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Trying To Organize My Stitching Projects

Trying To Organize My Stitching Projects

Lately I always seem to have several stitching projects going on at the same time and I have found it helpful to use one basket per project to store my threads, etc. in. I have a friend that makes lovely pine needle baskets and I have mainly been using them. But lately I seem to have more projects going at one time and found that I didn’t have enough baskets for all of them! I found myself going around my house emptying the contents of other baskets so I could use them for my projects. (This of course, led to another issue about where to put all the stuff I was taking out of those baskets!) I guess that tells you how crazy things are at my house!

When I was at a retreat in February, one of my friends was making fabric covered rope baskets for her projects. She also likes to have all her project’s supplies in one spot, and she likes to be able to easily move them from place to place as well as have the option of stacking them. My thoughts kept going back to her baskets as I kept running out of storage for my things.

Over 20 years ago I took a class at my local quilt shop and made a fabric covered rope basket. It’s been sitting in my closet all these years waiting for me to attach the handle. It’s kind of big and funky but I love the colors. I think I planned on using it for my knitting projects. I could still do that, but I decided to use it right now to store my wool socks in. I don’t need the handle attached although I guess I could still do that. (Maybe in another 20 years??) I am also kicking around the idea of deconstructing it and making 2 or maybe 3 more usable size baskets out of it.

This one is 9” tall and around 12” in diameter. I think I was having too much fun sewing it together and didn’t know when to quit!

These are still all my favorite colors!

Colorful fabric rope basket


The way the rope was covered in that class 20 years ago was not how I wanted to make a new one. Back then, we wrapped folded fabric around the rope and straight stitched it to the rope which was a nice feature as there were no raw edges visible. Today that seems like a lot of prep work that I really don’t want to do. My friend was just wrapping approximately 1” strips of fabric around the rope and zigzagging the covered rope pieces to each other. Much faster process. I’m all for getting things done faster! These baskets are a great way to use up fabric scraps or fabrics you wondered why you bought them in the first place.

I followed the tutorial from my friend’s website Create Whimsy and tweaked it to my needs.

I had a jelly roll of 2 1/2” fabric strips sitting around that I was never going to use for a quilt. I tore them in half and started wrapping my 20 year old leftover rope and zig zagging them together.

Fabric torn for wrapping around rope

sewing beginning of basket bottom using grey fabrics

I wanted the bottom of the basket to be at least 6” wide and the sides to be around 2” high. I wasn’t sure how much rope I would need to make the size I wanted. (I ended up having enough rope left to make a smaller basket if I want to.)

Finished basket in blues, grays and orange

I was happy with my first basket even though I wasn’t crazy about the fabric used for it to begin with. Those big white blobs are the selvedges. I decided I didn’t like how they appeared, so I started cutting them off as I introduced new strips. I like how the stars on the fabric appear as bits of white. Overall, I’m quite happy with how this turned out! It will be very usable and will definitely not be sitting in my closet for the next 20 years!

I also had some fabric covered rope left over from my 20 year old basket project so I thought I’d see if I could make a basket out of it.

Fabric covered rope for basket


It was interesting to see how different the two methods of covering the rope were when zigzagged together. I think I like the newer method of just wrapping the fabric around the rope and not caring about the raw edges or the joins. It’s kind of fiddly but looks just fine to me after stitching. The “prewrapped” rope had lots of puckers to it, the wrap as you go method coiled together with a snugger fit.

sewing beginning of basket bottom using orange fabric wrapped rope

Here is the finished second basket. It definitely had a looser feel to it although it is still sturdy enough for a project basket.

Finished thread bowl in shades of orange and red

Here’s a peak at my little menagerie of baskets, including my two newly made ones.

Fabric covered rope baskets and pine needle baskets

It was fun to make them, and they sewed up rather quickly. If you try one, I’ll forewarn you that you’ll go through quite a bit of bobbin thread. And they are kind of addicting to make.

I also found two felted bowls in my closet that I had made years ago. (Wonder what else is in that closet that I could put to use today?) They were knitted to begin with, and they were my one and only foray into felting. This one was under consideration for becoming a project basket, but it’s too flimsy. I am now using it for my thread bits. Perfect use for it!

Felted thread bowl

Happy stitching!

Tesi Vaara

Exploring Natural Dyes

Exploring Natural Dyes

In my October blog post, I wrote about getting ready to start an online Natural Dye course through Maiwa. The photo of materials hanging on my clothesline was the first step of scouring and mordanting the fabrics that I was going to use.

