Category: Instincts and Intuition Blog–(click on the photo below for the full post)

Musings by a subversive stitcher…. As I am a self-taught artist, you will not get a lot of academic theory or art history here, just me, trying to explain myself. Or at least ask good questions.

Who Are You Wearing?

I created this in response to a call for art to the members of Art Cloth Network by the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts in Bethlehem, PA.  The show’s theme is “Luxury and Industry.”

I was able to research the silk industry in America (yes, really!), the role of women and child laborers, and union organizing by the mighty Mother Jones.  Online searches for images of ‘child labor textile industry’ revealed nearly identical photos, taken a hundred years apart in the US (then) and overseas (now).

That got me thinking….

As I made the piece, news organizations reported on the use of immigrant children who are applying for official status in the US in dangerous working conditions.  And the loosening by states of child labor protection laws.

Everything old is new again.

“Who Are You Wearing?” by Mary Vaneecke, 24″ x 24″ 2023
detail, “Who Are You Wearing?” by Mary Vaneecke

Materials:  Vintage unfinished crazy quilt block, layered with vintage kimono scraps, hand-printed ribbon, collaged photographs printed on silk organza, antique glass buttons.  Hand and machine stitch.

March of Dimes — Arizona Advocacy Day

March of Dimes — Arizona Advocacy Day

April 25, 2023
The State Capital, Phoenix, Arizona
This event is closed to the public.

The Mourning Project is thrilled to bring this exhibition to the state capital building to talk to Arizona legislators about what they can do to improve the lives of babies in our state.  Click here for a link to a video of the installation.

The Mourning Project: One Day II

This 24 x 48” version of The Mourning Project:  One Day features 63 pairs of handmade baby booties, one little elegy for each child lost before their first birthday every day in the US.  It is a tiny portion of the 20,000 pairs we are collecting from makers all over the world to draw attention to the infant mortality rate in this country.

This version of the project will be at the Norfolk D’Art Center in Norfolk, VA for their Materials II exhibition, from October 10th, 2020-November 7th, 2020.  Opening reception is Thursday, October 15 from 5:30-7:30 pm.  The awards will be announced on Facebook Live, so stay tuned!

TMP makers–do you see your booties below?  If not, check out the online installation by clicking here.  Thank you to all who have contributed to save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.  Join us by submitting your booties today.


The Mourning Project: One Day II
The Mourning Project: One Day II, detail 1
The Mourning Project: One Day II, detail 2
Little Elegies, first installation of The Mourning Project

Little Elegies, first installation of The Mourning Project

The Mourning Project is a huge community fiber art project to collect 20,000 handmade baby booties, one for each American infant who dies before her first birthday every year.  The US has the worst infant mortality rate in the developed world.  This project seeks to educate the makers and viewers about the issue, and start a discussion on how we can address this as a country.

The YWCA of Southern Arizona hosted the first installation of The Mourning Project, Little Elegies, April 2019 in Tucson.  By this time makers contribute over 3,000 pairs of handmade baby shoes.  These are some images of the first exhibition.  Future installations will vary by venue as more makers donate booties.

A rare view of the full installation with clouds (3,000 pairs of booties).


View of the first installation of The Mourning Project, at dusk.


This shot shows the bootie count as of Thursday evening. At takedown, it was 3,223.


detail of the the altar cloth, which is a collage of vintage hand-worked linens, over-dyed and stitched boro style.


first installation of The Mourning Project, detail


Several makers view the installation.


View of installation from the altar.


Attendees with signage from the installation. Signs educate viewers on the varied causes of infant mortality, and the solutions shown to address each cause.
‘Little Elegies,’ the First Exhibition of The Mourning Project, and the Bootie Haboob

‘Little Elegies,’ the First Exhibition of The Mourning Project, and the Bootie Haboob

Let’s just say it’s been a whirlwind…  It started with the installation, then the exhibition, meeting some of the local makers (two of my sisters flew in for the show), running the panel discussion, and finally, the de-installation.  Phew.  Here are some of the behind-the-scenes moments you might have missed…and did I mention the bootie haboob?

