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Road Trip: Quilt National 2015

18 Jun

Ohio may not be everyone’s ultimate summer destination, but I’ve always wanted to visit a Quilt National at the Dairy Barn in Athens. This juried biennial exhibit reflects cutting edge art quilts from around the world. Videos where the artists talk about their work are available on the Dairy Barn YouTube channel sharpen my anticipation.

In true Tactile Travel style, I’m researching good food, cultural history and interesting shopping. Do you have any suggestions?

Doodle, Draw & Muscle Memory

4 May longarm sketching practice at Machine Quilters Expo

Two mornings spent with Sue Heinz at the Machine Quilters Expo reignited my desire to draw.

longarm sketching practice at Machine Quilters ExpoThe time nudged me into carrying a sketch pad in my purse again. Sue claims that we build muscle memory just through practice, even if you’re swinging between pencil and longarm.

Doodling is a nice, mindful way to spend a couple of minutes. I’m hesitant to spend much time creating many motifs from others, but there are definitely skill sets being built by copying. Ideally, my work will develop its own vocabulary, depending on the piece.

On a bed quilt, these shapes are simply lovely. Sue had some fantastic samples that made me want to buy more thread. However, my ample stash of machine embroidery cotton will do me just fine for now.

Practice, practice, practice.

My Ignite Craft Boston 2015 Video

10 Apr

Huzzah for the fine board members and volunteers of the Common Cod Fiber Guild! Not only did they hold another fantastic Ignite Craft Boston in January, but their video recordings are up!

Here’s my 5 minutes of quick enlightenment on the different ways to quilt a sandwich.

Surfing Cats at City Quilter

20 Feb

It may be the last day of New York Fashion Week, but my schedule includes work, lunch, shopping and a show. No runways for me! With the weather and wind VERY brisk, I’ve actually taken the Metro. Normally, walking is an integral aspect of the Manhattan experience. How else can you get a feel of the city?

I don’t need quilting fabric, but a visit to City Quilter finally happened. For one who has seen MANY quilt shops, let me just say that this quilt shop curates a very fun selection of cottons. Once my eyes caught this fabric, the wave of “MUST HAVE” rolled over me.Alanna Nelson quilts surfing cats

Surfing cats from Riley Blake Designs. This will be a fun baby quilt back. It seemed only natural to grab a selection of Cherrywood gradations to match the colors.

What a great way to warm up a cold winter day!

Nightstand stack: Quilting books

9 Jan

In December, during my Master Knitter portfolio correction avoidance phase, I stopped by our local library to sit in cozy wing chairs, perusing art magazines and This Old House (one of my guilty yet practical pleasures). Inevitably wandering over to the stacks that house Dewey Decimal Classification number 646, I walked out with my arms full of quilting books. My nightstand stacked high, here are books that alternately lulled me to sleep and kept me up during the last month.

Already on my nightstand was Gwen Marston‘s Minimal Quiltmaking. Every one of Gwen’s books has her fantastic energy and this one is no different. The photography is excellent and she pulls in many wonderful interpretations of minimal quilting. While there are specific projects that you can complete, Minimal Quiltmaking offers opportunities for you to explore the ideas yourself. As I balance my interest in figurative and abstract expressions in my quilts, I could see a small series of studies based on the chapters of her book.

Almost everyone who comes to Laurena’s Longarm Quilting coos about Angela Walters. If you are just walking into free motion quilting, you may want to subscribe to her rss feed… or buy the book, so you keep all of that info in one tidy place. Her approachable manner and enthusiasm are contagious. While Cheryl Malkowski’s Doodle Quilting would be another example of this fun approach to free motion quilting. Karen McTavish’s second edition of Mastering the Art of MacTavishing should be on your nightstand if the Angela Walters book gets your free motion mojo moving!

Quilting Line and ColorAlanna Nelson longarm quilting books review had such an alluring cover, I thought this would be the most enticing find of my detour. The photography is marvelous and I love her aesthetic. If you want interesting quilting projects, take this book and prepare for a fun beginner quilter journey. If you’re a quilter who doesn’t bother with patterns and projects, don’t worry if you miss this.

It was Rachel May‘s Quilting with a Modern Slant that sparked the most contemplative moments. With a long list of contributors, I was amused to see artists like Kaffe Fassett and Jane Sassaman on her list of “Modern Quilters.”Ok, I just wrote a litany about the definition of modern quilting and my rather accepting, scornful, pleased, eye rolling understanding of the “movement.” The litany was deleted then pasted into another post. Stay tuned Definitely buy or check this book out of the library. Can we talk about it together soon?

It was a lovely full nightstand. Don’t you just love the library? What quilting books inspire you these days? I’d love to build up the nightstand stack again.

Comparative Art Forms: A Week of Inspiration

20 Nov Image of Tomie Nagano buffet MFA textile costume society

In a season known for gratitude, events this week permeated my heart with thankfulness. It all began last Wednesday, when the Museum of Fine Arts Textile and Costume Society friends met for an evening of contemporary art. Tomie Nagano and Marilyn Pappas shared works in progress and outlined their work flow.