Fabrics drying on a clothesline

Most of the dyes we used came right out of the jar, all ready for the dye pot. However, we did learn to make an extract from the cochineal bugs.

First you have to crush the little guys using either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. I had given my coffee grinder away several years ago so I had to do it manually.

Then you add 1 ½”water to them and boil them for a minute, drain off the water into a glass jar, put the bugs back into the pan and repeat that process 5 or 6 times until the water turns pink. Then the water that was drained off goes into your dye pot.

Here is the cochineal dye pot with my white and grey colored wool yarns. At this point each skein is about 34 grams each.

After being dyed  in the cochineal pot, we then divided each skein into 3rds so we could shift the color on 2 of the yarns. In this photo the grey yarn is on the right and the white yarn is on the left.

The top yarn in this photo is after the yarn was shifted with indigo, the middle is straight out of the cochineal dye bath and the bottom yarn is after it was shifted with iron. Grey yarn on the left, white yarn on the right. Aren’t they just yummy colors??

Cochineal wool yarns

This next photo shows the results after dyeing with Marigold. More yummy colors. Same layout, indigo shift, straight Marigold bath, then the iron shift. Grey yarn on the left, white yarn on the right.

And these are from the banana indigo vat that Maiwa taught us to make. Maiwa teaches an in-depth Indigo course that I might be tempted to take one day in the future because the banana vat kind of stumped me. It was very hard to keep it balanced. Sometimes I would see the magic happen and sometimes it was a struggle to get there. It’s all quite scientific and chemistry was never my thing!

These yarns had two indigo dips. White yarn on top and grey on the bottom.

After over 50 hours or more of fairly constant stirring of the pot, one hour for each bath, I came away with some wonderful fabrics that I’ll be able to use for my stitching or my art quilts.

The following are laid out with the Indigo shift on top, original color in the middle and iron shift on the bottom.



Linen (brown and white linen)


More silk (just cuz it’s so pretty!)


I saved most of the exhaust baths and made these scrumptious pieces…and then I dipped them all into a weakened indigo vat for about 2 or 3 minutes. You can see the shifted fabrics hanging out of some of these on the right edge (1-2 inches peaking out). Subtle changes. But oh so many colors!

It was an amazing journey. I didn’t know that there are so many ways to shift the colors, whether you use over dyes, indigo, iron, different tannins and mordants. It’s endless and so much fun. But a lot of stirring…I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done while I stirred!

Once I finished the Maiwa course, I switched to Procion dyes so I could make some color gradations for my Gail Harker Level 3 Stitch color schemes. Quite a difference from the subtle natural colors! Lovely as well, though, in a different way.

Hope you’ve enjoyed all the color! Now I need to get busy and make something out of all these samples!

Best wishes to all of you and may 2023 be a wonderful year for you! Happy creating!

Let’s Make Jeans!

Let’s Make Jeans!

Earlier this year an opportunity came up to sign up for a jeans making retreat at a location close to my home. There is a local fabric store that has been selling wearables fabric online called Style Maker Fabrics Since the pandemic has let up a little bit, they are starting their retreats again as well as opening their store to visitors. You must email them prior to coming to shop but it’s nice to know that one can go in and touch the fabrics prior to purchasing! The retreat portion of the business allows for 10 people It is a lovely location; the food was wonderful, and they catered to all our dietary needs. I sincerely hope their business prospers. It is a nice respite since most of the fabric stores have disappeared.

The jeans class was offered in June or September. Since September 8th is my birthday, I thought this retreat would be a wonderful birthday present to myself, so I signed up for the September date! With only room for 10, spots go quickly. I promptly emailed my sister and since her birthday is September 29th, she decided to give herself a birthday present as well! Both of us had making a pair of jeans and attending a retreat at this location on our bucket lists. So, scratch off two bucket list items!

The jeans class was taught by a gal out of Nashville, Tennessee, Lauren Taylor aka Lladybird on Instagram. She is an expert on constructing the Ginger Skinny Jeans pattern made by Closet Core Patterns. She is quite a character and quite a task master. She had us moving right along, with no time to dally, and no time to visit with my sister! We were even too tired after dinner to do much chatting!


She taught us how to make the one on the left. Obviously, the pattern called for stretch denim. Life just wouldn’t be the same without stretch denim, in my world at least!

