A Foray into Fabric Design

A while ago I created a mosaic from broken dishes, in a few of my favourite colours and patterns, all the pieces were Triangles.

Mosaic in Broken Dishes, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Now we are a couple who do NOT just sit around doing only things we already know how to do.  Oh no!  We sit around in front of youtube and watch tutorials on things like creating seamless patterns for fabric design.  And eventually we’ll manage to make a lot of designs, because it’s kind of fun.  Zazzle, which is a great Print on Demand company, happen to have fabric by the yard in Print on Demand.

So, after much work and learning, we created a seamless pattern based on the above mosaic.  We are rather pleased with the result. We called it Triangle Treat.  We’re offering it by the yard, in Combed Cotton, and you can also order Swatches and Fat Quarters of it for the Quilters.

Triangle Treat fabric, close up, Zazzle, Summerhouse Art
Triangle Treat fabric, close up, Zazzle, Summerhouse Art

Triangle Treat Fabric, on Zazzle, SummerhouseArt

BTW, it’s really worth it to check out Zazzle and get on their email list because they are constantly having sales. Check out a little sample of what we have on Zazzle in our Zazzle shop page, where you can click directly to the shop itself.





Upcycling to Create a New Boho Daybed

Before: the old couch summerhouseart.com

Ah, Before and After. This is the story of an old hide-a-bed couch being replaced with an up-cycled Daybed very thriftily made and done up in Boho style.

After: New Daybed summerhouseart.com

 The old couch, with its unbleached cotton cover hiding stains, old age, many, many years of wear, not to mention large shreddy bits made by long gone cats, just had to go! It just so happened that we had most of the components for a new daybed, stored in the basement, waiting to be transformed. Something much more comfy and better looking than a lumpy, old hide-a-bed. We’d just been waiting for a little time to tackle it.

First, had to get the old couch hauled away by a company that would make sure it all got recycled. We had the rails of an old Ikea single bed, missing the slats. Not sure, but I think they may have been used for some other project. We had a couple of substantial wooden chair or couch arms that one of our sons had found years ago and brought home.

Will, stapling the slats made from pallets, summerhouseart.com

We had saved the two foam seat cushions from the old couch to make new back cushions from. We cut those in half with an old electric carving knife and made four cushions from them.

Old foam seats now backs for new daybed, summerhouseart.com

Will, in the mean time had ingeniously figured out a way to attach the arms of the chair to the rails of the bed. And like so many people these days…. he recycled some pallets into slats for the bed. The only new thing we ended up getting was the actual foam mattress. An Eco foam mattress, so no off-gassing etc.

The aforementioned unbleached cotton cover was sewn into “new” covers for the foam. And the material from a thrift shop duvet cover became new covers for the cushions.

And finally, a chance to get creative with all my fabric stash, collected from garage sales and thrift shops. Chaos while deciding on the fabrics I’d use.

Fabric chaos, deciding on fabrics for new pillows, summerhouseart.com

Lovely new pillows, in the Boho Style.

2 new Pillows for the Boho Daybed, summerhouseart.com

Love how the fabric looks with an iris.

Iris with new pillow fabric, summerhouseart.com

And tah dah! New daybed! We love it! Finally a place for napping where you can actually stretch right out and really relax. Makes a nice couch too.

New Daybed, summerhouseart.com




A Deceptively Delicate Floral Patchwork Mosaic

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

There is, to me, a visual connection between pique assiette mosaic and patchwork quilting. In fact, one thing I’ve noticed with many of my mosaic students, was that those who had previously worked with fabric patchwork, had no trouble at all visualizing a patchwork of patterns with broken dishes. They instinctively reached for dishes in the Thrift shop, that though very different in pattern, had a thread of color or style that could easily work together.

This little mosaic is only 8 inches by 8 inches. Before I started it I had been looking at fabric patchwork and as a change from my last much more abstract piece, I decided to use up a few of the floral designs I’d been collecting.

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As I was working, arranging bits of dishes and deciding on the patterns and colors,

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

it occurred to me to introduce a bit of surface relief with lids, a bit roundness to contrast the square format of the mosaic.

I happen to have a rather nice collection of orphaned lids and was spoiled for choice. I left spaces for the lids as I went along,

 from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

but glued them down before grouting.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As I work in my studio, I like to play all sorts of music and I found that I seemed to be listening to a lot of music by women. Which got me thinking about quilts made by women and how floral patterns are so often associated as being feminine.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And it occurred to me as I worked away, cutting and gluing, sometimes singing along, and sometimes pondering, that quilts, fabric, flowers and women are often associated with being delicate and only beautiful. But women know that that look of delicacy may be very deceptive. Women, far from being the “delicate sex”, have a strength of their own, often shown by their nurturing skills. And fabric quilts, while beautiful and fragile looking are often made in hard times, and still survive  for many years, a bit frayed but still strong and warm.

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Flowers too, while being delicate and having a short life, are sometimes the crowning glory of robust plants that have pushed up through hard soil and even the cracks in cement! OK, I suppose, I was having one of those feminist moments.

