Thursday, August 4, 2016

AIDS Names Quilt Panel Commission

I have been woefully remiss about my blog posts, so this is my effort to pick up the pace a bit. I intend to try to catch up and publish some stories and photos of a few things I've been working on lately or that I've made in the recent past. I hope to be entertaining for you, and perhaps even a little inspiring.

 A couple of years ago, an acquaintance asked if I would help her family. She told me that they had lost her older brother to AIDS, and then she told me all about him. She told me about what it was like for him to grow up gay in a small town in Texas, and how her family cared for him when he became ill. And she said she and her family had always wanted to add a panel to the Names Quilt Project for AIDS, but none of them had the emotional strength, technical or artistic skills, or the tools to do justice to her brother's memory, so she asked me to help.
I said yes, and then I went to the internet to learn about how to make an AIDs Names quilt panel. And in case you're wondering, each panel, including this one for Carl, measures 2 feet x 6 feet. The panels are not quilted, but they do ask that the makers finish the edges. I finished Carl's quilt with a pillowcase-style back so that it would be durable and more likely to last throughout many exhibits. Here's where you can find that information if you intend to make a panel:

The only instruction I got from his family was that it needed to sparkle, and they wanted it to be "Cabaret" themed. By the time I started the project, I felt like I knew Carl. And although I'm not what you'd call a spiritual person(and certainly not a religious person), I really felt like Carl was with me while I worked on his panel; it felt like he was guiding me in the layout and advising me on the design and aesthetic. 

I decided on a "design as I go" plan. First, I got a photo of Carl from his family and printed it on fabric. I found some free, cabaret-themed silhouettes that I used to create the silhouettes; and I crafted my own large, appliquéd letters.

Carl's photo

I found a sparkly gold trim, and a very delicate gold lamé fabric that, thanks to an anti-fray product, I was able to raw-edge appliqué on the top as stars—one star for each member of Carl's immediate family, with the largest star being his of course. I created stencil circles and used iridescent paint sticks to "light up" the marquee.

This was the first AIDs panel I had ever made. And it was the first "quilt" that I cried over. I grew to adore Carl in my "conversations" with him; and I so wished I had known him. He was funny and clever, with a quick wit. He was a loving son and cared deeply about his sisters. And he shared my love of musicals. So while I cut, and stitched, and painted, and worked… I could almost hear him whispering to me that, during his life, he had a family who loved him and who remember him still. And now that we were "friends," he had another person who would think about him. He seemed to be telling me to not cry, but I did anyway. And I still do… I am again as I type this.
Here's the panel, completed
Carl's quilt panel eventually ended up debuting in Durango, Colorado, in an AIDs Names Quilt exhibit sponsored by the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity.  You can read about the exhibit in the Durango Herald's article here:

I'm told by Carl's family that Robert Redford and his assistant saw Carl's panel on exhibit; and I was glad to hear that. But for me, Carl was the real star of this show.
And what of that acquaintance? She's now my friend.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Am I Officially An Artist Now?

Word of my work (using unexpected papers in unusual ways--see my posts about my paper towel quilts) got around. And a friend of a friend who was asked if they knew about anyone local doing unusual things with paper referred a designer to me. We talked, and I agreed to try to do what they wanted. 

It worked out and I was commissioned by this local design studio to develop an ink-wicking-on-rice-paper process, similar to marbling. These inked rice papers were going to be used for a prix fixe restaurant's menu covers. This very much anticipated restaurant (anticipated among famous restaurant critics nationwide, anyway) was expected to open late last year, but there were a number of delays (not the least of which had to do with my rice papers). Anyway, I sold the rights to the designs (but not the process) to the design studio, ergo the restaurant, and it looks like they even used them for their website!

Okay, so this isn't a BIG deal; not really. But still, I am pretty proud that they liked my work well enough to actually use it.