I was kind of skeptical when I saw all the different body shapes of the students and Lauren commented the first night that this was not a fitting class, rather it was a construction class. Eeek! She brought completed sizes for us to try on so we could figure out what pattern size fit us best, then we got to cutting out our patterns. She did help make a few fitting type tweaks to our patterns but not many.

At the end of the first full day, we had the fronts completed except for the buttonhole. At the end of the second day, we had the backs completed, sewn to the fronts, then we tried them on and made small adjustments, then sewed the waist band on. The waist band was quite challenging, especially sewing the topstitching on. We did all the topstitching as we went along, constantly changing our threads. I was able to bring my own sewing machine, but several students that had flown in from other states had to figure out how to use the provided machines. Several melt downs occurred!

On the third day, we finished making the buttonhole and attached the rivets and the button. Everyone looked really good in their jeans. I was amazed. I need to wash mine a couple more times and then I can hem them.


It was a fun time, although kind of stressful to get so much completed in our 2 ½ day class.

If you are wondering…I did buy enough fabric and hardware to make two more pair! (I will not be making them in 2 ½ days though.)

Next up on my list is to follow Maiwa’s Natural Dye Workshop. Here are some of my fabrics drying after they were mordanted. Fun stuff ahead!

Happy creating!

Down The Rabbit Hole I Go!

Down The Rabbit Hole I Go!

For the last 6 weeks I have been immersed in an online course through Maiwa’s School of Textiles ( called Print and Paint with Natural Dyes. It’s been quite intense, but I have learned quite a bit about printing with natural dye pastes. We used powdered dyes. I wasn’t cooking up anything from scratch although I was crushing up cochineal bugs with my mortar and pestle! Ewww!! Quite often I felt like a mad scientist mixing up various ingredients to use the pastes in various mordant processes and cooking up various things in large vats. There are 9 modules with the 9th being a wrap up of what we have done. I’m just finishing up module 8 at this writing and getting ready to prepare my citric acid discharge paste that will be used on fabrics first soaked in a gallnut tannin bath and then half of the fabric went into an alum mordant bath and the other half went into an iron mordant bath so we could develop more samples. I’m super excited to see how all the samples turn out!

Here is my colorful array of dyes.

Some of the pastes were fixed by steaming.

The natural dyes produce some amazing colors.

I tried to paint designs on all the pieces with the idea of being able to use them whole. The long strips are probably going to become table runners. Everything is still wrinkled as everything still needs to be soaked in Synthropol once they cure a bit longer.

This was an iron mordant paste on a myrobalan tannin. The lower photo is using a wood block. I have great respect for artisans that work with the wood block patterns! Such precision to get the right amount of paste onto the block, the right amount of pressure and getting them lined up properly!

This was a long sampler that was painted with various ratios of alum to iron mordant pastes with 100% iron on the left and 100% alum on the right.  The sample was then divided into 4 pieces and then each piece was dipped into its own dye bath of either cochineal, buckthorn, pomegranate, or madder.

Just look at all the colors!

This one is the same alum/iron mordant paste fixed in a myrobalan bath.

It’s been great fun to learn this process. Maiwa has an online natural dye class becoming available in August that I may be taking. I would like to learn how to use natural dyes for the background fabrics I use for my tile quilts. They also show how to dye yarns and threads in that class as well as work with an indigo pot. Maiwa does a great job with their videos.

I’m having lots of fun in my studio!

I think I also promised to show you the quilt I made using the painted fabrics I made awhile back. Here are a few samples of those fabrics:

Here is the result of using 95% of the fabrics painted/marked/dyed by myself. I call it Snow Moon. It just got juried into a show called “CQA at 35” that will run July 15-Aug 28 at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in LaConner, WA. USA ( It is 32 ½” wide x 37 ¾” tall.


And here is an update on what I call my “ruler” quilt (aka Welsh quilting) where I am using plastic rulers to machine quilt the design. This was my progress through the first round.

And here it is after the second round.

I have the third round cut out, but still need to mark the design onto the pieces before I start quilting it. I’ve been distracted from this project because of the other rabbit holes I’ve been going down! More on those in another blog post!

Hope you are all having as much fun learning and creating as I have been!