The Plan

This first exhibition, at the YWCA of Southern Arizona, was an outdoor installation.  (Note:  for reasons that will soon be clear, I am re-thinking any future outdoor installations).  Little Elegies would be in a large courtyard surrounded on three sides by brick and mortar, and on one side (the west side) with a steel security fence.

YWCA courtyard, in the rain.

I visited the site multiple times, at different times of day, measured, and carefully sketched out this installation plan:

Installation plan for the first exhibition of The Mourning Project.

The curve of the installation plan follows the curve of the fence.  The 8 foot fence runs all the way down to the cement floor, so no worries about packrats invading the installation and stealing booties (these are the things you must take into account in Arizona).  The forecast was negative for rain, and this being Tucson, you could pretty much depend on that anyway.  A few days before the installation, however, I realized I had not thought about the wind, or even worse:

A haboob.

I checked the weather forecast to see that the maximum winds predicted were 13 mph.  Not exactly a storm, more like a gentle breeze.  I researched fences online that would act as a wind break.  There were none available in Arizona.  I would have to order them, and they would arrive after the opening of the exhibit. I decided to punt and use duct tape and drop cloths if needed to keep the booties from going airborne.  Paper booties were filled with coins to weigh them down.  Ceramic booties helped to weigh down aspects of the installation (like the altar cloth) and stabilize them.

Late on Friday afternoon (March 29), we completed the installation.  The awesome installation team of Mitch Anderson, Ana Martinez, Kathleen Koopman, Janet Windsor, Valerie Galloway put it together in under 4 hours and it looked great.  The question was, would it stay that way until Tuesday morning when the show opened?

Photo by Dan Buckley.

Click here for a link to Dan Buckley’s cool time lapse video of the installation.

The Installation

When I arrived at 9:00 sharp on Tuesday, all was just as we had left it (we had secured the booties and rest of the installation with vinyl drop cloths and heavy rocks).  It looked like I was home free, and the installation was ready for viewing at 9:00 a.m.

The Little Elegies installation, all wrapped up for the night.  It looked the same when I arrived on Tuesday morning.

But about 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon, a gentle breeze blew in.  By 3:00 there was some wind gusts, and the occasional pair of booties went tumbling like so many tumble weeds you see in the old westerns.  I put up the drop cloths behind the fence with duct tape, which promptly fell off.  ( I must have looked quite the sight battling the winds, the drop cloths, and the duct tape all at once.)

The wind came in from the west, directly into the courtyard, and I realized that the focal point of the installation was surrounded on three sides by the screen fence.  So I covered the installation about an hour early, and went home to figure out plan B.

I had dinner that night with my husband and sister Kathleen AKA The Knitting Machine and told them the problem, that I needed ‘something with grommets’ to attach to the fence with zip ties and screen the wind.  They had both used plastic tarps in the past and we headed over to a local hardware store and found just what we needed, in gray.

The next day, The Knitting Machine and I moved the entire installation 20 feet east, where it was better protected from the wind.  Then we installed the tarps behind the existing fence.  All on Wednesday morning, before the winds picked up again.  It was so great to have Kathleen there to help.  She sure knows how to whittle down a To Do List, and she’s fun to hang out with, too.

Thursday was busy with preparation for the panel discussion.  Panelists Bonita Katz of the International Childbirth Education Association, Stacie Wood, TMC’s Perinatal Safety Officer, and Laura Vargas, March of Dimes Advocacy Fellow gave great presentations on how we can begin to make improvements in our infant mortality rate.  Click here for an edited video of the discussion and learn more about the problem.

Friday morning we had a bunch of local makers in for a photo shoot with the installation.  Stay tuned for a picture of that.  In the meantime, here are some views of the installation throughout the week.  Scroll down to see some of my photos of the installation.  And then you can read about the BOOTIE HABOOB.

There are three banners that accompany the installation. This one describes the installation, and the other two discuss the problem of infant mortality.