What's the restaurant? It's called Otoko, y'all. Here's the link, have a look! Buy tickets! Tell them you LOVE the website and the menu design too.

Am I allowed to officially call myself an artist now?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

George Learns a New Trick

My APQS George is a real workhorse. As I often say, he's my "other man." And yes, my husband is completely aware of our relationship; in fact, he encourages it! 

George and I have been together since 2008; and believe me, we've had our differences from time to time, and even our share of fights--these usually happen late at night when one or the both of us is tired. We've been through a lot, even a serious "medical" (mechanical) issue a few years back. But Susan, from Over the Top Quilting (the local APQS rep), fixed him up, and he was good a new again! 

And you know how these intensely passionate relationships go: at first it's all flowers and flirting, and then sometimes things sort of fizzle out. That's kind of how it was with the George and me.

Yes, in the beginning, it was love, Love, LOVE. With just a single touch of my fingertips, George would fly into action and together we would wrestle any quilting job we had into sublime submission. Ah... those days. Back when I thought quilts were just for beds and had to be large and cumbersome and that I needed a big man like the George to help me with 'em. 

But no more. Nope. Now I'm an art quilter. Oh, well, sometimes I still make a big quilt that needs a big boy on which to quilt it. But that's less and less often. And so George wasn't getting as much action as he used to (you know how it can be with long-term relationships, right?). And then, a couple years ago I bought Big Betty (my big Bernina). And Big Betty is pretty dang good at quilting my art-quilt-sized (wall) quilts. Betty was happy whether I used giant cones of thread or the smallest spools. I could even use a wound bobbin in the needle, and Betty took it. And I have loads and LOADS of  different colors of spools of thread and thread on bobbins. So more and more, I relied on Big Better.

Meanwhile, I had only used the giant (and costly) cone threads on the George because I was advised that he had these peculiar thread "preferences" and that only the high quality, spooled thread would work (unless I bought the spool attachment, that is, which I eventually did but I was never too happy with it). I believed I had been told about George. I believed that he was too rough to handle the more delicate threads. I thought he was a rough, tough guy whose brute strength required the more expensive threads.

So on the advice of all the experts, I began my collection of bland, but expensive, cones of thread. "Blenders" they call them. Off white, grays, tans, black, pale hues (bleh!). And sometimes I would even spring for a big honkin' cone of some bright or unusual color, use a few hundred yards of that thread on a quilt, then put the remaining 3000 or so yards of it in a drawer. What a flippin' waste of money!

Well, gentle readers, yesterday--in the middle of a big art quilt project in which I was using many small spools of many colors of thread--I had to take Betty the Bernina in to the shop for service. It seems that Betty had choked on a big wad of bobbin threads that were stuck in some unmentionable place deep insider her innards and she was coughing them up all over the back of my beautiful art quilt (which had to be tediously removed, inch by inch). Of course the service center required that Big Betty stay with them at least a few overnights... so my only choice was to stop... or was it?

So back in the studio, in a moment of desperation, I did the unthinkable: I used a spool of thread on George. And I put that spool of thread where the cone of thread usually goes. Yup, I did! And, I might add, it was a spool of inexpensive, easily attainable (at JoAnn's, y'all) Coat's Brand thread. Just a plain old doggone spool of thread! Then, even crazier, I skipped the pre-wound bobbins and loaded my own (to match the top thread, of course). And you know what?


Here's George now, lookin' all handsome and tough... and yet, in a way, so delicate and tender. Tender enough to use a spool of cheap thread.

Thanks for reading my blog, y'all. Hopefully, and with George's help, I'll be able post something about the finished art quilt soon.

