My Electric Slide

My quilted art doesn’t typically lean toward bright colors – until now. It started with a red block that’s an improvisational take on a traditional log cabin quilt design. It’s all red fabrics with a metallic gold center. I thought it was a good idea and planned to make a whole quilt of these blocks. After I finished one, that was a hard “no.” Frankly, I hated it, and it sat around the studio for weeks looking awkward. Then I got the idea to cut it into three pieces and reassemble with red sashing. Yeah. Nothing like some red sashing. And then I thought–how about an electric blue border? Well, that’s where it started getting funky. And cool. And now it’s going to be a set of three quilts. 

Can you feel it? It’s electric. 


Rethinking – and Remaking – Plastic

white and blue plastic bottle on beach shore during daytime

I’ve been trying to reduce plastic packaging in my life. I recycle everything that I can, but plastic is a low-value recyclable, and sadly, a lot of it never gets a chance at a second life; only about 29% of plastic bottles are recycled. People in the future will dig up our landfills and wonder, “What were these people thinking?!”
So I especially love this story about entrepreneur and engineer Nzambi Matee, who is turning plastic bottles into bricks: Kenya’s Nzambi Matee recycles plastic to make bricks stronger than concrete. I am looking forward to the day when recycled plastic is as valuable as finding oil and also when we stop creating stuff that we just throw away.


Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Adventures in Painting: The Kitchen Cabinet Edition

Bright paint stripes on a white background

We have a kitchenette in one of our bedrooms. It’s small but includes an apartment-sized refrigerator, a microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, electric teapot, a sink, and a handful of cabinets and drawers. We’ve been slowly remaking it. In addition to the appliances, we added a pullout trash and recycling station to one of the cabinets. We updated the light fixture, faucet, and switch plates. We removed the mismatched and chi-blocking shelving and repaired and reskimmed the drywall. We painted and added a mirror behind the sink. We added a new smaller shelf for coffee cups. We added artwork. We are down to the last couple of to-do’s: painting the cabinets and fixing the grout. 

The cabinets are builder standard oak cabinets from the 80s. We had similar cabinets in a former kitchen that we had professionally painted, and the transformation was incredible. It completely updated the kitchen at a fraction of the price of new cabinets.

Given the much smaller scale of the kitchenette, we decided to DIY it. I found some inspiration from a fellow DIYer and that led me to General Finishes paint. The prep work is significant: clean, sand, clean, sand some more, clean some more, apply sanding sealer. Then paint, let dry, paint a second coat, let dry, top coat, let dry, a second coat, and lots more dry time. 

It’s going well, but it’s a long process. And frankly, I am afraid to be anything but thorough lest we risk having to start all over again. Plus, we discovered that one of the drawers needs repair work and the turnaround rack in the corner cabinet was unbelievably filthy. 

We ordered new hardware and hope that we found an exact match for the hinges, and the new handles are very ooh-la-la. 

Maybe an update and big reveal next month! Stay tuned…

You can’t always get what you want

Smitten written in tiles

There is so much to love about the story behind the meme–and the mittens.

Also, I love everything about this gift made for Bernie from a friend/supporter/constituent. It was made with love and recycled/found materials: recycled sweater, fleece made from recycled bottles, second-hand thread.

I have to say that as much I would like to be as fashionably iconic as Lady Gaga, I am much more like Bernie. I would definitely prioritize being warm over being fashionable. And I admire that Bernie is always exactly who he is. WYSIWYG. And smittens, sewn knit mittens are actually in my wheelhouse, since I am much handier with a sewing machine than I am with knitting needles. And sewing with repurposed materials is good for the planet.

If sewist and creator Jen Ellis made mittens full time, she would probably have enough work to keep her busy until the summer, but mittens are an act of love for her, not a financial transaction. My favorite quote from this interview with CNN: “…sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”

But if you try, you can get what you need.

If you need a mitten pattern, check out this one from Fleece Fun: www.fleecefun.com/free-mitten-pattern or this tutorial from Instructables: www.instructables.com/Fleece-Lined-Upcycled-Woolicious-Mittens.


