Back in the saddle

This past week felt almost normal, working long days, stress, and lots of teaching!!

Last weekend I taught an online workshop for Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. It was a course I’ve wanted to try for a long time, a morning of slow stitching a fabric cover for a long stitch book, followed by an afternoon of designing a fancy long stitch binding. It mostly went well, but the afternoon session was a challenge when the limitations of technology made me feel like a less than stellar teacher. We muddled through and I think at the end of the day the students were happy.

A cover in progress

I decided to assuage my conscience and create a handout for those students, and an extra tutorial video. Which got me thinking about that book of binding patterns I’ve been toying with for years now. During lockdown I did simplify and chart out several of my black work embroidery inspired designs. Thanks to social media, I have a team of ten testers trying out this first pattern. If the feedback is favorable I plan to put some real thought into finally pulling that together.

Here’s the design that flummoxed my students and now my testers are trying out!

I rounded out the week teaching a workshop at SUNYJCC as part of their new makers series, in conjunction with the Weeks Gallery and the art and design department. I was an adjunct at JCC for years, so it was a little like a homecoming. I had a really enthusiastic group of students from many different fields, and everyone left with a finished book. I created a little refresher video for them, you can see it on my YouTube channel. If you’d like to give it a try there’s a printable cover we used to get started. Links to both are below. I printed it on a really heavy card stock. (And before all the binders out there jump all over me, we didn’t worry about the grain direction on the covers, the idea was just to get an experience of making a book as simply as possible with the resources we had available.) Many students glued recycled materials like old painted canvas or box board to their books to finish them off, which will hopefully help them be more durable. If you’d like to give it a try you can download the handout, and follow along on the video. I think there’s enough information even if you weren’t at the workshop.

I also picked up a couple of commissions, and committed to sending work to two exhibitions. And now I’m exhausted! I’m out of practice at this level of hustle, so I’m looking forward to an afternoon of puttering, tidying the studio, and sorting materials ready to hit the ground running next week.

I’m also looking forward to handing out sweets to all the little trick or treaters later! Blessed Samhain friends, I hope there is a sweet treat in your day too!

free workshop for the Big Read

the ghost book

I was invited by the Prendergast Library to join some other local artists in creating projects inspired by this year’s Big Read book – Pretty monsters by Kelly Link – which could be shared via a free virtual workshop. My project is inspired by The short story the Constable of Abal. The story opens with a strong visual image which really sparked my imagination, of a world where people wear ghosts hanging from ribbons as accessories on their clothes. That was an idea I could run with! So I created what I am calling the Ghost Book.

Because the workshops are not being held in person, I tried to create something that was made from materials it would be easy to access at home. I raided the recycling bin for many of the things I used, and then added some supplies from my studio to dress up the final book. If you’d like to join us on Tuesday, October 13th at 5pm the link to register is here

To craft along with me in the workshop you’ll need to gather up the following basic supplies

An envelope – I used a #10 with a window to add a little peek-a-boo effect on the cover, plus some magazine pages or scraps of paper to glue onto it – on the outside I used pages from a magazine, on the inside of my book used old pages from a discarded book

Some pieces of paper, in my book I used a couple of pieces of sketchbook paper, which I tea-stained and splattered with paint, an illustration from a book, some pages from a magazine, and some scraps of decorative paper I had in my studio, you need about 6-8 pieces of various papers

Tags or scraps of cardboard, I used a couple of mailing tags and an old postcard to make the tags to hold my ghosts – who are pictures cut from an old book – and some ribbon or yarn to attach them to your book

I added a paper flower and some charms and beads to jazz up my book – but you could add these in later if you don’t have them on hand.

Plus some simple tools – A needle & thread, a glue stick, a pair of scissors

I hope to see you Tuesday!

pop-up card – perfect for Mother’s Day!

Make a pop-up Mother’s Day card

Usually this week I’d be busy designing a pop-up card to make with my adult art group. They really enjoy making them and they usually get rave reviews – every Mum likes to get a homemade card no matter how old their “kids” are!

Since we are still on pause here in NY my group is not meeting right now, and kids are not in school, so they are not making cute gifts for Mum either, so this week I am sharing a couple of tutorials for cards, They might be a bit complicated for small children, but maybe Dad or an older sibling can help!