A rare view of the full installation with clouds. Banners designed by Janet Windsor flank the installation.


We added booties to the installation every day as makers came to see the installation.


This shot shows the bootie count as of Thursday evening. At takedown, it was 3,223.


Detail of a corner of the altar cloth. The cloth is made of vintage handworked linens that were over-dyed and collaged together. It is patched in the Japanese boro style. Maker Merle Eintracht’s quote is embroidered on a vintage baby dress. Crochet work is overlaid over the base cloth, which includes many hand-embroidered, pieced, and applique textiles.


My favorite view of the installation, at dusk, by candlelight.


My sisters Nanci (left) and Kathleen (right) came in for the installation. Together, they have made about 500 pairs booties (so far!).

No Booties Were Harmed

So, all of that happened, and Friday passed without windy incident.  Until about 4:00 on Friday, the exhibition over, and it was time to start collecting the booties.  The sky had started to darken.  By 4:30, half of the booties were packed.  Then a HUGE gust of wind came from the east, behind and up and over the building, and it swept a whole bunch of booties around the altar and up against the fence.  It happened in about two seconds.  And I so wish I had video of the bootie haboob to show you, but you will just have to imagine 1,500 booties tumbling in the wind.

It was just one hellacious gust, and we (JK, Nanci, Kathleen and I) scrambled to collect them all. No harm was done.  All the booties were collected and undamaged.  I have a better idea to hold the booties down IF there is another outdoor installation.

Do you see your booties in these photos?  Please make some more!  Make them black, white, and gray, knit, sewn, or crocheted.  Be sure to send in your booties by Mother’s Day, May 12, and we will extend the deadline if necessary.  We still need 20,000 more pairs to honor each American baby who dies each year.  I know you will want to be a part of this important project.

And thank you to all the makers who have submitted booties to date!  The Mourning Project is possible with you.

PS–Watch this blog and our Facebook page for professional photos of the exhibition.  I’ll be using those to apply to different venues for the exhibition around the country.  If you have an idea about where we should apply, let me know!

“My love is in every stitch.”

“My love is in every stitch.”

‘My love is in every stitch.’

It was so touching to get this box of 20 little elegies.  Merle Eintracht made each one in memory of Courtney Marie Campary. Merle heard about‘s goal to collect 20,000 baby booties from her neighbor.  Courtney was the beloved daughter of Kirsten and Phillip. Merle labelled each pair of baby booties, noting Courtney ‘was born sleeping on November 24, 2010. While her time with us wasn’t what we’d hoped for, her life is impacting us in profound ways.’

Merle continues: ‘At the time of Courtney’s birth, I had no idea of what I could do to lessen Kirsten’s pain. You project has allowed me to help in a meaningful way. I have sent photos to Kirsten every step of the way. The booties have both overjoyed her and made her cry all over again.

Kirsten will NEVER forget her little girl.

Your project will have many more people know that Courtney Marie Compary was the long awaited daughter of a couple who have endless love for each other and will forever have endless love for Courtney.’

I have no words for the generosity of spirit in Merle’s contribution to But that generosity extends to Kirsten as well.  She has gone on to help others who have lost their little ones. You can read the amazing story here.

It is stories like these that remind me how personal this project is for so many people, and how the lives of these lost little ones impact so many.  I am so grateful that the project touches so many hearts.  It is the first step to changing the world.

To get learn more or get involved, click on tab above.
Heartbreaking and Heartwarming

Heartbreaking and Heartwarming

Heartbreaking, and Heartwarming

My friend Trish told me a story this week that both broke and warmed my heart.  She lives in Three Points, Arizona.  It is a literal wide spot in the road with a population of about 5500 people.  Most residents know each other through the churches or other organizations.  Trish is a big fan of and has been talking and writing in the local newsletter about it.  She told me that, recently, a Three Points mom lost her three day old daughter to hydrocephalus.  The whole town grieves with this mother and are supporting her as she tries to recover from this terrible loss.  When they heard about The Mourning Project, local volunteers pledged to make 100 pairs of baby booties in memory of this one beloved child.