Peace, love, and quilts everyone.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Just moments before I started writing this, I learned that my paper towel quilt, "This Day: The Strength Within" (see first blog post) did not get accepted in a statewide art competition. The juror gave no explanation for the declination, and I admit that the lack of explanation bothers me; but the rejection… meh… not so much. I've read a lot of articles lately about how hard it is for some artists to deal with rejection when an art piece they submit for an exhibit isn't accepted. But here's the thing: I have so much fun making my quilts, I'm not all that concerned about whether they get accepted into a show. I guess the only thing I can say I'm cranky about is that I'm out the entry fee.l
But here's the thing. The exhibit I entered was not a "quilt" or even "fiber art" exhibit; it was an "art exhibit." The entry did allow for "mixed media," so I entered my piece in that category (I mixed paper, ink, dye, paint, and quilting). I suspect my piece didn't make it in because it is not traditional art.
I bet that if I go to the exhibit, I'll see lots of paintings; probably paintings of birds that look just like birds or landscapes that look just like the landscape (not that there's anything wrong with that... but it does make me want to... you know... yawn.).   

So, that's about all I want to say about rejection On to the next piece! My peace sign quilt:


I haven't named this one yet. I'm thinking something like Peace, Man: A Nod to Andy, (as in Andy Warhol). This peace sign quilt is my first attempt at following Susan Carlson's instructions for making art quilts by gluing small bits to a base fabric on which the design is penciled in. I first saw Susan's work on the cover of a quilting magazine some years back: it was her pink rhinoceros. Then I saw her amazing piece called "Samuelasaurus Rex" at a quilt show. (It's a very large quilt and an image of her son—when he was little—on his tricycle, mouth wide open and his hands shaped like the claws of a dinosaur. I could almost hear him roar!) All value, with every color imaginable. Value (not color) did all the work. Wow!

Anyway, I bought her book a few years ago and read it pretty much cover to cover, and last year I finally made the top for this peace sign art quilt using her gluing method. Here are a few pictures of the peace signs in process.  

It was really fun, and I said I'd do another just like it; but for my second "Carlson-inspired" quilt I would pay more attention to value rather than color. But then I got busy with other things (paper towel quilts, among them) and didn’t do my value study, nor did I finish this peace sign quilt--for months. But… this quilt is going to be exhibited soon, so I had to get it finished. (As the saying goes, nothing motivates like a deadline).  

The cool thing about my latest quilt isn't the gluing technique, or the colors, or the fact that I actually used up some scraps. The thing I like most about this quilt is how the quilting looks on the back. I tried a new free-motion quilting design that sort of combines Zentangling with a quilting style that is inspired by something I saw in a quilting book by Karen McTavish.
Anyway, here's the back:



Finally, I finished the quilt with a full-turn binding. I love, Love, LOVE it when art quilters use a full-turn binding. I prefer it because it looks clean, it doesn't "stop" or interrupt the quilting with an unquilted (sometimes badly matched) piece of fabric, and (maybe most importantly) because it gives the piece more of a fine art look and less of a small bed quilt look. And, of course, this is just my personal preference. (Hey, it's my blog, so I get to state my preferences). It does not mean that I don’t like art quilts with a traditional (bed quilt) binding; I just like the full-turn binding better for quilts that are destined to hang on the wall. So, here's what I mean by a full turn.


And, yes, I purposefully switched the colors of the binding to pull the color from the front to the back, and to match the color of the thread on back.

Now look again at the front. No binding shows.
Finally, here's Lucy cat. She's my 11 year-old studio cat and she's been assisting me with all my sewing and crafting shenanigans since she was just a wee kitten. I found her in the parking lot of a nearby Hobby Lobby store one evening after the store had closed. I guess that since her life with me started near a craft store, it's fitting that she's a crafty cat.
Until next time, y'all!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Recycled Blooms: More Quilting with Paper

Cloth Paper Scissors is one of my favorite magazines, and in the July/August 2007 edition, artist Kelli Perkins wrote an article on paper beads—and her beads were GORGEOUS! I HAD to make some… and I did. I found a few uses for them, but ended up storing them in a container that I squirreled away on a shelf, always meaning to do something with them... or to at least remind me to make them again. 
Early this year, I found that article and pulled out my little container of beads, a large-print cookbook (paper source), and all the supplies I needed and rolled a bunch of beads. Here are a few:

Embossed paper beads

Roll forward (pun intended) several months, and a member of my art quilting group asked me to draft a proposal for teaching a class for our quilt guild. Part of the class I proposed was about how to make these paper beads… and some other paper things, like paper clay buttons and beads. And when I demonstrated the beads for guild members so they'd know what they'd be making if they took the class, nearly everyone asked me, “What can you do with paper beads?” Good question!