Tesi Vaara







A learning curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between how proficient people are at a task and the amount of experience they have. Proficiency (measured on the vertical axis) usually increases with increased experience (the horizontal axis), that is to say, the more someone performs a task, the better he or she get at it. (Wikipedia)

Recently I’ve become intrigued with learning how to quilt on my domestic machine using a ruler foot and quilting rulers. It seems kind of silly for me to learn that skill since my quilts the last 10 plus years have been tile quilts and I have nowhere to put fancy quilting. Maybe it’s time for me to move on with my style or allow places in my tile quilts that I can do the ruler quilting in. Hmmmmm….ideas forming…

Most of my quilts require little thought when I machine quilt them. The tiles are all fused on with Wonder Under so I quilt each of the tile pieces in order to make sure they don’t fall off. So not much creativity in getting them sewn on. The quilting is not the star in my tile quilts.

I decided to sign up for a ruler class at a quilt shop near me, Quilting Mayhem. It is a yearly “club” using Westalee Rulers that meets every month. Last year they made a whole cloth quilt. I can’t imagine making a full-size quilt that way, but I do admire any of them that I have seen at quilt shows and on social media. The project they are making this year is the Jewel Quilt by Angela Attwood using the Westalee Design Sampler Set 1 and it is a quilt as you go pattern. So not only am I learning how to use the rulers, but I am also learning how to attach the sections to each other using sashing.  You can see from the photo on the front of the book that there is lots of open space for the ruler work to go.


Here are the rulers I’ll be using in this quilt, plus a couple others that I have in my stash.

I wondered why some of the enclosed shape ones had the little puzzle pieces taped to them. I soon found out why…I can’t tell you how many times I got my needle, thread and foot already to start a new design and forgot to insert the ruler around the needle and foot!

Here is my machine all set up, but oops! I forgot to insert the ruler!


Easy solution! Just remove the jigsaw puzzle piece and slip it around the needle and foot, then replace the puzzle piece. Saved by the puzzle piece!




It’s been an interesting process to learn how to use these rulers. It was recommended that we draw the blocks out on paper first and follow the direction of the quilting instructions given in the book using a pencil. It took me quite a few tries to figure out how to use the Spiral ruler, keeping in mind that there is a ¼” space between the edge of the ruler and where the needle goes. I was grateful for doing it on paper first. It really helped me to get the gist of it. I am not a big fan of drawing things out first. I’m usually chomping at the bit to get going and see results, however had I done that with this project, I think I would have been un-sewing a lot more than I actually did.


After I made the paper drawing, I made a fabric sample. I was also glad I did this because I got lots of practice trying to figure out how to keep the ruler snug to the ruler foot! It was also suggested that we make sure that the fabric marker we were using would come out. Can you imagine doing all that quilting only to find out that your marks were permanent? I’ve been using the Sewline pink lead. Another good lesson doing this sample was that you could hardly see all my imperfect stitches!

By the time I finished the fabric sample and washed it to make sure the fabric markings all came out I was ready to start on the real thing. I was pretty tired of drawing out this first block by now. I think I drew it 4 times. It’s 16” square.

With quilt as you go you must cut your pieces before you can begin. Each block needs to have the top and bottom fabrics and the batting cut. The top needs to be marked before sandwiching the three pieces together. Normally you make a quilt top, then worry about backing for it once you get ready for the quilting. If you send it out for a long armer to quilt it, you usually don’t even need to worry about the batting as that will be provided and included in your quilting costs. With the quilt as you go, you have to buy all the backing AND the batting. Pretty spendy to have all those upfront costs going on at once. But it will all be quilted when I’m done so I’ll just have to add the binding to the outside and be done!

And dealing with all the start and stop threads! ACK!! I don’t worry about them too much on my tile quilts, I usually just snip them off. They are going on a wall and probably won’t be coming undone. But this quilt will be a bed size quilt and I don’t want the threads to come loose. Each of those set of threads must be knotted and buried in the quilt sandwich. OMG there are so many threads! I initially started tying square knots and trying to get the two threads through a sewing needle. Fingers and eyesight were definitely being challenged! I finally watched a YouTube video and found a method that worked for both my fingers and my eyesight. I discovered Clover’s Self Threading Needles. Highly recommend having some of those in your needle stash! It made all the difference in the world, and I think saved my sanity. I LOVE these needles!

So far, I’ve finished the center block and the first round and have cut out my second round, marked each block out and sandwiched the pieces together. I’m happy with the results so far. Here is the front and the back of the first round. I’m using a line of fabrics called Grunge by Moda-Basic Grey. The blue cornerstones will get darker in each round.

