Taking up a quilt challenge

This has been a busy few weeks, as I decided to teach myself advanced piecing techniques by doing two simultaneous challenges: #100days100blocks2017 on Instagram, and the Houston Modern Quilt Guild‘s 2017 Mystery Quilt. 

Here’s my progress on the Mystery Quilt: 


#hmqgsewandtell @paintedhippo #hmgqmysteryquilt

A post shared by Houston Modern Quilt Guild (@houstonmqg) on


And here are the first 20-something blocks from the #100blocks100days2017 challenge: 

Finished blocks for the first quarter of the 100days100blocks challenge, on the design wall

This challenge uses Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks book as the guide, and each block has a specific day that you have to post it. Keeping up with the calendar is a challenge, but so far I have managed to stay at least 2 days ahead. 

While I am enjoying the challenge for the design fun and the social aspects, I do not think that I am learning to love piecing.  LOL.  I am much more comfortable with painting or appliqué. I do want to learn more about paper piecing, though. I think that could be amazing for doing some complex images without driving myself nuts.  We shall see! 

I’m working on different kinds of zipper pouches and bags for my July re-stock on the Etsy store.  I’ve got a lot of simple pouches done, but I want to throw some more interesting shapes into the pool, as well.  Those sneak peeks will be coming soon, and products launch after July 4th.  

I’ve been debating the fate of the 100 blocks from the challenge, since I don’t typically do big quilts. I was thinking that some of them would make great accents on larger bags or other items.  Then again, by the time I’m finished maybe I’ll be in love with the idea of having a full-sized quilt that I made. 

There’s something very satisfying in using something you have made in your home, or at work. Now I have to convince more people that it’s great to use something I have made in their home! 



Comicpalooza is coming: meet & geek with us

So this year, I’m representing Friends of Fandom (aka Houston Science Fiction Association, the people who brought you ApolloCon) at Comicpalooza on a panel called “Meet & Geek with HSFA” on Saturday, May 13. (6pm, Room 352D, I believe. Check the final schedule to be certain. Badges required!)

We are also having two associated but not badged events that day: Meet & Geek: Early Edition will feature fans getting caffeinated at 11 am in the Starbucks Lounge on the 2nd Floor South of the GRB Convention Center. Everybody needs some coffee or tea goodness in the morning, right? And the GRB has a great new comfy seating area at the very southern end of the building, including an outdoor seating area.

Meet & Geek: Late Edition will be immediately following the panel, at 7pm. We’ll start at the 2nd Floor north end of the GRB, at the skyway crossing for the new Marriott hotel. From there, we’ll explore some of the new bars and hangouts on Discovery Green. Updated locations will be posted to the Meetup comments. 

We’re working hard at HSFA to make fun events for local fans, and we’d love to see you and hear your thoughts about what Houston needs to connect fans and have more fun, geeky events. ApolloCon was a great event, and we’d love to have it again, or more like it, but for that we need people.  Let’s see what we can do together.  

You can RSVP to both events on Meetup, and don’t forget to check out all of our fantastic local authors on the Literary Track all weekend. The independent and small presses are usually very well represented, in addition to a few big names as anchor appearances. (And the media guests are great, too, I guess? If you’re into that sort of thing.) 

Painting Gabi the Beagle on Silk

So, the bad news is that on February 23, our adorable beagle, Gabi, died. She had bad asthma and some other health problems, and apparently encountered something on our walk that hit her lungs so badly she couldn’t recover. It was a quick end, which I guess is better than something long and drawn out, but she definitely left us too soon. We were all sad for a long time. Still are, really.

Adorable Gabi:

I guess I took a lot of photos of her, because it seems like every Facebook “N years ago” memory lately is of Gabi. Oh, Facebook, you always know how to hit us.

Of course, I decided that I needed to mourn her by painting a portrait. Not just any portrait, either. Ink on silk. And then quilt it. And maybe do a block print. And an oil on canvas. We’ll see how that goes.

I broke out the silk kimono lining and ironed the creases out (a difficult task, actually. Those creases were *in* there.), then stretched it over a 13″ x 13″ piece of cardboard. In retrospect, cardboard was probably not the best idea, but it was what I had at the time. My Tuskineko All-Purpose Ink and various applicators stood at the ready to do their best.

I started by sketching in white. Initially, I tried using a brush, but I found that the Tsukinekko Fantastix Brush Tip Applicators were much better for drawing. That surprised me, since I had such a hard time with them previously. This time, though, they worked beautifully. I used one for each color, and blended a fourth medium shade of brown to round out the selection. I used a brush for the larger areas of color, for speed mainly, but anytime I needed to pay attention to detail or blending, I chose the Fantastix. Initially I was going to use blue for the background, but I ended up using the yellow and I find I like it. I’m allowing it to cure and mellow in my mind right now, but by next month I will be ready to do the stitching on it.

My VIP Tour of NASA (Space: it’s Really Big!)

Me at Historic Apollo Mission Control Center, NASA Houston

Sometimes, living in Houston has unexpected perks, as when some old friends turn out to also be former NASA researchers who can request VIP tours for visiting science fiction authors.