This love and generosity brings tears to my eyes.  Trish’s story reminds me that this project is about so much more than one person or a cause.  It is about all of us coming together to acknowledge our loss, and begin to heal, and right this wrong so that it doesn’t happen needlessly to any parent.

So for all of you working on your baby booties, thank you.  Together, we are going to make a difference.





On Fiber Art and Making Your Voice Heard

My Contribution to The 70273 Project.

Political Fiber Art is Trending

Have you read the article on the New York Times about the trends in political fiber art, or “craftivism”? (I hate that word-it feels like it diminishes the work)  The article’s an interesting summary of political fiber art since the 1970s.  Click here for the full text. As a fiber artist and someone who has studied public policy, I admire the works of Sheila Hicks, Faith Ringgold, and Anni Albers.  Art in any form can enlighten, or change someone’s mind, and cause a spark of empathy and recognition.  As Toni Morrison said, All good art is political.

While you may have heard of Threads of Resistance, which is showing around the country, there are two ambitious community fiber art projects with open calls right now.  One memorializes a forgotten Nazi atrocity (this would not seem terribly political, and yet Nazis and white supremacists in the U.S. are feeling emboldened these days).  The other seeks to have a conversation about the border wall.  Neither one of these projects can be done without community participation.  If one or both speaks to you, you have an opportunity to contribute.

Check Out These Current Calls for Political Quilted Art

The 70273 Project by Jeanne Hewell-Chambers memorializes a forgotten Nazi atrocity, the murder of 70,273  disabled people.  She is collecting a quilt block (two red x’s on a white ground) for each of those lost and has an army of volunteers helping her assemble them into quilts.  Want to read more?  Click here.  I sent my block several weeks ago, in honor of my cousin Paul, who has Downs Syndrome. It is shocking that I feel compelled to take a stand against Nazis in America.  In 2018.  But there you go.

On a related note, Lea McComas is working on a ‘quilted’ border wall project.  If you are a quilter with an opinion (pro or con) on the planned border wall, you may want to participate.  The online call is posted here:  The deadline for the call of 8″ x 16″ ‘bricks’ is July 31. Lea is hoping to exhibit the wall in Houston in the fall at the annual quilt show.

Regular followers of this blog will not be surprised that I have have an opinion on the wall.  I appreciated the pragmatic and succinct view of Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security, and incorporated a quote by her in my piece:

My contribution to the Border Wall Quilt Project.

I am working on a large community fiber art project of my own.   It’s not ready for prime time yet…stay tuned.

When You Wake Up to Find Your Work in the LA Times

When You Wake Up to Find Your Work in the LA Times

Wow.  This wonderful AP article has been in the NY Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the LA Times. Click here for the article.  Scroll down to see an image of my Desconocidos quilt.  The piece has been travelling as part of the Migrant Quilt Project and is now at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA.

Desconocidos by Mary Vaneecke, detail


Migrant Quilt Project

Migrant Quilt Project

Just a quick link to a local news story about the Migrant Quilt Project I am involved in.  We are preparing quilts for a national tour including the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Nebraska.  Click here for the news story.

This is the quilt I did for the project last year. It features a silhouette of Fr. Kino, the first European in the Tucson area, who I consider our first border crosser.  Yes, he came south to Tucson from what we call Mexico today.

Desconocidos, Tucson Sector, 2015-2016, 94” x 61” by Mary Vaneecke, 2017.
New Work:  Back to ‘Mending’

New Work: Back to ‘Mending’

New Work:  Back to ‘Mending’

Yet another new work inspired by Hazel Hall’s poem, “Mending.”  Full text of the poem is here.  Written about 100 years ago (Hall died in 1924), it is the gift that keeps on giving!  Hall describes a mundane household chore as a subversive act, ‘a little travesty on life.’ It just seems to fit our zeitgeist, doesn’t it?