The backing fabric is by Jason Yenter for In The Beginning fabrics and was designed for the Western Washington Quilt Shop Hop 2019. I’m thinking I may be able to flip it over if I get tired of the other side.

I still have a big learning curve before I become proficient at this skill, but I think by the time I am done making this quilt I will be pretty good at it! It’s kind of addicting, too.

Happy Creating!
Tesi Vaara





Like many people have been doing since the pandemic started, I have appreciated the availability of online courses to help keep my creative juices flowing. I now own enough online courses to review at my leisure for longer than I will be on this planet! Do I have a problem? LOL, it’s like having enough fabric or paint or whatever medium you work with. We can never have enough or exactly what we are looking for.

My latest online course called Squiggle, Line and Dot was with Susan Purney Mark. She’s a West Coast Canadian living on Pender Island, BC. She has a nice blog ( and website ( I’ve been interested in learning techniques to make collage fodder (I had to google the word fodder to make sure it was applicable  in this context and did find this definition amongst the “feed for livestock” definitions…Raw material, as for artistic creation.)

Susan’s class uses mostly black paint on white fabric so far.

This was my most favorite exercise. Taping a paint brush to a long stick and painting. I was listening to music and got some creative tingles doing this.

This was using a wider brush. I am attracted to the marks where there is not much paint on the brush.

I got a little bored with the black and white although I see potential in the pieces I have made so far. I appreciate how Susan incorporates this fodder into her quilts and want to try it myself. I’ll be getting back to her online class soon.

But I decided to go back to a color class from Jane Dunnewold that I had begun earlier in 2021. Time to work on complimentary color scales.

Oooohhhh that was fun and so magical. I had done some of these studies while taking my design course from Gail Harker, but it was fun to do them again.

Jane has her own set of ProChem paints that are “pure” colors so she likes you to mix your own secondary and tertiary colors and she has color cards so you can match your mixtures to them. It’s challenging to know how much paint to put out and I threw away the leftovers from my first two color runs and felt kind of guilty about doing that. That’s when I decided to use the leftovers on fabric and use those pieces for future collage work using some of the mark making techniques learned in Susan Purney Mark’s class as well as other teachers I’ve taken classes from.

These are the tools I used to make my marks. I really like the marks made with the green squeegee type device.

Most of the color combinations are vastly different from what I normally work with in my art quilts. But they are going to be fun to use as collage fodder. Most importantly I had FUN playing with paints. Life is good!

Now to get down to quilt making versus painting and use some of this stuff up!

Best wishes to all for a wonderful, creative 2022!!

Tesi Vaara

Fabric Collage Play

Fabric Collage Play

I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of the logic of the collage process. I’ve been taking some collage classes on the internet that use mainly paper materials. One thing I immediately discovered was that I had very little stash and you need to have a stash. So, I took more internet classes on how to build a stash, again with paper. I really liked one class where the instructor made her stash per each project and in this way, she could have plenty available in whatever colorway she was selecting to work in. This made sense to me even though I can see the value in collecting other ephemera as they appear in front of me.  I used to toss all my fabric selvedges, but now they have become precious to me. One thing I began to understand is that collage work isn’t usually done in one sitting, it’s based on using layers to build up to your finished project. But pretty much anything goes. You can use any type of supplies you have on hand. Of course, after taking several internet classes I now have even more supplies, more ephemera and more storage boxes to try to keep all this new medium sorted! You all know how that goes, don’t you??


My local quilt guild started a monthly 12” x 12” quilt challenge with the first ones due Sept 1st. I decided I would try my hand at one of the challenges which was to use black and white and a bright color (red was my choice). And I was going to try to use my newly acquired collage techniques. So, I began building a stash using black and white and red fabrics and making marks on them. 99% of the fabric I used is Robert Kaufman’s Radiance which is a silk/cotton blend. I used Golden Acrylic paints with my stamps, a toilet paper roll to make the circles, and various brushes. I especially liked the fan brush used in #3 and #4. I also wanted to focus on some stamps I had made of my Green Man faces that I have in my garden.


The following are a couple of not so good photos I took of my very first attempt at fabric collage. I had spent a few days building up my fabric collage materials and I was very excited to start doing something with them, so I cut a bunch of the new elements out and plopped them down on my 12” square. Hmmmmm, something wasn’t working with it.   While trying to figure out what was wrong with my first attempt, I remembered that part about collage making being done in layers. You can’t just plop things down and expect them to immediately work! Back to the drawing board. I needed to get some paint onto the fabric as my first layer. THEN I could start building my collage as it began to speak to me. At least these photos give you a good visual of all the stamps I used. I still laugh when I look at these very first attempts.




