Designing VORTEX (The Senility Test)

Twisted Octagon Log Cabin

Twisted Octagon Log Cabin Block


As you can probably assume by now, I am very much into working in that Black/White/Touch of color theme which began with an ARTAA (my fiber arts group) challenge. This is piece number three and the ideas are still flowing.  I fear another obsession coming on. Yikes!

ARTAA was asked to do some demonstrations at the Adirondack Museum’s Fall Fest in early October.  I decided to bring along my ruler and graph paper and show our visitors how to draft a twisted log cabin block.  As an overachiever, a simple square wasn’t enough for me.  I designed twisted triangles, equilateral, isosceles and even scalene triangles with a twist.  No, I am not as intelligent as this post makes me out to be.  I had to Google triangles to find out what the various shapes were called.  The last math class I had was in 1955, far too long ago for me to remember.

With a little help from hubby and a compass, together we figured out how to draft a hexagon and even a pentagon which required a formula.  As my enthusiasm and my confidence grew, I decided to go really BIG.  Why not a twisted octagon?  As I sat at the museum with my pattern taking shape, I made a discovery.  Men, who usually walk quickly past a group of women quilting, actually stopped to check out what I was doing.  It looked complicated which they found quite interesting.

I came home with the completed pattern and wondered if this old brain could actually figure out how to piece this puzzle.  “To ward off senility, challenge your brain” is the advice given to senior citizens.  If completing a crossword puzzle was considered helpful, what would completing this sucker do for me.

I am very proud to report that this old lady passed the senility test.  Crazy, yes.  Senile, no. Starting in the center, round and round I sewed seeing my vortex take shape with each finished row. I completed the piece in a week, something of a record for me.  I see me getting sucked into the quilted whirlpool-making business.  Once I figured out what to sew and where to sew next, this was actually fun.

I titled the piece Vortex and hung it on point which made it even more interesting to my eye.




The Birch Bark Experiment

Real birch bark twig frame

As a fiber artist whose work is always original, most of my pieces are totally experimental. In my head, my ideas always work beautifully. In reality, some do and some don’t. Never discouraged to the point of giving up, if one idea fails miserably, there is always another to take its place. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

After visiting the Adirondack Museum and viewing their collection of birch bark twig frames, I thought such a frame would be the perfect compliment to the Fall lake scene I had just completed. Sounds simple, right? Not if you want to make it on a sewing machine! After giving the idea a lot of thought, mostly in the middle of the night, I decided to give it a try. Through much trial and error, I found that, if peeled away in very thin sheets, birch bark harvested from dead trees could indeed be sewn on my trusty “never say die” sewing machine.

Having conquered the birch bark, it was now time to make the twigs that would decorate the frame. The solution, a mottled brown fabric cut into bias strips and sewn into tubes, then filled with cord. To give the illusion of nail heads, I attached the twigs to the bark frame with grey French knots. Success!

TAA! DAA! My Adirondack Twig Frame!