Today’s tutorial features 3 different versions of the same card, including one you can just print and color. The links below will let you download the files you see in the video tutorial. I drew these with a sharpie and scanned them in – so they will have a more “homemade look”

I hope you enjoy the tutorial – watch for another card later in the week! 

embroidered at WNYBAC

Like many artists I am so fortunate in the people and places the muse throws into my path. Regular readers will already know that I love spending time at WNYBAC – the Western New York Book Arts Center, in Buffalo. Its a bit of a hike from my home (1.5-2hrs by car) but I finished the second half of my undergraduate degree in Buffalo at UB as a commuter, so I can find my way there and back in my sleep. Last year I was offered an opportunity to have an exhibition in their gallery and that show opened earlier in the month. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will already have seen some images from that show, but in case you don’t here’s a few images

As part of the exhibition “package” they ask you to design a workshop to tie in with the show, and today I taught a cheerful group of 13 students, many of whom had never made a book before, a pretty challenging two signature, two needle cross stitch binding. If you’d like to give it a try, or were in the workshop (thank you!) and want a refresher here is a brief tutorial. To begin you will need the following supplies:

  • This two signature cross stitch template printed on a sheet of letter sized (8.5×11) cardstock
  • 8 sheets of 9×12 paper (grained long)
  • some linen thread and needles
  • an awl, a bonefolder and an x-acto knife

Begin by cutting out the pieces from the template.

1 web

Next score the lines along the spine and fold to create the cover ( printed side inside)

Punch all the dots to create the sewing stations in the cover

Fold each sheet of 9×12 paper in half and tear down into 16 pieces that measure 6×9

Divide into two sets of 8 pages, and fold together in half to create two signatures

Using the stripy punching guide from the template, punch the sewing holes in both signatures

Cut a piece of thread 24-30 inches long, and thread with a needle at both ends. Do not tie any knots in the thread

To begin sewing enter the spine at the head of the book. Each needle should go into the first sewing station, through the signature to the inside of each.

Then take each needle out the second sewing station in each signature, back out to the outside of the spine.

I always sew left to right because I am right handed, but as long as you are consistent it doesn’t really matter. With the spine facing you, take the needle in the left hand row and take it down into the third sewing station in the right hand making a diagonal stitch across the spine.

15 web

Using the same needle, sew down into the 4th sewing station and back out to the spine

16 web

Take the right hand needle and sew into the left side, completing the cross stitch, again take the same needle out though the 4th hole to the outside again. This is now the left hand needle, sew across the spine to make the next diagonal, and repeat until you reach the end of the sewing stations, alternating needles so the crosses form on the stitches in the same direction


At the end, sew up to the previous sewing station, but only through the signature (NOT the cover) tie off the two ends in the gutter and trim.

You can increase the numbers of signatures in pairs and sew into a larger book, like this one. You could also sew between signatures 2 & 3 in the same manner if you wished.


I chose this binding for the workshop because learning it gave me the idea to experiment with making samplers as bindings, which lead to making bindings using lots of other kinds of embroidery – especially blackwork embroidery.

Its been a pretty perfect day – now I am relaxing at home with tea and chocolate. Taking a few minutes to let all my good fortune wash over me, before I get back at it!


Summer’s swan song

Tomorrow the new school semester begins, so for this past week I have been rushing to cross things off my summer list. I’m feeling really ambivalent about teaching this year, so I think it is time to plan my leap. More on that thought to come, but for today, here’s the last update from my summer in the studio. To warm up this week I made this little guy, heavy flax covers from a deckle box several years ago, suede spine, twin needle cross stitch over two signatures, and it has pockets!

Feeling happy and confident I turned my attention to a piece that I wanted to finish for my exhibition at wnybac in September. When I first started making the blackout inspired bindings I really wanted to make an Elizabethan style collar, but I couldn’t quite make it work.

Then during PBI earlier this year I had a bit of an epiphany in Beatrice Coron’s class. I made myself a cut tyvek collar, and I experimented with this accordion folded Lacey cut.

