Category Archives: working in a series

All Things Winter


Lake Michigan shoreline

The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle. I am slogging through this historical winter we are having here in Michigan. I can’t quite remember shoveling this much snow before and I admit the dreariness is getting to me. So my husband and I planned an impromptu trip to Florida for four days to visit long time friends and I was super excited to exit MIchigan for a brief glimpse of warmth.

And the morning that we were going to leave my son woke up sick. My daughter’s car was very sick and ended up in the shop. And the refrigerator/freezer which was fully stocked went out.  All of those things are easily fixed but not in the four hours prior to leaving so we cancelled.  Yup, I missed the sunshine and warmth and  decided  instead to join the winter. My husband and I took a trip to Lake Michigan to see how frozen it is which is at unprecedented levels of freezing. It was beautiful and we walked out on the pier which was really a weird feeling this time of year.

Ignore the sign and walk on the pier:)

Ignore the sign and walk on the pier:)

Many others walking on Lake Michigan

Many others walking on Lake Michigan


This past weekend we went to Vermont for our annual President”s week ski trip. I sew, snowshoe and they ski.  The first day here it rained buckets and skiing was impossible. The next day I was so antsy, that the minute I saw the sun, I strapped on my snowshoes.  I didn’t even think of the temps in the 40’s and all the rain we had the day before.

As I trudged across the meadow to the top of our hill, I almost gave up. My snowshoes were sinking up to about my knees so it was as if I was on an elliptical machine. I laughed as it was such a touristy thing to do and I really do know better. Snowshoes sink in soft snow. But winter had made me crazy and I was going to walk on the trails no matter what.





And after lots of sweat and effort, I made it up the hill to the cross country trails which made for a little easier walking.













Nothing better than walk in the woods in February at my Vermont home.  Winter is good as long as the sky is blue every once in awhile! We don’t have that in Michigan with all the lake effect clouds from Lake Michigan.




I was very happy to take the snowshoes off and walk past my neighbors home up the hill. She is 91 and still mows her lawn and has a garden. I hope I can be like her at that age.




After my walks, I went back to work on another Rooflines piece.


Peace in the woods and peace while piecing.


Return to the Land of Art Making

Vermont Sunset tonight

Vermont Sunset tonight

Well, it went from manic holiday making which I found more fun than I ever imagined to manic holiday fun cooking, shopping , wrapping and family celebrating.  My husband and son left the day after Christmas for a soccer tournament at Disney so I hung out with my girls and purged my house and studio. This was an epic manic event which involved several trips to the recycling center and Goodwill but all the mania was wearing me out so I needed a sense of control again. 🙂 I am sure if you are , in any way, a manic maker, you understand exactly where I am coming from. (Otherwise this is a ludicrous post and you can enjoy my pictures. ) The house and studio were more than out of control and I wanted to start the year out – in control.


Another one for you visual peeps

Another one for you visual peeps

Once my son and husband arrived home, we loaded up the car and drove 14 hours in bitter cold to our house in Vermont on New Year’s Day. I arrived here realizing I had a horrible sinus infection so laid here in front of the fire for the last three days. My neighbor brought me this concoction and I tried it. But also with an antibiotic.

My neighbor's cold remedy

My neighbor’s cold remedy

I was not at all listening to my body which was getting really tired after all the manic making and holiday stuff. Lesson learned once again: If you want to make holiday gifts, start early in the year and have fun making gifts year round rather than during December which is one of the busiest month’s of the year.

I returned to the land of art making today. I was kinder to myself. I played as I felt rusty.  I took out a set of fat eighth’s I had dyed during a class last winter.


I just started mindless piecing and really enjoyed drawing fine little lines in my fabric.


mindless return to art

mindless return to art

It felt really good to return to the land of making. What are you working on?

Evolution of a Piece

    It was a slow moving process with this piece. It began as a small little idea and  a small portion of this design was pinned on my wall for many months.  I kept taking it down and putting it back up again and it was assuming this grandiose design idea in my head. It was taking up too much space on my wall and in my head. SO, I gave myself two weeks in January to get it done as I was very sick of this great visionary piece. Haha.

     This was not your typical strip piecing. I cut each piece separately after I sewed each seam which became very time-consuming. But I really wanted to work on my line work.

Rooflines # 8 under construction

Slow progress…
Machine quilting finally

©Colleen Kole 2013, Rooflines # 8, 45x 35

What a good word: finished. This piece didn’t turn out like I envisioned ( maybe over thought it too much )  but there is always the next piece. And no longer than two weeks per piece seems like a really good idea!