This piece combines several of the techniques I have used in the last year: layered sheers, cutting, burning, and visible mending.  It feels radical to me, but still beautiful.  Similar to Haiku III, but dimensional instead of fused flat.  Best of all, I have ideas for several more pieces in this style.

Stay tuned.

Yes, I have been Mending III, 40'' x 30'' by Mary Vaneecke
Yes, I have been Mending III, 40” x 30” by Mary Vaneecke–in a private collection


Yes, I have been Mending III by Mary Vaneecke, detail.


Fabric, dyes, fusible web.


Fusing, dyeing, burning, machine stitch, cut work.

photo credit: Jack Kulawik

(White) Silence is Violence

(White) Silence is Violence

While this work is a modern quilt with a contemporary theme, it stands firmly in the tradition of subversive stitching in quilts.

When officers of the law become judge, jury, and executioners, killing unarmed black citizens, we all have a problem.  The police act on our behalf.  This slogan from the Black Lives Matter movement challenges our complicity in the face of these injustices.  It demands our attention.  We must find a way to hold our police officers close, and still hold them accountable.  This piece is included in the Studio Art Quilt Associates Loaded Conversations exhibition.

The work is silk dupion, hand-painted fabrics, layered and stitched.  Embellished with hand-painted, frayed twine.
letters on white quilted silk
(White) Silence is Violence, by Mary Vaneecke
text on densely quilted white sillk
detail, (White) Silence is Violence by Mary Vaneecke
Inspiration:  What I did on my Summer Vacation, Part 1

Inspiration: What I did on my Summer Vacation, Part 1

I spent a week in Washington D.C. this summer and the highlight of the trip was two visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, aka the Blacksonian (according to VSB).  I wasn’t sure I could get in, because tickets are sold out months in advance.  A guard suggested I get in line at noon and wait till one o’clock when all the unclaimed will call tickets are released for the day.  It means you have only half a day to see the museum with that ticket (unless you wait in line another day, like I did), and you are not guaranteed tickets, but it is well worth the chance to get look at this amazing museum. Every American needs to see it.

More than half of the Blacksonian is below ground, so it is much larger than it looks from the mall. The lower floors focus on the history of slavery/emancipation/Jim Crow/segregation and the Civil Rights era.  The upper floors are displays of African American contributions to the arts and athletic achievements.

It was thought that the average visit would be about 3 hours, but it is more than 6 because there is so much history, and so many meaningful displays to see. And this is history we don’t read about in school.  It is difficult to just walk briskly by a pair child-sized shackles. A looming guard tower from Angola prison.  A chapel for the casket of Emmett Till.  At least half the exhibits and displayed items just stop you dead in your tracks.

I am going to post just a few pics of textile-related items.  The first is this gorgeous piece, a silk and linen shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria.  Think about that.  A woman born a slave in the USA could not only capture the attention of the Queen of England, but receive such an exquisite gift from her.

Shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria.
Shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria.

And this piece, a beautiful whitework dresser scarf.  I believe it is one of the few pieces documented to have been created by a slave.  Quilt historians had thought most of the fine quilting was done by plantation mistresses (neither would have signed their work).  We are discovering now that is not always the case.

Wholecloth quilted work by slave.
Wholecloth quilted work by an unknown slave woman.

But this last piece took my breath away.  It is called Ashley’s Sack.  It was given by Rose, a slave on the Middleton Place Plantation in Charleston, to her nine year old daughter Ashley on the occasion of Ashley being sold away.  Rose filled the sack with a few handfuls of pecans, a lock of her hair, and ‘her love always.’  The two never saw each other again. In 1921, Rose’s great granddaughter Ruth Middleton embroidered their story onto the sack.

Asley's sack, detail.
Ashley’s sack, detail.

This family kept this sack for generations.  Like the museum itself, it is a treasure.

Yes, I have been Mending II (A Little Travesty)

Yes, I have been Mending II (A Little Travesty)

Hazel Hall’s poem ‘Mending’ reveals mending as a subversive act, an act of defiance, ‘a little travesty.’ Those who disagree with the current administration must put aside our shock and grief at the loss for what we thought America was, and fight for American ideals, to mend what is broken in this country.