Here is my first attempt after I got some paint down. Each of the following 4 quilts have 4 or 5 layers of marks on them. I think this one is pretty wild but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything to it to calm it down. It kind of grows on me the more I look at it. I think I was trying to hide the Green Man in this one by covering him up with white paint.

Here is my second attempt. This one is a bit more subdued but still pretty wild. The Green Man is pretty prominent in this one. He thinks he is the center of the universe!


Here is the third attempt. There is red stitching but not much. I made all the stamps I am using when I took Art and Design Level 3 from Gail Harker Creative Studies The little 1” size stamps are great for these size collages.

And here is the fourth one in the series. I like how the Green Man blends in this one.

It was great fun to play with these. I learned quite a bit and intend on creating more fabric collages in the future. The little 12″ x 12″ sizes work well for practicing.

Happy Creating!
Tesi Vaara

How Do I Finish These?

How Do I Finish These?

One of my latest projects has been playing with Inktense pencils and pans. I used a 12” x 12” stencil that I had purchased from The Crafters Workshop to begin the outline for my buildings piece.

I traced the stencil onto a commercial cotton that had a pattern of newsprint on it. It was fun to give it some texture.

I don’t know how any of you work, but I’m not too good with planning my whole projects out from start to finish so I didn’t really worry about how I wanted to finish this piece while I was working on it. After I finished it, I decided that I wanted to put a border on it and incorporate stitched figures of people into the border. I decided at first that I liked the blueish space on the sides and the bottom and began auditioning border fabric with the idea of leaving that area as inner border.

Here are the little blocks of stitched figures that I hand stitched, and I washed over them using a watered down Inktense solution of Navy Blue with a bit of Payne’s Grey added to it. These were initially about 4 inches.

I tried a couple different fabrics and placements of the figures blocks.


I decided that I didn’t like the blue border all the way around it so I cropped off the two sides and the bottom and tried it with a darker inner border.

So far I’ve not been happy with any of my choices but I definitely like the blue outline being removed. But now the wash on the figures wasn’t blending, much too blueish. So after doing a bit of testing, I put a brown Inktense wash over the figures. They are darker in this photo because they are still wet.

Once I washed over them, it also changed the whole mood of the buildings and I basically had to start auditioning a whole new color palette. A big sigh was going on in my studio when I got to this point. What have I done??

AND THEN I decided that the little figures just weren’t going to work at all for me. I felt they detracted too much from the buildings.


So when I found the blue grey hand dyed fabric, I thought that one would do it. Sometimes simple is better! It kind of reminds me of when I’d stay in a hotel in the city and look out the window at the buildings across the way when the sun was shining on them.

Now what do I do with all those stitched figures?

I decided I would put them on the back of the building quilt. But when I got the back put together, I thought it could be a quilt on its own. It was too sad to think of them on the back where no one would ever see them. Especially after all the work I had put into stitching them all!

But it needed more work to be a quilt on its own. I took the whole piece apart and started over. I ended up cutting the figure blocks down to a finished 3″ square so I lost most of the white edges. A sad loss, but necessary so I could make both quilts the same size.

I have a lot of fabric, but do you think I could find anything to go with this weird blue/brown wash I had put over the figures?? I wanted to put the tree fabric in to give the feel of being in a park. But it also added to the weirdness of the colors.

It took me several days to get both of these little 18” x 18” pieces done. I’m happy with the finished pieces now but it was a rather agonizing process to get to that point. I have to admit I did learn a lot while going through it! Learning is good!

I call the building piece “Summer in the City” and the figures piece “Winter in the Park”.

Will I plan how I will finish my pieces better in the future? I doubt it. But now I have plans to create Spring and Fall quilts to go with these two using the Inktense pencils and I look forward to doing that and seeing what I learn from them.

Happy Creating!

Tesi Vaara

Inner Thoughts

Inner Thoughts

by Tesi Vaara

It’s been a long winter. In between the COVID isolation and the cold and rainy weather I have managed to stay somewhat sane by being in my studio on a fairly regular basis. I’ve had my first COVID Pfizer vaccine and am due for my second within the coming week. I’m thankful to the world of ZOOM that lets me see and hear from other creative people.

I have spent most of my time creating things OTHER than art quilts since my last blogpost. Comfort quilts and clothing mainly. Busy work.