So I used them to embellish a paper quilt, of course.
Here’s my first, accidental, paper towel quilt called Recycled Blooms (thusly titled because it’s made with 100% recycled materials). I call it an accidental quilt because I just kept testing techniques with paper towels and everything I did worked! I think I accidently stumbled on a new “material” with which to make art quilts (see my This Day blog post).

Recycled Blooms

Detail of the vase in Recycled Blooms

Back of Recycled Blooms
This little quilt (it's only 5-inches by 18-inches) has already juried in to a local art exhibit earlier this summer. The exhibit featured works by artists who are members of Austin Fiber Artists ( at the Dougherty Arts Center; and that was pretty awesome!

Here's the detail of the large-print book beads on Recycled Blooms:

Bead detail for Recycled Blooms Art Quilt
Thanks for visiting; see you next time! Paper on, y'all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Veggie Hash Recipe

I aspire to nourish my body with the most healthful and fresh food possible. Recently, I got very serious about my plant-based eating pattern and stepped it up a notch by cutting out nearly all sugars, and I cut way back on eating out. I collect vegan and vegetarian cookbooks and recipes, and this is one of my newest favorites. I adapted this from a recipe I found on If you try it, leave a comment; and if you change it further, tell me what you did!  Enjoy! 

Veggie Breakfast Hash with Poached Eggs (serves 4)

3     teaspoons vegetable oil
1     cup chopped sweet onion
1     teaspoon herbes de Provence
  cup red or Yukon gold potatoes cut in ½” dice
1          cup zucchini cut in ½” dice
1     cup yellow squash cut in ½” dice
1     cup asparagus, cut in ½” pieces
2     cups chopped fresh tomatoes
    large eggs
1     Tablespoon white vinegar
1     Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
Seasoned salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste 

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add onion, potatoes, and herbes de Provence; cover and cook 4 minutes.  Stir/flip the potatoes mixture, cover and cook 4 more minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned. 

Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in zucchini, squash, and asparagus; cook, covered, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chopped tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking until tomatoes release some of their juice and the liquid thickens slightly. 

Meanwhile, add water to a large skillet or saucepan, until the water is about 3” deep in the pan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer.  Stir in vinegar. Break each egg, one at a time, into a custard cup and then gently pour the egg into the water in the pan; cook 3 minutes or until desired doneness.  (OR cook the eggs in an egg poaching pan inserted into a skillet or large saucepan that has half an inch of water simmering in it; cook for 4-5 minutes or until desired doneness).
To serve:
Divide vegetable mixture into four shallow bowls.  Carefully remove each egg from the poaching pan using a slotted spoon and top each serving of vegetables with one egg.  Sprinkle with parmesan and salt/pepper to taste.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe on

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This Day

I decided that for my first *real* blog post, I’d share a recently completed fiber art piece that I call This Day: The Strength Within. The remarkable thing about this appliquéd and quilted fiber art piece is that it’s made with… wait for it… single-ply paper towels. That’s right, I said paper towels!

The genesis for the piece began during a several-months-long period this past spring during which I was experimenting with dyeing, painting, printing, and inking various fabrics and papers (papers such as dictionary pages, coffee filters, deli wrap, leftover tissue papers, and Sumi-e and other art papers among them). During all this experimentation, I used several rolls of some inexpensive paper towels on my drying rack--to help with the paper-drying process in particular (and to avoid a certain wicking that occurs, and that I don’t like, when I dry paper or fabric directly on the gridded rack).   