So this week I was determined to get back to that first idea and see what I could make of it now. First up was a period inspiration, taken from a Holbein painting of Jane Seymour. In the painting you can see her blackworked cuffs, and so using that pattern I embarked on a new binding design.

I wanted to try binding this on the bench, so I drew a graph and started the binding. By the time I reached this stage it was pretty late at night. After many false starts where I lost my place and had to unpick my sewing, I went to bed feeling a bit defeated. (Following the graph is like sewing counted cross stitch, if you lose your place it’s really frustrating!) This was the end of day 1

The next day I decided to leave the final mistake in the pattern, as this was just a test and pushed on to the end of the pattern repeat. Here’s that binding

I am just going to have to pay really close attention when I do the real thing. So I put this aside and turned my focus to a paper lace page.

I love how this looks, but the book will need 46 more signatures folded and cut like this, so stay tuned patiently! Especially as now I will have to squeeze them in around teaching.

Ah well, back to the grind.

Whirlwind weekend

Wowsers! What a week that was, the unveiling of the Chautauqua Prize would have been enough for one week, but hot on the heels of that came the grand reopening of the gallery where I am the curator, 3rd on 3rd, part of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. It was jam packed as this coincided with Lucyfest and the opening of the new national comedy center. The exhibition is a fun one, images curated from an Instagram contest of images of Jamestown, NY.

Then on Saturday night I finally got to share this Summer’s studio work with my guests at the Crary as I opened my own show. Here’s a picture of me taken during my artist’s talk

That’s the work of Paige Kleinfelder behind me on the wall.

Then on Monday there was a rededication for mural I have been relocating and restoring since last summer. Here I am looking scholarly in discussion with some of the family and friends who helped in the campaign to save it

Then Monday night I taught a workshop at the Springville Center for the Arts where we made these adorable little chunky journals

Then today I taught a blackout meditation group, here’s some student work from that

It’s exhausting just making that list! Tomorrow I am going to clean my house and studio!

An aha moment

Last week I was teaching a blackout meditation class in a hilltop pavillion at the Pfieffer Nature Center. It was about as blissful a situation as one could hope for, which is probably why it happened.

The participants were busy making their blackout meditations, and we were talking about using stencils to add images if you are intimidated by drawing pictures. I grabbed a leaf from a nearby tree to illustrate my point, resulting in this

As I was driving home it occurred to me that maybe I could do some botanical contact prints on found text and use them for meditations. And I love them! The botanical print adds a random element to the page and narrows down the amount of page for meditating on.

I decided to use coloured pencils to do the “blackout” part of the process, and then I added in some slow stitch. (I’ve used stitching to make blackouts before).

Here’s the result

Serendipity at work.

Back to the studio!

Clearing the decks

I can’t believe winter break has already been and gone. Somehow I always have more ambition than time, and this year was no different.

The first week of classes usually has the potential to run off the rails, this semester it was technology, or the lack of it, which caused the biggest hurdles. It didn’t help that my classes weren’t confirmed until less than 2 days before classes started. Luckily I am not teaching anything new, so it was just a matter of brushing things up. I am also auditing a printmaking class so I can learn Japanese style wood block printing, which will hopefully get me in the studio a bit too. By the end of the week I was starting to get my feet under me and fingers crossed all goes well from here on out!

During the week I embroidered some leaves, because my umbrella plant always drops leaves in the winter, and they are great to work on. Here they are fresh

And here they are again a few days later.

I love how ephemeral they are, the process makes me think about manicured gardens, about trying to control the natural world, possess it, and how nature resists our desire to order and control it.

I spent the weekend trying to clear the decks in the studio, I still seem to have a stack of unfinished projects lingering. Some things just needed a little work, like this stack of journals, which just needed the covers

Glad to have those finished, and they will be heading out to local galleries in the next few weeks.

These brown bag lunch journals have been knocking around partially completed for months, today I finished all the decorative sewing on the covers, now all that’s left is sewing in the signatures. Hopefully I can get these buttoned up this week.

I’ve also got a stack of mending, alterations that need my attention, and then there’s the 3 pairs of trousers I cut out but haven’t sewn yet! I really want to get all that done before the grading starts piling up. So I guess less talk, more action is needed here. Back to work.