Long an admirer of Tomie’s quilts, the peek behind the stitches was much anticipated. However, Marilyn’s embroidery and collage were new to me. I am now completely a fan. While their creative process varies tremendously, both artists devote copious time to each piece. Clearly both women savor the process despite the gradual, meticulous nature of their media.

Tomie collects used textiles from Japan (fortunately, she says, this started when few appreciated the gorgeous silk kimono and obi or the cost would have been prohibitive!). Seeking to create an emotion, she cuts narrow strips, creating traditional patchwork blocks. She decides the size of her work, places each strip and block, numbers it all. Next, Tomie organizes each block into layers laid out in boxes, separated by tissue paper. Hand stitching and hand quilting the entire work, she methodically moves through the process. Her current project is enormous!  A silk quilt displayed for us on her bed simply shimmered. This was one of the many advantages of the evening being hosted at Tomie’s home. I do love viewing bed quilts on a bed. Not to knock displaying bed quilts on a wall, but it’s a different experience.

Marilyn’s approach is more free form and yet equally time consuming. Her early work included textiles, but for many years, collage was a favorite mode of expression. Inspired by classical sculpture, she draws a rough outline on linen and begins to paint with one or 2 strands of cotton embroidery floss. The shading, the vivid dimensionality, the sheer quantity of stitches is mind boggling. She brought several pieces from her History Lessons series. We are not talking about small works of art.  The torsos are often life size.

Can I ever embroider again without thinking of her?

Image of Tomie Nagano buffet MFA textile costume society After feeding our souls with their creative energies, Tomie led us to a magnificent buffet that she had prepared for the group. From the sushi rolls, stuffed avocados to delicious salads, the table was a visual and gustatory delight.  A quick camera phone photo could only capture half of the bounty! A thank you note felt so flimsy after Tomie and her husband offered such hospitality. I am truly grateful for the evening.

Italian ceramics provided a glorious setting for Giardini di Sole’s Meet and Eat this week. Giardini di Sole curates a collection of beautiful and useful Italian home dec and garden tableware, lighting and stone tables (simply beautiful things! And in all transparency, I assist with their marketing and events). Goddess of hospitality, Josephine Wennerholm prepared multiple examples of starters, salads, main dishes and desserts with Elatia Harris of Lucy’s Mom Cuisine. The lively crowd left satiated both spiritually and physically! Jo believes in the ties created by sharing a meal. I know that nothing can be more inspiring than happy people enjoying and a good time together.

Each of us has the creative spirit, expressed in all kinds of ways (providing that we take time to listen). In the knitting classes I lead, the creation process simmers, coming alive in stitches or in thoughts while knitting. This week, we celebrated many new finished objects. What joy when your first knit sweater looks great on your tot or you wrap your first scarf around your neck! How stunning to see the color combinations felted into tote bags. What a vision when a beautiful scarf catches my breath as a knitter walks into the room. How cozy winter evenings will be with that newly completed afghan. I’m delighted to see their accomplishments.

As Fred Wiseman noted in his question and answer session at Sunday’s MFA showing of National Gallery, his documentary was a study of comparative art forms. My week was a study of creative expression. From stitches to squash, ice crystals to philosophical notes, I’m grateful for the perspicacity in my life.

Loving the Longarm

1 Jul

My grandfather believed that you should never begin a letter with an apology for not writing.

“Why waste the paper? If you get a letter from someone, you want news, not excuses.”

Blogging is the same sort of thing, I imagine.


If you’ve been following the Master Knitter Level 3 journey and other posts marking the voyage, you may be relieved/surprised that I finally sent the portfolio in about a month ago. I’ve had all kinds of fun during my free time, glorious long days and warm nights that beckon me to spend every possible minute outdoors.

Work wise, I’ve started spending a chunk of my week at Laurena’s Longarm Quilting.

Boston Longarm Quilting at Laurena's Longarm

Laurena’s ready for the next wave of growth and has realized that she can’t do everything (although she certainly tries!). I’ll help her with marketing, social media and assisting renters at her studio in Burlington. I’ve known Laurena for (gasp) seven years now, as a small group of Rising Star Quilters headed up to the Vermont Quilt Festival for a fantastic fiber escape as part of my Tactile Travel tour business.

At the time, Laurena had one longarm quilting machine, providing custom quilting for Boston area patchwork lovers. When she added another machine and started teaching others how to use the machine in 2008, I was quick to sign up. I love hand quilting, but I have machine quilted several queen and king size quilts on my Bernina . One of my art quilts made of 5 layers of wool just wasn’t gliding easily with my home machine.  So I started the path and eventually felt confident enough to quilt Plantano II in 2010 (somewhere I know I have photos…).

I still love hand quilting, but when it comes to bed quilts, I’m all about the longarm. For those quilters who still firmly believe that hand quilting is the only way, I respect your belief. But it’s not the true and only path. If I’m feeling flippant, I could remark that only sail boats are an acceptable form of cross Atlantic transportation as well (But I’m not, so I won’t!). We all love different things. I, of course, love many things.