But, as I broke dishes and reassembled the pieces into other patterns, I also thought of the strong women in my life that have dealt with and are dealing with breast cancer, and just how strong you have to be to come through that challenge.

At any rate, back to my little mosaic. It is a mixture of delicate flowers and even delicate china, as in that fragile golden cup handle that just felt right attached to the side. It is probably the most “feminine” looking mosaic I’ve done for a long time, and I love it.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com




Creating Strip Quilted Cozies with Men’s Striped Shirts


Ok, I admit it, I do like stripes. I like it in fabric, in drawings, whatever. I recalled seeing some quilts done in men’s shirt fabric and really liked the look created when doing strip quilting.

Luckily, when it came time to create a new tea cosy, it just happened that I had a couple of striped shirts that Will didn’t want anymore in my fabric stash. Then, in a recent shopping trip to the Thrift store, I lucked out finding a striking red and yellow striped blouse.

Next, it was just setting some time aside to create some strips of stripes going every which way and basically, sewing them together creatively.  And I do mean creatively, not accurately, since I tend to be a bit of a slap dash sewer. But I just happen to like that look, so it’s ok.


I figured, since Will has recently gotten himself a coffee press, might as well make a coffee cosy too. I think we’re both pretty happy with the results.  And yes, that is Queen Victoria poking out behind the tea cosy.  Well, the Brits do like tea, so where else would you put her?



Playing with Scanner Photography on a Sunday Afternoon

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Pinterest, saving all sorts of lovely images that inspire me.  In fact, I may be having too much fun.  Please do feel free to have a look at my Pins if you’re into Pinterst.  Anyway, I keep bumping into works done by artists I’ve never heard of before and being introduced to new ideas to explore. Now I’ve heard of scanner photography before but, I just recently found out that one of the first to play with it was Harold Feinstein. Worth looking up and enjoying.

Anyway, we should have been outside pruning the Kiwi, but I got distracted showing Will the scanner photos I’d pinned. Which of course led me to trying it out and I soon had the dried Hydrangea blooms on the scanner. Will found a handy black box to cover them in and off we went.



Then we scanned the dried Amaryllis blooms …..



Which led to layering them all in Photoshop….


Which led to wanting to add even more… a lovely silk patchwork scarf perhaps?




And now, a first try at layering all three images…




Then a second try where some of my interest in patchwork and quilting started to come into play…




And last, with some subtle changes, creating a whole new patchwork with all the images. We could have gone on but we kind of like it as it is now.




Bench Swing Transformation


Today, a little story of a colorful “make over”, so to speak, of a tired little bench swing, transformed by taking on the colors of the garden.




A couple of years ago, Bill and I, on one of our garage sailing Saturdays, found this old bench swing. It was kind of old and worn, kind of rusty, but I could see it, in my mind, totally transformed. And for only $7 to buy and another $7 to have delivered, well, we didn’t have to think twice.


But as life goes on, not everything gets done right away. And so the swing was used as it was for a couple of summers, and spent it’s winters under a tarp under the greenhouse. But I didn’t forget my vision.


And finally this summer the time was right for a colorful makeover. We were planning a party and I decided, ok, this was its year to shine. So preparations were made, the tarp laid out to catch paint drips and the paint, which just happened to have been bought for other purposes, turned out to be perfect for my plan.


The metal framework was the first to be painted. A lovely pistachio green, painted on by brush. I’m not a big fan of spray paint, since I’ve always found a lot is wasted and it’s hard to control. Besides I kind of like the streaky texture we got and left it there deliberately.


Then we started on the periwinkle blue for the bench.


and then the red for the side tables.


As we went along I couldn’t help doing a bit of color transformation on my old Crocks too.


Finally, the bench was painted and looking pretty good. But, as we sat on it, I decided it needed a bit of a cushion too.


Which led to going through my stash of fabrics and a couple of days with the ironing board and the sewing machine out in the kitchen. We’d just replaced our foam bed topper and it occurred to me that the old one would make a good stuffing for the cushion. A little more recycling accomplished.


I had a rather fun time putting together another Intuitive patchwork.


And finally, the finishing touch was complete. We’ve been pretty happy with the final result and have been enjoying a little swing on a summer day.



Having Fun with Intuitive Quilting



In the run up to Earth Day, recycling is on my mind. I do recycle dishes in my mosaics. Lately, I’ve been having a bit of fun quilting with recycled shirts, some thrift shop fabric plus a few squares of quilt fabric found at a garage sale last summer. Sort of doing a mosaic with fabric. I’ve been inspired by quilts found on the internet and also from books about intuitive quilting by Jean Wells and Rayna Gillman. I’m not one of those quilters who likes pattern and measuring and rulers. So the slice and dice, intuitive style that these two quilters teach really resonated with me. And Gees Bend quilts have always been a big inspiration too.


recycled shirt

Quilting is one of those old and beautiful forms of recycling that has come down through the ages. Oh, I know these days, a lot of new quilting is done with new fabric, but the beginnings of quilting came from recycling fabric that was at hand like old shirts and even flour bags. And I love using old shirts too. Besides, being one of those slap dash sewers who doesn’t like the button hole attachment much, I find using the button front on shirts as a closure works great and recycles just a bit more of the shirt.