Under The Machine

     I finished piecing AND basting of my Artprize piece yesterday. It was a really long weekend….with several adjustments on one of the edges. I had to join what I had designed on two design boards  and when I actually sewed it together it was a mess.  I ran over to a friend’s house with all my various pieces in a plastic bag and she gave me some advice when I was not at all rational. ( Thank you Betsy!) Calm but not thinking straight.  I returned home and out came the fabric for a few new pieces and more adjustments. It was frustrating to say the least but what a relief to have it this far.

Rooflines # 6 in process,  © Colleen Kole 2012

It will be about six by seven feet -large. I am anxious to  get the machine sticking started. I thread basted it to reduce the weight of moving it under the machine. I will take it to Vermont with me on Thursday when I return there. It’s only 6 weeks away before I need to turn it in to the venue. I am about 3- 4 days behind on the schedule I set for myself.

At 4 pm yesterday, I was way too cranky and tired to start machine stitching so I fiddled around with washing out some more hand dyes. This is a picture of earlier in the weekend. My tree in back  of the fabric is so stressed with the drought, it is losing leaves and looks like fall.

One Done

     I am very excited that this is done. I think I may have said that before. I don’t know why I fight with some more than others to finish them.

Rooflines  36×70 ©2012 Colleen Kole


Rooflines 36×70 ©2012 Colleen Kole

I think I need to barter services with a friend who is a photographer and learn how to take better quality photos. It seems like a good summertime goal. There are always so many things to learn.

A Day of Basting

     I am finally back to work this week and all the kiddos have returned to school. I spent the day sandwiching and basting the biggest piece I have in the work basket.

With the last bit of machine quilting I did, I quilted a huge wrinkle in it. Obsessive as I am, I ripped out all that stitching and re-basted. So, with this piece,  I wanted to ensure it remained wrinkle free. 

I might have overdone it on safety pins though. You can laugh but I have no time to rip things out this spring!

Just Beginning

     I finished uploading my last assignment for my class yesterday. I was actually finished with it earlier in the week but procrastinated on it I guess because I just wasn’t ready for it to be over with.

     I set a S-T-R-E-C-H goal  for myself this time:  I  wanted to entirely finish the piece right down to the sleeve and label.  I had a huge cloud following me around. It was the cloud of unfinished projects and I was building up this huge barrier inside my head that these pieces would not get done. Ok, enough of that so the stretch goal.

    The last assignment was to simplify or elaborate our design. I chose elaboration and …fell flat.  I didn’t like how I overworked the motif.  If I look at my motif which I tried to increase the complexity of it by adding more lines, it is just too much, too busy. If  I cover up the lower strip on the right purple motif or “house”,  I like it better. So next piece I make I will eliminate that angled strip and see if that helps.
Rooflines # 6,  36×36, Colleen Kole, 2012
      When I put it up on the wall to photograph it, I saw what was wrong with it and when I wrote my self critique, it no longer felt like a failed assignment but another learning experience. And I set up parameters for the next piece. I love the phrase”the next piece”.  I know I  learned many things but the “next piece ” gives you freedom to try new things and not be afraid to fail.   I felt fantastic that I met my stretch goal for the week which was to finish the piece and have no anxiety about machine quilting the other pieces.
      It was truly a gift to take this class. I highly recommend  Lisa Call as a teacher and the online experience was better than I thought possible.  I am finished with class but just beginning to find joy in working in a series. 

Another Assignment Done

     This one was by far my hardest assignment. I chose a few parameters for myself and then realized I had chose a silly construction method that just didn’t work for me. I spent hours on this one. It became a case of me against the piece and I truly felt like I had to win. Which really made me crazy and then I just really needed to get a grip on reality and know that the piece really had no vested interest in me succeeding. It really did not care. Oh boy. I didn’t want to give up on all the time I had invested in the project that involved a lot of lines.  I kept telling myself that this was a true learning experience. ( And  few friends reminded me of this too.)

     This was my reference composition and I wanted to work off from this piece.

Rooflines #4
Taking a look at values with my camera

I set my parameters for my assignment : change the thickness of the lines to less than 1/4 of an inch, use a color I don’t like (brown), add more colors within the motif, and try to vary the placement of the motif.
I also tried a different way of constructing the block or motif and that is what made me crazy and tripped me up. Last night when I went to write up my assignment after taking pictures, looked at it and sure enough, I had flipped one of the sections. This –

Ooops -bottom right section flipped the wrong way

Should have been: 

Rooflines #5, 37×37, Colleen Kole, 2012

This is done for the week. And I have never been so relieved. I finished assignment 4. One more lecture on Sunday night, and then one more assignment. I will really miss this class.