Have you tried a longarm quilting machine? Once you’re loaded, it’s quite fun… anyone who loves to doodle will adore it.  Anyone who doesn’t like doodling can definitely get their zen moment by following a pantograph.  Laurena offers Learn about Longarm classes twice a month, so definitely contact her if the idea interests you.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the projects that tempt and try my hands and mind lately. So, expect more frequent blogging this summer. For all things about longarm quilting, I’ll post content on Laurena’s blog. I enjoy posting Tactile Travel discoveries and living projects vicariously through some of my favorite blogs. If you really want to hear the daily scoops, definitely let’s connect on Twitter or Instagram.

Then if there is a delay in posting, we can at least keep in touch.

Best Wishes!


Civita II Mini Raffle Quilt

19 Nov Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

In northern Lazio, there is a hilltop that Rick Steves essentially saved from washing away, both figuratively and literally. Civita di Bagnoregio  was the birthplace of St Bonaventure, but the gritty volcanic tuff and earthquakes eroded the sides and summit of this bluff. Until Rick Steves waxed on about it in the early 1990’s, it seemed destined to disintegration.

Civita di Bagnoregio, ItalyAbout 10 days before the Rising Star Quilt Show, members received an email with new ways they could support the show. I’d never made a 12×12″ mini quilt for the raffle, so why not?

In 2010, I made an 8×10″ quilt based on a drawing I did of this hilltop town. About 75 pieces were pieced together, which was quite enjoyable, and I wanted to take this and play with the basic image. Could I create a simple quilt and finish in time? As Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”

The mini quilt had 4 different fabrics, 3 of them hand dyed/painted pieces from my stash. I outlined buildings with machine quilting, but that left the windows. What to do? I would love to capture the way shadows hit the space, and I would love to finish this quilt before Friday afternoon!

In comes the October speaker for the Rising Star Quilt Guild, Jane Davila, who not only spoke but brought many goodies for textile artists.  I picked up a couple of nail-polish-bottle looking bottles of accent ink from Smooch. Obviously, I have a lot to learn about using these inks, but when the time and simplicity are paramount, it worked.

Civita Quilt by Alanna Nelson
I wasn’t at the show on Saturday (ehem, it was the best day of the last weekend of sailing season), but I heard it attracted a bunch of tickets. Best wishes to whoever won!

Rising Star Quilters Show 2014

17 Oct Rising Star Quilters Show Raffle Quilt MA 2013

October 26 – 27, 2014

Amble on over to Cary Hall in Lexington, MA for the Rising Star Quilters Guild for eye popping quilts, a boutique of hand made items, raffles and scavenger hunts.   Truly something for everyone, quilt fiend or not!

Rising Star Quilters Show Raffle Quilt MA 2013

Autumnal Stars is the large raffle quilt at the 2013 RSQ Show

I’m donating a mini quilt for our raffle inspired by a hillside town in Italy. You can also see my contribution to the “Two by Two” challenge (photos up next week, I hope!) Hope to see you there!

Cohesive Art Quilts at Images Quilt Show in Lowell

14 Aug Italian landscape art quilt by Alanna Nelson

Quilting simmers on the back burner this year as I pursue the last stage of the master knitter program. Without starting my tirade for more hours in a day, let me just say how pleased I was to participate in the Studio Art Quilt Associates’ exhibit at the 2013 Images Quilt Show in Lowell. Val and Michele led the charge as co leaders of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island chapter of SAQA. As the veteran event organizer, I can totally applaud and appreciate the time and energy dedicated to this exhibit. Thanks, wonder women!

The SAQA special exhibit called for three works made by the same person united by theme, techniques or colors.  What a great opportunity to look through my quilts and complete finishing touches to one languishing! These were the 3 quilts I showed from August 8 – 10, 2013.

Entry Blessings, 2013
Alanna Nelson Art Quilt

I originally put this quilt together for last fall’s Rising Star Quilter show, but was so unhappy with the work, I took it apart and modified the felted background, approached the appliqué in a different manner and requilted the work. The Arabic greeting wishes all who enter peace and tranquility. Besides the wet felted “cloud,” I embroidered the words on silk, adding a trail of sequins and beads.  I tried to balance formality with irregular shapes… not sure if I got it right yet, but the felted cloud functions better than it did last fall.

Bright Skies II, 2013Mix media quilts by Alanna Nelson, Boston, MA

Inspired by a baby quilt I made in 2003 (that hung on the wall and not in the crib, I hear), I dyed and painted many of the fabrics in both Bright Skies quilts during my days in Rome. Fabric, felted and knitted suns are reverse appliquéd to the piece. The lower right sun is simply a machine quilted circle… indicating perhaps new techniques I may incorporate in my quilts? This was my languishing quilt, as the top was completed in 2010.

Gioia’s Rainbows, 2003

Italian landscape art quilt by Alanna NelsonDriving around the Castelli Romani in 1998, I came upon a most magnificent double rainbow. I made this quilt during my youngest daughter’s rainbow phase, but it sat in a drawer for a decade. I think it’s time to hang this quilt somewhere.

Now it’s off to play with more fabric!