In January I made the decision to restart the Art Quilt group in my local quilt guild. We had quit meeting because of the pandemic and because of some health issues that began for me in early 2020. We are meeting now via ZOOM once a month and started off playing with Derwent Inktense pencils or other watercolor pencils. I tried out several design ideas found from using a variety of inspirations. One inspiration came from my rather expansive library of Native American books that I’ve collected over the years.

Most of the books I have give permission to use the designs in “craft” work so I’m not infringing on copyright rules by using them in a quilt.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and the Native American culture is very present here. I admire their art and have always wanted to make a quilt using their designs. So, I started making some quilt blocks using my Inktense pencils and proceeded to show 3 of the blocks during one of my Surface Design ZOOM meetings.

An interesting question came up…” Should Native American art be made by non-Native Americans?” Never did this thought cross my mind although I am aware that their art is sacred and spiritual to their culture. That is what draws me to their work.

I thought about this conversation for several days and it was really bothering me. I was trying to justify the okayness of making Native American art to myself. Then my white privilege (non)thoughts slapped me right in the face! That initial question was quite eye opening and I am still working through all that this has brought up for me. How can I, a white person, think I can even begin to understand Native American art or their heritage? No possible way! 

I think I might be able to give myself permission to create my own vision of these beautiful and spiritual designs for my own growth and learning and viewing enjoyment. If I do continue, I don’t feel that I will ever be able to display this work anywhere but my own home. I don’t think I have that right or privilege.

I’m still struggling with it though and need to do more journaling around it. Journaling got me to another question, “Who do I make my art quilts for?” which has also been an eye-opening inner conversation based on people pleasing. Pretty heavy conversations going on within my head! I still have lots to learn and understand, in art and in life.

As one person I follow on Facebook (Beau of the fifth column) says when he signs off, “It’s just a thought. Ya’ll have a good day!”

The Eyes Have It – Part 2

The Eyes Have It – Part 2

A couple of months ago I did a blog about drawing eyes. I mentioned that someday I would like to rework  the eyes on a quilt I had made of my rescue dog, Koko. A Zoom class became available in September  from Lorraine Turner ( called “All About Eyes”. Lorraine sometimes uses Derwent Inktense pencil to make eyes for her animal quilts. I haven’t played much with my Inktense pencils so thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about them and maybe find a fix for Koko’s eyes on her quilt.

Here is a close up photo of the quilt I call Saint Koko. The original eyes were plain fabric with a small bead sewn on.


Using an actual photo of Koko’s eyes, I tried to enlarge it enough to match the exact placement of her eyes on the quilt. Lorraine suggested making numerous sets of eyes to practice using the Inktense pencils on. I used a light box to trace the basic shapes of her eyes from the photo onto some plain white fabric.

What a FUN exercise! I went with the last set of eyes I had made. I then fused some Wonder Under to them and cut them out and lightly fused them to the quilt.

Right now, I am trying to decide if I like them or not. They almost look too real for my whimsical little quilt, don’t they? They definitely change things up, I think! They give her a totally different expression. I think more work will need to be done before I am satisfied. Perhaps more Inktense pencil work or thread painting. And I still may do some additional work on her face and body to lighten it up. Progress is being made though! Lorraine will be teaching more about Inktense pencils in November. I’m looking forward to playing with them and learning more about them.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been doing some dyeing with Procion Dyes. Jane Dunnewold ( ) has had some great Zoom lectures lately. She is an awesome instructor and person! I mixed up 12 of the pure colors to play with, scrunched up fat quarters and then rubber banded them before dropping them into the dye bath for 24 hours.

I have been wanting to play with dyeing my own silk/cotton fabric (Robert Kaufman PFD Radiance) that I use as the background for my tile quilts. Robert Kaufman quit manufacturing Radiance for a time and I was so sad as I love it’s sheen.  When I discovered he had the PFD available, I bought a whole bolt of it!

Aren’t these such beautiful colors!

Next I will cut each fat quarter into 4 equal pieces. One will be left alone, the other three will be overdyed using a complimentary color, an analogous color to the right, and then an analogous color to the left. I may use a different fabric manipulation prior to their second dye bath or I may just scrunch them up the same way. They almost look oversaturated to me already, so I’m really curious how the second batch will look. Dyeing is a lot of work!  But what fun!

Thanks for reading! Happy creating!

Tesi Vaara





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