This is what is on my mind lately. Trying to settle in to my summer routine makes me realize my mind is going a million miles an hour. Summer for me is ideally a time of working in the studio. It’s a time to explore, do some research, and let the work find its own path, but deciding to take part in the open studio tour and do an evening art festival meant the beginning of summer was filled with scurrying. Of course scurrying is essential to financial well-being but not an ideal state of mind for reflection or for new work to emerge. This week life finally slowed to the syrupy pace which signals summer to me. In fact, I had to look at my calendar to figure out what day it was this morning!

Last week I attended a NYFA event in Auburn, a long drive from my home, but worth it. I was working as a sort of mentor, a safe place for artists to express their dreams and someone to run their ideas by after a weekend of intensive business boot camp. I gave them feedback and ideas of places/people to look to for help. (Long time readers may remember I attended a boot camp myself and it rocked my world!) I also got to meet D. Chase Angier, a choreographer, and a conversation with her gave me a radical mind shift and convinced me to slow down and rethink a project I am working on, and to DREAM BIGGER. I realised I have been limiting the kind of work I was thinking about creating based on opportunities I currently have to exhibit the work, which of course is totally backwards! Just because an opportunity for a larger or more complex work doesn’t exist right now, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to find somewhere for it to be seen in the future. Meeting Chase was a gentle reminder from the universe to just do the work.

On a more prosaic note – I needed something to wear to the event, so I made a new pair of trousers, I like them so much I made a second pair and bought fabric for a third pair! I used a great pattern from vogue, by a designer whose work I wasn’t familiar with – Marcy Tilton. I also bought a blouse pattern by the same designer, which came out nicely too. I forgot how satisfying it is to sew for myself! While I was in a practical mood I also did some mending that had been cluttering up my work area for at least a year – mending always makes me feel virtuous, and of course it restored some favourite clothes to my wardrobe.

This is turning into rather a newsy post – so the other big news in my life is my quiet new car. I have been driving a 2003 Impala for a while, it is functional, but not so pretty and it was reaching the point of no return. As our youngest daughter has graduated from college we could finally afford to replace it. We have been looking for a while, and then this week we found the one. I am so excited because we were able to afford a used hybrid! It is so quiet and luxurious, I am a lucky girl! I can’t wait for upcoming workshops out of town, as it will give me a chance to test all the bells and whistles.

As I work in the studio right now I am listening to “Quiet” by Susan Cain. The book is about introverts. I am an introvert. I am not shy, or afraid of leadership, but I find people exhausting. It took me a long time to realise this. As a child I spent most of my time ramming around with my sisters (I have 4) and kids from the neighbourhood on our bikes, but I also spent a LOT of time reading by myself. As I got older I realised this wasn’t true for everyone. I envy people with easy manners and the ability to make small talk. I often come across as aloof because I find small talk agonizing and so default to saying nothing at all. This can be a bit of an impediment as a teacher. I am perfectly happy to lecture; I am not particularly afraid of speaking in public as long as I am well prepared, but I find it hard to form bonds with my students by casually chatting. The students I do form bonds with tend to be serious about their work, and that is the way we connect, through sharing ideas and knowledge, not with small talk. I find teaching workshops really intimidating until we begin working. The “chatting” before the workshop begins is excruciating for me. I never know what to say! So if you take a workshop with me help me out! Again I find it easier to connect with people once we are talking about the work. And inviting a curator to my studio is a 10 on my discomfort scale!

I realise now that introversion is one of the reasons this blog is so valuable to me. It allows me to put my thoughts and ideas out at a distance. To have a safer conversation with you. I wonder how many of you this is also true for?

Well time to go back to my quiet studio and get to work. As always, thanks for sharing my journey.

Local arts showcase


I’ve blogged about Infinity before. What happens there is the best of the arts. Young people are mentored and inspired. With the help of local artists they craft their own goals and get all the support they need to make them happen. We all know the arts make better people. So I am happy to be participating in this year’s local artist showcase. In addition to hawking my wares I am also donating an art guitar to their auction.
Here’s a shot of the work in progress.


Hope that if you are in the area you will take the time to come and see the marvel for yourself!