I am always mindful of the environmental impact of my art making, and now I had created a rather enormous pile of wet and randomly dyed paper towels left over from all that work.  So, rather than sending them straight to the landfill via my trash bin, I started tossing that wet mess of paper towels—much like you’d toss a salad—several times a day over a period of several days until the pile was dry. Then, neat-nick that I am, I smoothed out each individual paper towel (now separated into single-ply sheets) and stacked them neat and tidy in a paper bag, which went into my studio closet to use again another time.  

It wasn’t long until I started using those leftover papers towels. I started messing around with a variation of mono-printing onto papers and fabric (including saved facial wipes—another blog post, perhaps) by creating a short stack of these leftover paper towels, spraying them with a water-filled mister, then dripping and swirling dyes and inks onto the stack—which became my makeshift print plate. And THAT’S when the beauty of the inks and paints and dyes on the paper towels really started to intrigue me. It wasn’t long before I had an enormous pile of richly saturated papers, some of which you see here.   

Now… what does one do with beautiful, but very fragile, single-ply paper towels? Well, I experimented and found a way to add strength to them—enough strength so that I could sew them together and quilt them!  

Here is a full view of This Day: The Strength Within.
This Day: The Strength Within (copyright 2015 Katie Winter Art)

About the same time I finished the top for This Day, I had also just mastered free-motion machine quilting a feather pattern. I had always admired these quilted feathers on other people’s quilts and I aspired to add them to my quilting repertoire; but I could never quite master the design, never quite control the part where you stitch back over a line you’ve already stitched. Now, I know there are other patterns where you don’t sew over a line you’ve already made… but I wanted to make them just like this. So I kept trying:  off and on, for 15 years! (That’s tenacity, right?). And finally, I got it! 

I decided to quilt This Day with my new feather design and then fill in the rest of the area with my favorite quilting pattern, the stipple stitch.

Here are some detail images of the feather quilting pattern and stippling.

This Day: The Strength Within (details #1)

This Day: The Strength Within (details #2)

This Day: The Strength Within (details #3)

So, what’s the message here?  If you’ve made it this far in my blog post, you may be interested in what This Day means, and there is a backstory.
In 2012, I received a cancer diagnosis. And like nearly everyone who hears the three words, “You have cancer,” I was really afraid. I spent a lot of time worrying. I worried about dying. I worried about my prognosis; the stage and spread of the cancer; tests and test results; physical disfigurement; long-term health consequences; treatments; surgery; radiation; pain, then every other little pain; the future; and recurrence, recurrence, recurrence (you never really stop worrying about that—even if just a little). I worried about what caused my cancer. I worried about hormone disrupters like the chemicals in cash register receipts (true); the water in plastic bottles; the makeup I wore; the containers I stored and reheated my food in; and on, and on, and on...  
Then, one day, very soon after my diagnosis, I read this: The time you spend regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow robs you of today.” And I heard that message loud and clear. That’s when I started using the two words, “This day,” as a meditation to remind me that all I have is today. This day. And that if I live fully in today, I will have lived. But if spend my days depressed or worrying about tomorrow and regretting things from the past, I will miss what's happening right now. And in the end, whenever that comes, I will not have lived as fully. So, “This day,” became my meditation. It saw me through the dark days of cancer treatment, I still say it every day still.  
Cancer also taught me that I have reserves of strength—physical, emotional, intellectual—that live deep within. My art quilt, This day, is made from paper towels that seem like a fragile material at first (like you feel when you get a cancer diagnosis), but these paper towels, there’s a strength within them. 

So, that’s the back story.   

Oh, and by the way, I am very healthy today—in fact, I am strong, healthy, and I feel better than ever! 

And here’s your reward for reading to the end--the back of This day.