Those who work in textiles have a long history of political activism.  Like Betsy Ross.  Or Madame Defarge.  Watch Threads of Resistance for many political art quilts, or little travesties.

Yes, I have been Mending II, 32 x 33.5” 2017


Yes, I have been Mending II, detail

The full text of the poem is here:


Hazel Hall

Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Ravelling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.




No Censorship at THIS quilt show!

The Tucson Quilters Guild Quilt Fiesta! 2017 is all over, but this one was even more interesting that usual for me. One of the show co-chairs confided in me that my entry Abuela Reads the Headlines caused some controversy at the quilt show.  Apparently at least two people asked that it be removed from the show show.  Here is a pic of the piece:

quilt by Mary Vaneecke
Abuela Reads the Headlines, 55” x 84”

I believe the controversial part is the 2015 headlines from mainstream media that appear on the quilt.  They are:

U.S. looks to detain more mother, child migrants, sometimes for months


Judge blasts ICE, says immigrant children, parents in detention centers should be released


Border detention of children shames America

And, what is for me, the kicker:

Cribs replace bunks at new immigrant detention center

But my quilt was not the only one to cause a stir.  My friend Sandy Lambert had an incredible piece called ‘Lest We Forget.’  It is entirely hand quilted and embroidered with quotations by Republican presidential candidates, along with tombstones with the various dates of their campaigns’ demise.

quilt by Sandy Lambert
Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert.


Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert, detail.


Lest We Forget, by Sandy Lambert, detail

Several people confronted the show co-chair, Reilly Zoda and asked (perhaps demanded?) that the quilts be removed from the show due to their political content.  She said that there was a Quilt of Valor at the show (and that was a political quilt), and a patriotic Baltimore Album quilt, and that was political, and if the show was going to censor political quilts, they would have to take them all down.  What a brilliant response.

I am so proud that the show chairs refused to remove the ‘offending’ quilts.   They were courageous in refusing to censor free expression at the show.  We all know women have long expressed their hopes, dreams, and political beliefs in quilts, and the Tucson Quilters’ Guild honored that part of our tradition this weekend.  The actions of the TQG stand in stark contrast the actions of the AQS over a quilt by Kathy Nida.  (If you are unfamiliar with the case, google it, or click here, here, and here.)

Our foremothers would be proud!

I am holding my breath, however.  I fear that this will be a hot topic at the next board meeting, and there may be a new policy in place for next year….  I will keep you posted.

I know from experience that the guild will hear 10 negative comments for each positive one.  If you agree with their decision to allow ‘political’ quilts in the show, please let them know!

Subversive Stitching is Alive and Well in San Jose

I just had to tell you all about my all-to-brief trip to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.  I was invited to give my artist talk, Confessions of a Subversive Stitcher, on the closing weekend of Art Cloth Network’s Anything Goes show.  My fellow ACN member Connie Tiegel picked me up at the airport–and brought cake for the reception!  I had never been to the museum, and I was so eager to see how it compares to some of the other quilt museums I have been to.

The first thing I noticed was the space.  The galleries are incredible!  There are multiple large galleries with great lighting, and tall, tall ceilings.  They highlighted another show, THE CALIFORNIA ART QUILT REVOLUTION: FROM THE SUMMER OF LOVE TO THE NEW MILLENNIUM.  That show included work from Kathleen Sharp, who currently resides in my hometown, Tucson.  The show was an eye opener for me.  Did you know, for instance, that subversive stitchers were quilting with dryer lint back in the 70s and 80s? I did not know that!

I was able to tag along on a tour the Curator of Collections Nancy Bavor gave of the ‘back room.’  We saw lots of acid-free boxes neatly labeled with accession numbers and such and learned the rare circumstances under which a piece can be de-accessioned.  There was an area where all incoming textiles were quarantined for 2 weeks before being unpacked.  Why?  Bugs!  Nancy looks for any evidence of insects that could infest the rest of the collection before they can do any damage. Who knew? Nancy is also a quilt historian, and was kind enough to compliment me on my knowledge of quilt history.  It’s an important part of my talk, so I was relieved to hear it.