My group, the Houston Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup, hosted a writers workshop with Chris McKitterick, director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. As part of his visit down here, the coordinator of the workshop arranged a VIP tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
We met at Rocket Park, which is a public access area, coincidentally next door to the grazing fields for NASA’s prize longhorns. Ah, Texas – where every unused acre is used for grazing cattle. From Rocket Park, we had a great view of the new installation at Space Center Houston – the Shuttle Mockup still mounted on its modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

From the entry, we went to the Mission Control Center, where we got to observe the MCC for the International Space Station during the end of the astronauts’ day on board. The screens were mostly pre-recorded things, from the space walk earlier in the month, preparing for a later task.

Then came the bonus round: a visit to the floor of the Historic Apollo Mission Control Center. We got to take the side door and explore the room inside. It was awesome. Dom showed us where he would have sat once, as Flight Surgeon for shuttle missions. We took a look at the red phone at the DoD station. Each desk has pneumatic tubes so that messages and reports could be written down and sent to another station quickly. Buttons and levers and tiny monochromatic screens: yet this was the Mission Control in use for decades. The funny thing was that a tram tour from Space Center Houston came in to the observation lounge behind glass while we were there, climbing all over the old green machines and beige carpeting. One thing: the steps between levels are SUPER tall – everybody in there must have had amazing quads and well-fitting pants.

From the MCC, we went to another building where we got to see the NASA  Moon Rock Lab. The lab is a clean room, but there was an observation room for us behind glass. There were moon rocks on display, as well as many in storage. They continue to be used for research all over the world. In a different part of the same building, we encountered the Stardust project. A small team built a spacecraft to collect particles from the tail of a comet, as well as interstellar dust. They’ve already discovered amazing things examining the most minute slices of these bits of dust. I got a lot of artistic inspiration looking at the high-magnification photographs all over that lab. Beautiful science!

Finally, we were escorted to the Training Hangar where we got to traverse the interior of NASA’s International Space Station module mockups. Wow! That was amazing, and full of interesting bits of knowledge for the science fiction writer. We got to peer into the training mockups for the new Orion spacecraft, and the Soyuz that currently takes astronauts to the ISS. There was a lot of intriguing hardware to examine and exciting question to ask. Once we finished in the training modules, we headed out to the NASA gift shop before returning to our cars at Rocket Park. On the whole, a fantastic day out, with excellent people.

Thanks, JSC!

Quilt Festival in Pictures

At last, my International Quilt Festival 2016 photos are white-balanced and processed. Titles and artists have been added.

Quilt Festival 2016

I especially enjoyed the exhibit of Kathy York’s colorful quilts featuring 3-D elements and tiny worry people. They were very inspiring. I’m really encouraged by the use of shape and negative space in color quilts like hers, and in some of the Modern quilts on display. It’s something I’m exploring in my designs now.

There were a couple of award winners that were especially inspiring to me. One, ‘Suwon Hwasung’ by Mikyung Jang, was a spectacular wholecloth art quilt, drawn with thread. It was a monument to architectural rendering through stitching. I had the great pleasure of sitting with the artist at Quiltapalooza for dinner, and she showed me some of her quilt portraits as well. Her work is gorgeously lifelike and stunningly accurate.

Suwon Hwasung by Mikyung Jang

Another was ‘Silk Road Sampler’ by Melissa Sobotka, an extraordinary appliqué work of art based on an Istanbul textile market. The colors and placement of fabrics were so exact that it could be mistaken for a photograph itself from far away. It really knocked my socks off (speaking figuratively, as it is extremely unlikely that I was wearing socks at the time).

Silk Road Sampler by Melissa Sobotka

And, of course, I can’t let the 2016 show post go by without mentioning the fabulous ‘Crocodylus Smylus’ by Susan Carlson, part of a special exhibit of her work. This quilt is 20 feet long, just like it’s subject, the largest reptile in the world, the Australian saltwater crocodile. It really dominated the walkway down the middle of the convention hall. It was easy to get lost in the patterns, looking for the connections that made the fabric prints meld into the planes of the beast. Glorious!

Crocodylus Smylus by Susan Carlson

I got to take a few classes this year, and of course it was my first year to attend the International Quilt Market, the trade and professional show that immediately precedes festival. I got a lot of good information at Market, including a really great seminar about Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents. I also got to take a free-motion quilting class about texture in pictorial quilts, which is obviously right up my alley. I ended up with a sampler of elemental quilting at the end of that one. It seemed like the Festival was bigger this year, too – the quilts definitely took up more space in the hall than I’d seen previously, and the vendors spread out a bit. Wider aisles in the vendor section made shopping and navigating much easier than previous years, for sure. Plus this year the organizers had added small “lounge” sections to the vendor block, where there were clusters of chairs and tables. Those were so useful – I wish they did that in the exhibit areas, too! What I wouldn’t give sometimes for a chair to rest in among the pipe and drape!

So, in 2016 I learned a lot, came home with some amazing door prizes and samples, and was inspired by some of the best quilt artists working right now. I count it as a win.