Cover Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

In the Studio

Drying mat strip quilt - 2020

I’ve finished a few quilts in the past month after taking the machine quilting class I mentioned last month. When I was first learning to quilt, I was influenced by the book by Mary Ellen Hopkins, It’s Okay if You Sit on My Quilt. My main takeaway was that quilts are meant to be used.

I create a lot of quilts that are used for coasters and I added drying mats to my list of practical quilts. Heretofore, we’ve been using microfiber drying mats for dishes. Nothing wrong with those, but I can’t resist infusing a little beauty into everyday things and tasks. Enter the drying mat strip quilt! This quilt was a Christmas gift for my beloved – along with a promise to help clean the kitchen from top to bottom!

I experimented with using blue painter’s tape as a stitching guide (it’s amazing!), and I quilted with some of the variegated thread that I have been saving for a special occasion combining quilt-as-you-go quilting with traditional quilting. 

You can sew do this

Rows of colorful thread

During the pandemic, sewing seems to be a thing that my friends are taking up (or taking up again). I learned to sew as a kid and worked in several fabric stores. It took me a long time to be proficient (and honestly, some days I wonder!), but it doesn’t take very long to make something. You will be amazed at what you can make as a first-time sewer. 

  • Take a class; online classes and video tutorials are great. 
  • Sewing has changed A LOT since I started. There are so many great new tools and techniques that make sewing easier and faster. If you are coming back to sewing after a long break, find some sewists to follow. I love the Crafty Gemini and Suzy Quilts
  • Start with simple, beginner projects and easy-to-sew fabrics like cotton and quilting fabrics.
  • Learn how to thread your machine and do it over and over again until you develop muscle memory for it.
  • Become friends with the tension adjustment. Adjust it and see what happens; Keep fabric scraps next to your machine so you can do some test stitches before jumping into your project. Play with it, so you understand what happens when you adjust it up or down. 
  • Read the manual (If you don’t have one for your machine, you may be able to find one online)
  • Use good thread because bad thread breaks a lot, which will keep you from sewing and will make you sad.
  • Change your sewing machine needles regularly when you sew a lot and use the right needle for the fabric and project; otherwise, it’s like cutting tomatoes with a dull knife.
  • Get a good iron and an ironing pad for your ironing board, and watch YouTube videos.
  • You might like a pressing board and mini iron next to your sewing machine. These have been a game-changer for me as a quilter. I have this iron. I think the Crafty Gemini does, too!
  • Don’t give up. Sewing takes practice. 
  • Sewing is enormously satisfying and a bit like learning to do magic.
  • Make stuff for yourself, first and foremost. 
  • Have fun, always.

In the studio: September 2020

Tree quilt

I have a ton of beading supplies that have been sitting in a tub for longer than I care to admit. After buying a beaded necklace that I love from the Candy Dance festival in Genoa (yes, that’s a real event and sadly, canceled this year, like so many events), I wanted to make more. I bought the supplies for about 20 necklaces, eventually learned the basics from a friend, made my first necklace, and stopped there. (Insert forehead slap here.)  I’m not proud of this, my friends. It’s a terrible display of lack of grit. Time went by, and I just psyched myself out. I found it impossible to get started.  A couple of months ago, I took an online jewelry class and that planted the seed to try again.

So, I decided to make a beaded hanger for a quilt, this tree quilt that I finished back in January

It turned out so great! I can’t believe I made it! This small success has unleashed my inner beader, and I have completed two quilt hangers and two necklaces this month! Beading is incredibly relaxing, and I use a KLACK serving tray (IKEA) and a flocked bead design board from Michaels to bead in bed. It’s become a regular part of my nighttime routine. 

If you would like to give beading a trying, head over to YouTube University and start your beading adventure today. 

Some tools that I am glad I bought:

  • Wire
  • A basic jewelry making toolset
  • Jump rings in different sizes 
  • Clasps
  • An interesting selection of beads, small and large
  • Sorting trays (but if I need more, I’m going to check out these from Harbor Freight)

Practical quilts and weaving (!)

Small strip quilt used for a drying mat.

In the past month, I worked on several projects, including a long-planned pair of quilts for our kitchenette. We have two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and one has a kitchenette. I decided to upgrade the microfiber drying mat to a quilted version and made a companion quilt to go under the countertop water dispenser. I used varying strip widths on these, something I don’t typically do. I love how they turned out.