Curator of Collections Nancy Bavor and I chat at the closing reception of Anything goes at the SJMQT.

The Executive Director, Joan Phillips, is delightful.  She is so enthusiastic about the museum’s greater focus on art quilts, including political works.  The museum has big plans and is growing, it now has its second artist-in-residence, Cristina Velazquez.  I met her was able to see some of her knitted work.  Check her out on Instragram here.

Anything Goes looked fabulous in person.  The next best thing is to click on the link and see the show digitally.  Its next stop is the Kirkland Arts Center in Clinton, NY. Be there, or be square!

Let us eat cake!



Yes, I Have Been Mending

Yes, I Have Been Mending

My latest art quilt, Yes, I Have Been Mending was inspired by 2 ideas.  One is Hazel Hall’s poem, Mending. I recently discovered her poetry through’s Poem-a-Day program.  It is great to have a poem delivered to my in-box every day.  I don’t always read it, but it is there!  Hall used stitch imagery in several of her poems, so I was delighted to read her work.

The second idea that inspired me was the visible mending trend.   It’s a lot like it sounds, but check out the link or Pinterest for some examples.   ‘Yes, I Have Been Mending’ uses several gorgeous layers of hand-dyed silks, which I layered with eco-felt.  And then I took an Exacto knife and sand paper to it to create holes.  A bit of a travesty, but that is part of the poem!  I then patched the red quilt with green thread and some more hand-dyed silks.

My favorite line in Mending is the last.  The complete text of the poem is below:


Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Ravelling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.


art quilt 'Yes, I Have Been Mending,' 2016, 38'' x 23.5''
‘Yes, I Have Been Mending,’ 2016, 38” x 23.5”


'Yes, I Have Been Mending,' detail
‘Yes, I Have Been Mending,’ detail


Northern Lights

Northern Lights

Northern Lights, a vintage linen napkin (maker unknown), has been painstakingly folded, stitched, and hand-dyed in a mandala-type design.

Northern Lights, by Mary Vaneecke. 18'' x 18'' Hand-dyed vintage linen napkin, layered and stitched. Stretched on a frame.
Northern Lights, by Mary Vaneecke. 18” x 18” Hand-dyed vintage linen napkin, layered and stitched. Stretched on a frame.
Reflections and the Golden Hour for SAQA

Reflections and the Golden Hour for SAQA

Reflections and the Golden Hour

So the Studio Art Quilts Associates is working with Andover Fabrics to create designs for their second fabric line, to be juried by Luana Rubin.  The line will be titled The Golden Hour, that hour of dusk or dawn when the interplay between warm light and cool shadows is most fascinating for artists.  SAQA members may create any patterns using any means for submission.  ‘They’ get to choose the color ways, so the designer is really just putting forth patterns for consideration.  It is free to enter, and so I took some time to develop some samples.

I was inspired by the thought of sunlight glinting off water.  SAQA and Andover want designs that will work well as textures, blenders, and backgrounds.  Think complementary colors.  I also was inspired by a recent class with Cas Holmes, where we crumpled paper before painting it (I didn’t even have to dye fabric!).  The textural effect reminded me a lot of light reflecting off water.

Some Sample “Reflections”

I called my submissions Reflections I, II, and III.  Carson McCullers, a favorite southern gothic author of mine, wrote a novel called Reflections in a Golden Eye.  No relation.  Here are some of the samples I worked up:

A low contrast version with lights and darks on a medium value background.
A low contrast version with lights and darks on a medium value background.


A high contrast, more linear  version.
A high contrast, more linear version.


saqa golden hour 001
Light, mediums, and darks on a white background.


Light and dark paints on white ground, in a larger scale.
Light and dark paints on white ground, in a larger scale.