A Few Updates

     I looked at my last post date (after a prompt from a friend) and couldn’t believe I hadn’t posted in over a week. So, I return and will give you a quick update.

Vacation: We returned home last Saturday to a houseful of furniture which needed to be moved back into place as we had our hardwood floors refinished while we were away.What a mess of dust to return to. And my college daughter was home on winter break and just left yesterday so I wanted to spend some time with her.  It also just takes me a good 48 hours to transition and get back up and running smoothly. No matter how efficient I try to be!

Vermont: Had a great vacation and I was a hermit working away and enjoying my time with family. I  made cheese one day and will share tomorrow. Very fun. Very little snow but they did ski with lots of snow made by the snow guns.

My class (Lisa Call Working in a Series): I am still in a lovefest with this class. I have had my moments of self doubt (why should I be taking this class? who do I think I am fitting in to this class?  why in the world would I think this piece of fabric would work or this color?  I don’t even like this piece so why would I show it to her, my classmates or you ? Why am I working so hard?) Ok maybe a few hours or  a day or two of self doubt. But in the end, I just want to create and be more focused in my creativity. Working in a series is putting everything I have previously learned into a framework. Have I made anything exceptional? No, that isn’t the point. Learning how to move forward is and to create more work is. You work hard and I am learning to be patient with myself and my work. Well worth every minute of work and money I have spent on this class.

    I see glimpses of hope in each piece as I move forward-an area of each piece that I like and can improve upon. In the next piece. And the next piece is what I am working on!

PS- I say all this even after I made one huge wrong cut in a piece last week-it wasn’t salvageable so I have no new pictures for you.  I have moved on.:)

Assignments #1 and #2

     I thought I would finally take some time and show you what I have been doing in Lisa Call’s class  Working in a Series. I just needed a little breathing room to post on what I have been doing and realize that it may take me 10 or more pieces before I really find what I may want to work on in a series.

*** This is a long post but then I will be caught up. ***

     The class is structured with a 90 minute telephone lecture from Lisa on a specific topic each week, an assignment given ( seven total ) and follow up emails on the topic three times per week. She has many references for you within the emails so you can do as much or as little research as you would like on a given topic. Within each assignment you can choose from 6 different exercise to design your weekly piece. You set the parameters for your exercise before you begin. (Very good thing to learn for Miss “do it all here” and then never get anything done worthwhile. )

     The first week’s assignment is based on your original macquette which I posted previously. It was  inspired by the rooflines of the local botanical garden. I chose a motif that I wanted to explore and my base design was created.

Colleen Kole, Rooflines # 1 ,  First Series sketch

     The next week’s assignment focused on color and value. I thought I would be in trouble with all my bold and bright colors so after conferring with Lisa decided to change up my original design ( save this for more subtle colors I dye this summer) and use the fabric I have on a new design. I chose the assignment of using a color combination which I hadn’t used before-red and green.

Colleen Kole, Rooflines # 2, 47 x 37

     The proportions weren’t right with this piece and I feel the middle third needs to be re-done. I fell in love with the linework while doing this piece. And I am becoming less dyslexic with triangles.

     I got a little bolder and more comfortable and thought I would try to use my bold and brights on the original design.  The second week’s assignment was on space and scale so I modified the size of some of the elements.  Looking at how successful piece was as far as figure-ground composition was also part of the self critique.

Colleen Kole,  Rooflines #3 ,  37x 46

MMMM….the bold, bright colors worked but I really played it way too safe and worked in a grid rather than bringing any interest to the piece. Plus I ended up with a huge visible line dividing the piece  and little to no value change within the elements or background. Even though I like the piece, it wasn’t what I knew it could be.  The great thing about working in a series is that you critique your work and decide how the piece can be improved in the NEXT piece.  I also found you can enjoy a piece and like it but it can be improved upon.  I love the moving on part! But this piece frustrated me so I re-did the assignment. 🙂

Colleen Kole, Rooflines #4, 38 x78 

     This piece turned out really large.  I haven’t done a self critique yet on this piece.  I photographed it on the barn as we are in Vermont on vacation this week and the sunlight on it is kind of odd. But this feels better and now I will go write down why. Needs improvement but that’s ok too.

    This class has it all: working at home at your own pace, a kick in the seat three times a week with informational e-mails, establishing a good studio practice, and learning how to actually work in a series. I feel it is finally giving me the tools to move forward. Finally.