Plus I’ve gotten some new toys at the Fabric store. I’ve discovered the Rotary Cutter! Wow! This is so much fun to use on the self healing cutting mat. Ok, I admit I didn’t really get the hang of sewing curves as shown by Jean and Rayna, but I did have fun slicing up fabric. This is me having fun and a long way from the skill shown by the quilters who inspired me.  Sewing curves will come later I’m sure.  Now the ladies above cut the material in strips first and then sew.


Rotary cutter and cutting mat


Being me, I found my own odd way of creating strips. I’d cut up a few bits of fabric in almost the same width and start laying it down, good sides together and sort of guess-timate the width of the next strip I wanted and sew it. Then I’d cut off the excess, and set down a new fabric and so on. That way I got varying widths and didn’t waste much.







When I’d gotten a few strips made sewing bits together randomly and intuitively, I started to arrange them. I’d been collecting pillow fillers at garage sales already and they were waiting to be used, all washed then dried on the clothesline last summer. So it was just a matter of laying out strips over the pillow form until I had enough to cover. I did come up short but then just made a couple of narrow strips to fill in, which added to the overall design anyway.




I made one side with the buttoned section of the shirt inserted between the strips. I’d added a lot of the shirt fabric into the strips as I went along to integrate the color of the shirt into the rest of the quilting.


And voila! A pillow cover that’s a lovely surprise, almost a mosaic of fabric. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist trying to make some more but for now it’ll have to wait. My little studio can only handle painting and mosaic so the sewing gets done in the kitchen. There’s only so long I can live with an ironing board and a sewing machine on a kitchen table full of scraps. Until the next time the urge to quilt hits me….




I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Not even close!


Ok, I don’t know what happened this year. I’m just way behind. It’s only 3 days til Christmas!

Now I have to tell you that I actually wrote this post 11 days ago, but due to problems with our internet provider doing some sort of change over, that caused some sort of technical mess (don’t ask me, I’m not techy at all) that made it impossible to load anything, which has taken this long to sort out, I am FINALLY able to post this.  And yes, I know that was a ridiculously long sentence.

So here it is 8 days later and to tell the truth not much has changed, I’m still way behind. I still don’t have the baking done, the tree is half decorated, and I’ve only just mailed out the Christmas cards PLUS  now I’ve got bursitis.

Last year I was sooooo ready. I had the Santas up the whole kit and caboodle of them. Check it out, the 25 Days of Christmas Santa collection. That’s the Grouchy Santas from my collection acting as the header for this post.

I had the  Christmas music, all of it pretty well second hand, nothing like recycling for creating an abundant Christmas. And even had time to write about it.
This year I’ve been working way too many hours and just haven’t had the time. Plus I decided to make some presents this year. Check out the scraps I’m using. Colorful and tropical enough? Yup, just my thing.

Here are a couple of the tea cozies I’ve made. Can’t show you the others yet. Gotta keep the surprise, just in case certain gift recipients are reading this blog.


But I’m not giving up. I’m obviously going to have to scale down my plans, do a bit less, not put up as many decorations, not bake as much (Bill and I could certainly do with less in the goodies department).   But I’ll figure it out. Christmas will come, ready or not. And I plan to enjoy it.  Anyway if nothing else I’ve got chocolates!  What else do we really really need??


The Japanese Shirt that Inspired a Little Flurry of Pillow Making


The thing with shopping at garage sales is that A. you never know what you will find and B. you never know where what you find will lead you.
I like to call it creative shopping.

This summer I snapped up a lovely pillow with a Japanese theme of a pagoda and a scooter. A few months later I found this shirt, full of lovely geishas.


Now it just so happens that I have a little collection of Japanese fans, that grace the mosaic I created of Birds and Geishas, that I posted about last year.



A few years ago I’d created another Japanese themed mosaic that also resides in our bedroom. I titled it my Marriage Mosaic. Just to quickly explain, it turned out that after I had put this little tableau together, I found out that, in Japan, the pair of geese or ducks are symbolic of a long marriage. And although I am nothing like the shy little bride on my mosaic, I love the idea that this little mosaic symbolized our long marriage.


Now it also just happened that, being someone who hardly ever throws anything out, I still had a few shirts stashed from our holiday in Hawaii that I’d found at garage sales there. All with Japanese themes and all just waiting to be recycled.


All that was needed was to play with the material and come up with some pieced fabric designs. Almost  like making a mosaic but with fabric. A little trick I like to use when making pillows from old shirts is to use the button front as part of the design. Much easier to undo buttons and insert the pillow than to have to sew in a zipper.



Also a good way to recycle most of the whole shirt, buttons and all. But just a word about my kind of sewing, it’s pretty fast and loose, I cut things out by eye, not one for measuring much. In fact, I just piece things together til I like the look and then cut it all to size.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just one. This lovely shirt with its gorgeous picture of a Japanese fishing scene just had to become part of another little pillow.


And that’s it, pillow making is over for now. All the little scraps still left over will be saved for another day and another inspiration. But there’s nothing like creating something new to look at and enjoy.