lion. This is the nature-based EartHeart deck:


And the beautiful Magic & Myth deck:


I stumbled across Beverly King’s interpretation of the Buddhist Lojong slogans. She arranged and photographed some delightful nature-inspired images and has a booklet too. I managed to get a copy but she is down to one copy and hopefully will be re-printing the deck if you are interested. Image © 2014 Beverly King.


Bev also cites some relevant books. Oh no not that, I am nothing without a relevant book. So I bought one by Norman Fischer called Training in Compassion which is a commentary on the Lojong sayings. I felt that was geared more toward Westerners and I have several Pema Chodron books I bought recently so wanted a different commentary than hers.


Good thoughts and images: a good focus, is always a fine thing.



Papier Maché, Persian Designs for Quilts, and Food Allergies

Posted November 13, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

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I guess I have too wide-ranging a focus on creative subjects. I like to do everything. Perhaps because of my desperation in finding good books on making boxes or embroidering boxes, I am always looking for techniques.

In one of the used embroidery books I got this week, I found a catalogue from 1993 for craft books. The woman who owned the book in the UK seems to have belonged to one of these clubs and the catalogue listed an old book on papier maché and had examples of boxes. In looking it up I saw that there were plenty of old copies available for $1. Say no more!

This book is by Lone Halse and translated by Tim Bowler. I think Halse is Norwegian, so I thought this would give a different angle, a European angle missing from the usual books we get over here. Plus he or she has two boxes on the cover.


I bought a couple more used books on the subject. What can I say, they just came up while I was browsing at ABE.

Paper into Pots by Gerry Copp looked interesting although I could not find samples of projects or pages. Some great examples of painting on the cover made this look like a good buy.


I bought another book by Juliet Bawden recently on making boxes but the one below was specific to papier maché and also looked good: The Art and Craft of Papier Mache. It looks like they use moulds for some of these bowls and pots, or at least the old trick of using a balloon as a form. I liked on another cover for this book that she had made decorative plates with botanical type designs, which seemed like a good way to showcase art.

Art and CraftpapierMache_sm

I’ve been working on a quilt for a few years and got stumped when filling an area with floral appliqué so I stopped. While I have some patterns and ideas from books they were not exactly what I envisioned but I had too vague an idea of shapes that I wanted. I have some ideas from clip art books and designs but I saw this book by Dover and decided to buy a used copy as it had designs much closer to what I am imagining. Persian Designs and Motifs for Artists and Craftsmen by Ali Dowlatshahi is the one I am waiting for and hopefully will help kickstart that quilt again.


I also bought two books on food allergies in the hope that they might help me pin down some less obvious sensitivities I think I have.

The Food Allergy Survival Guide also has recipes.


Food Allergies and Food Intolerance goes more into elimination diets, identification of problems and treatment approaches.


So that’s me on the informative used book trail for the past ten days or so.



Helen M. Stevens Embroidery Books

Posted November 2, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books, Needlework

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You would never know it, but I was a passionate quilter for 30 years before I became interested in doing more embroidery, principally because quilting now hurts my back and knees. I still quilt but not as passionately; I will always quilt.

I’ve been looking for embroidery books by Helen M. Stevens because she does so many animals, birds, plants, and insects. Some of her books are quite pricey, even on the secondary market. Her book on embroidering birds is an astronomical price. That’s the one I wanted but it’s not available at a reasonable price.

One of my new embroidery books recommended two of her titles on the inside back cover, and when I looked them up I found older editions for about $1 from various UK booksellers. So I ordered the two for a total cost with shipping of $13 CAD. As I found with several other titles I recently bought used, older editions are available at a much, much lower cost.


I have bought several art history books in older editions. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m not paying a premium price for them. I find it uplifting to look at history and creative books but the edition isn’t important for my purposes.



Boxes and Biographies

Posted October 31, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books, Needlework, Sewing

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I have been trying to find some books on embroidering boxes so I can do up a box for the gorgeous Tarot of the Absurd. I have instructions for making boxes from illustration board in at least two of my bookbinding books, but I want some further ideas and instruction on fabric boxes with embroidery inserts or coverings.

The book Embroidered Boxes by Jane Lemon was first printed in 1980 and although re-printed with different coloured photographs for covers, the edition itself has never been updated, and is pretty stripped down with black and white illustrations. I bought a used copy of the 1984 edition for $1. I can’t go wrong.


Decorative Boxes by Juliet Bawden discusses several decorative techniques including appliqué and embroidery so I felt it would be useful. Juliet is quite a prolific writer and has a number of interesting titles for crafts and sewing.


The last book is a more recent publication and covers cross stitch, embroidery, patchwork and the dreaded plastic canvas. While I have considered using plastic canvas as a support inside a fabric box, I don’t really like the way it looks when worked up in tent stitch, but Meg Evans in her book Hand-Stitched Boxes seems to have some workable ideas.


I once had a book by Mary Jo Hiney called Making Romantic Fabric-Covered Boxes, and the instructions were so convoluted that I gave the book away. I am hoping I can get somewhere with these other books as several of my card decks could use a nice box. I generally make cardstock tuckboxes for them but I wanted to increase my skills and make some boxes with lids to embellish. I can’t afford the fancy wooden ones where you put an embroidered insert in the lid, so I have to press on and try to find solutions to what I want. It gives me a way to practice embroidery yet make something useful.

I am not a natural at pattern drafting and figuring things out in sewing, I find it tedious, but if I can find basic instructions and adapt them for specific sizes I will be fine.

And lastly, I bought a used copy of Linda Lear’s biography Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, which I have been meaning to track down for some months. I have read shorter biographies but wanted something more comprehensive. I love biographies but now and then there are special people I want to revisit.


Oh boy, I’m definitely out of Christmas money now!

You can’t go wrong continually learning and doing.



The Serendipity of Treasure Inside Books

Posted October 28, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

Tags: , , ,

I received the first three of my used books in the mail today from the UK. I was delighted to find a postcard and a cross-stitched bookmark in one book. The previous owners, Sheila and Charles from Norfolk, might be dead or in a nursing home, but their memory lives on. Perhaps Sheila worked the lovely bookmark herself? It is lined with green satin ribbon tacked down on the edges and has a tassel for flourish.


The postcard is of an oil painting by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) and is mislabelled The Park on the Caillebotte Property at Yerres 1875. After looking this picture up I see the real name is Portraits à la campagne 1876 (in English, portraits in the country.) I collect postcards so this beauty will go into my collection box.

In another book I found a slightly faded paper bookmark with a window enclosure where I might eventually place my own artwork.


I also bought this book that I’ve had on my wish list for several months. There are scant books on the history of puppets and another one I wanted was out-of-print. However, Puppetry: A World History by Eileen Blumenthal is still in print so I wanted a copy. I have another comprehensive book called Voices of the Puppet Masters about the Wayang Golek theatre of Indonesia, but I thought this new book would be good to have.


I still have three marionettes from my childhood, but gave the others away, alas. I have my Wayang Golek puppet of Gatotkaca whom I treasure after buying him on eBay (mislabelled as Arjuna) about 10 years ago.

If you ever saw the film Being John Malcovich, there are some wonderful scenes with marionettes in a stage theatre.







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