Light and dark paint on a background that goes from light to medium to dark.
Light and dark paint on a background that goes from light to medium to dark.


Light on dark, with a larger scale, more random pattern.
Light on dark, with a larger scale, more random pattern.

I did some more samples, but I could only submit three for consideration, so I won’t post my least favorites here. Which ones do you like?  Can you see them as fabric in your stash in your favorite colorway?  Wouldn’t it be cool to say you had designed a fabric line?  Keep your fingers crossed for me!


A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

This small art quilt (12” x 12”) is my submission for the Studio Art Quilt Associates auction, which starts online in September.  All proceeds go to SAQA, which works to promote the art quilt.  SAQA supports what I do, so I like to reciprocate!

The small work is made of layered, sheer fabrics, including hand-dyed silk organzas and lace scraps from a wedding dress, layered on felt and commercial cotton fabric and machine stitched. The title comes from a Wallace Stevens poem, The Snowman.  I think about the opening line of the poem–One must have a mind of winter–often as temperatures get into the 100s here at home.  I grew up in Michigan, where winters are long, and I wonder about the Nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.  Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

I am considering making a larger version, so perhaps I will call this Mind of Winter I.

A Mind of Winter small art quilt
“A Mind of Winter” 12” x 12” 2016.

Below is the complete text of the poem.

The Snowman

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

When Your Quilt Travels to Australia without You


When Your Quilt Travels to Australia without You….

So my quilt Chopsticks and Edamame has been travelling the world without me since it was accepted into Studio Art Quilt Associates Food for Thought show.  It was in Dublin and the UK last fall, and is spending the spring at 3 venues in Australia.  This morning my email inbox contained some photos of a spectacular venue, the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne (yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing, either).

But look at the natural light coming through the windows here:

The 2016 Australasian Quiilt Festival venue for SAQA's Food for Thought exhibition.
The 2016 Australasian Quilt Festival venue for SAQA’s Food for Thought exhibition.

My quilt is in the center of the top photo below.  Unfortunately, the black background didn’t do much for it, I am afraid.

food for thought in Australia food for thought Australia 3

Chopsticks and Edamame will be in Michigan at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library this summer, and I am excited to be able to check it out there.  I will have my posse with me.  It is not often that my parents get to see my work, so that will be cool.

Dining Destinations:  Chopsticks and Edamame, 2014, 45'' x 35''
Chopsticks and Edamame, 2014, 45” x 35”
Another good day to dye…

Another good day to dye…

So I have been in the dye studio for a few days and have some pieces to share. These are all various forms of shibori, the Japanese word for putting pattern on fabric by applying pressure with dye.  Most of these are silk fabrics, procion dyes are used on each.

Itajime circles under a chevron.
Itajime shibori circles under a chevron pattern.


Itajime with circles and 2 dye colors.
Itajime with circles and 2 dye colors.


This sekka shibori with blueberry and raspberry dye is making me hungry!
This sekka shibori with blueberry and raspberry dye is making me hungry!


More itajime, this time with zig zag stripes and navy and red dyes.
More itajime, this time with zig zag stripes and navy and red dyes. This fabric was dyed, discharged and over-dyed.  This method brings out a lot of subtle complexity in the final product.  

Admittedly, this chevron piece is kinda ugly. But I have learned that this is merely an opportunity to throw it into another dye bath or discharge it to get something spectacular. Stay tuned.

Now comes one of my favorite parts of the art-making process:  auditioning fabrics to put them all together….

Poisoning Flint

'Poisoning Flint' is made of hand-dyed, rust dyed silk organza, felted wool, stitch, and a drinking glass.
‘Poisoning Flint’ is made of hand-dyed, rust dyed silk organza, felted wool, stitch, and a drinking glass.  The piece is 4.5” x 18” x 4.5”.  It was a part of the Surface Design Association’s Transgressing Traditions exhibition at the Schweinfurth Art Center in 2016.  ‘Poisoning Flint’ will travel with the Studio Art Quilt Associates H2Oh! show through 2019.