I also designed a woven wall hanging! Last month I finished my first weaving via a class through The Crafter’s Box taught by Erin Barrett, owner of Sunwoven. Now that I have a loom, I thought “What else can I make?” Using Mandala Ombré Yarn from Lion as my inspiration, I created a design using Adobe InDesign and pretty much finished in a week doing a little bit after work every day. I am light years away from Erin in terms of ability (follow her on Instagram!), but I had fun, and I learned a lot. 

In My Wake(let)

Boat with a wake. Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

Website projects. I love them, and I hate them. The holy grail has always been an easy-to-use platform that delivers good-looking sites. WordPress was a huge step in that direction. Templates and plug-ins make it so much easier to provide a website that looks good and meets project objectives. But, there’s still a steep learning curve for most people.

Enter Wakelet. Wakelet is a tool geared toward the K-12 audience for teaching, portfolios, and team projects. It has a beautiful interface with built-in tools and a searchable Unsplash library of photos, and you can upload videos, PDFs, text, websites. You can arrange curated lists in several ways. Resource lists vault past the text-only link lists that we are used to seeing and creating. 

Because it’s geared toward kids, Wakelet offers user management and access without requiring accounts and logins. It’s genius. Read more

Here’s my Wakelet: https://wakelet.com/@haikupiec

I’ve all but abandoned browser bookmarks in favor of Wakelet boards and bookmarks. 
If you want to try it out, check out their how-to guide: https://help.wakelet.com/hc/en-us.


Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

Quilt heroes

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

My first quilt was a trip around the world lap quilt. I was asked to fill in as an instructor for a class and thought I should make the quilt before attempting to teach others. Why me? I do not know. Desperation, maybe. I was a long-time sewer at that point, but I had never made a quilt. I was probably a lousy teacher, but I hope that my enthusiasm and encouragement made up for my complete lack of knowledge. My second quilt was also a trip around the world quilt for my boyfriend. It was queen-sized, and I appliqued his name into the border. I went all out for quilt number two, and he was suitably impressed. Looking back, I see it was a turning point in my life as a sewist. Quilts became my primary focus and have been for a long time. I’ve taken many classes and tried all kinds of techniques making many traditional and non-traditional quilt patterns. 

Fast forward about five years, and I started making the quilts that I think of as my quilts. Pieced strip quilts combined with black sashing. The first quilts used every color. Then I did color themes, like blue and green and red and green. Fast forward again, and now my quilts don’t always have black sashing–and sometimes I forego the sashing altogether, especially in my small quilts. I have been experimenting with a close-to-zero waste strategy, sewing tiny bits together to make strips. 

This use-what-you-have strategy connects me to generations of quilters who created quilts for warmth out of what they had. Many quilts are utilitarian, but an extraordinary number of quilts are also works of art. Needle arts were one of the few creative outlets for generations of women, and quilting is now an art form dominated by women.

Last year, I read about an incredible bequest of 3,000+ quilts from the estate of quilt collector Eli Leon. Honestly, I tried to picture having a 3,000 quilt collection in my home. I told my husband I was willing to try it. 😉 Leon built a temperature-controlled addition to house much of his collection. He studied and collected quilts made by African American quilters, and supported and championed the work of quilters like Rosie Lee Tompkins.

Rosie Lee Tompkins is a pseudonym for Effie May Howard. Howard was an extremely private person and sought to remain unknown. Eli Leon suggested that Howard use the name Rosie Lee Tomkins when exhibiting her work. 

Leon donated his quilt collection, the largest private collection of African American quilts, to the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective is currently on exhibit at BAMPFA. Covid-19 has closed down museums worldwide, but the shutdown has inspired many great online museum tours like this one, led by Chief Curator Larry Rinder. 

Tompkins quilts have power and movement, bold colors, whimsical motifs, and unexpected fabrics. She could transform a controlled geometric pattern into something organic, transforming traditional designs and techniques into modern art. Her color combinations glow and pulse. I’ve been thinking about what she might have wanted people to feel when they saw her work: Joy. Energy. Power. Faith. Happiness. 
Read more about the exhibition in this review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times.


Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash