The Truth About Armadillos

or Why Armadillos? (part 2)

or Inspire Me Thursday – Whimsy

Back in 2001 and 2002, I spent the spring in Killeen, Texas as part of a research team studying black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers on Fort Hood. I was working as a programmer for Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, and having gotten severely seasick on the whale cruises, I was excited to be part of a project that was on solid ground.

The armadillo part of this is, of course, being in Texas. I was on the watch for wildlife in general but my greatest wish was to see an armadillo running around in the wild. To my dismay, the only armadillos I saw there were lying by roads, crushed pink and gray messes. When I left Texas after the 2002 field season, my dream unfulfilled, I decided that armadillos had to be more than pink and gray shells. I decided armadillos only looked that way dead. When alive, I imagine armadillos as being all colors of the rainbow. (This is the whimsy part.)

A few years later, I was part of a scrap bag challenge with an art doll group in Ithaca, NY. I was given a bag of fabric scraps and told to make something with them. Seeing the rainbow of colors available, I immediately thought of a living armadillo. So I made one (see above).

I combined quilting techniques (quilting and piecing) with my art doll skills. The design (if you can call it that) is all my own. The entire thing was an improv – I made a bunch of body parts more than once trying to get them right. I chewed through the challenge fabric, but wound up adding only one fabric (the light blue belly) to the provided scraps. I was ecstatic with the results and was surprised to find that other people liked The Truth About Armadillos enough to award it the viewer’s first prize for soft sculpture at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s show in 2005.

Doesn’t Follow Directions

Improvising improvements while I sew is standard with me. Even when I have a pattern to follow, I usually change it. For some reason, I rebel against the instructions, not always with the best of results. In this case however, things worked out nicely (with only one minor oops). Here are pictures of the sketchbook cover/carrier and the “matching” pencil roll I made for my sister for her birthday.

The cover is a variation on a pattern by Cindi Edgerton for making paperback book covers. She also gives directions on how to measure any book and make a cover for it, and they work great. My modifications include a flap to hold the book closed and a shoulder strap for carrying the book around. (You need the flap if you’re going to hang the book from your shoulder, or it will open and close as you walk.)

The pencil roll pattern is from Cloth Paper Scissors’ 2008 Studios issue that came out this past April. My modifications for this pattern were minor – I just added the little D-rings so the roll can be carried on the sketchbook carrier’s strap. Of course, the first time I sewed them on, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and wound up sewing the pencil pocket shut.

I really enjoyed using the D-rings as connectors. They made the final product look sturdy and professional. And playing with fabric, which I haven’t done for months (due to a disaster of a studio), was really satisfying.


We had a gorgeous day in Colorado yesterday, sunny and warm, but with a steady breeze that kept us from overheating. In the evening, we sat sat out back on our patio and watched the rabbit colony in the natural area behind our house. They live on a west-facing slope above a creek, and while we can’t see the water, we get a great view of rabbits racing back and forth. At that time of day, the slope is brightly lit with the golden-red rays of the setting sun.

Kurt wondered why we haven’t seen more predators in the area, considering the high density of the rabbit population. His words worked like magic. A little while later, we spotted two coyotes slinking through natural area. We watched them with binoculars and took some pictures, but they were too far away to get a really good photo. Still, here’s a shot of the one that got closest to us – maybe 100 yds away. You can see he’s watching us, but he didn’t show any real alarm until we spoke. Then he took off.

I can’t get over how beautiful they were. Their coat were the color of the dried grass they were trotting through, but they had rust-colored markings on their muzzles. Both looked really healthy. Not only were their coats thick, but they were alert and moved well. They didn’t go after any of the rabbits, which was fortunate for one rabbit that was actually between the two of them at one point. We still can’t believe that rabbit got away without at least being chased.

I love living in the West.

The Death of Studio Friday

I’m heartbroken! One of the reasons I wanted to get going with a blog was so I could join in the art fun by submitting thematic pictures of my studio to Studio Friday. When I checked in yesterday, I found that it has been permanently closed. The site shut down back in February, which shows how out of touch I am. In the past, Studio Friday supplied a topic every week, and participants were expected to produce something related to both their studio and the theme with the only real rule being “no pictures of your whole studio allowed”. The picture was posted on the participant’s blog, and the link was put up at the Studio Friday site.

So, in memory of Studio Friday, here are two pictures of the newest thing in my studio: a curtain over the open closet to protect my fabric collection from light. Here’s to better luck getting in with one of the other weekly challenge groups. (I think I’ll look into Inspire Me Thursday next.)

Why Armadillos? (part 1)

When I started my blog, I was determined to have a banner photo that I had taken myself. I went through a bunch of photos I took at the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont, MD last September trying to find one I liked. I had great pictures of parrots, turtles, goats, snakes, and even tigers, but I stopped in my tracks when I hit the armadillo picture. Something inside me went “That’s it!”

So now I have an armadillo on my blog. The truth is, I’ve always had a soft spot for armadillos. While I love animals of all kinds, including the creepy crawly stuff most people avoid, armadillos are one of my favorites.

Just to show you that my armadillo thing is for real, I’ll be posting pictures of the armadillos in my life. Here’s the first one. It’s an armadillo I made years ago when I learned how to make 3-D animals with wire and beads from the book Beaded Animals in Jewelry by Lette Lammens and Els Scholte. As soon as I got the hang of it, I began playing with the patterns in the book. To make an armadillo, I just changed the bead colors on the standard mouse pattern. It made more sense to me as an armadillo anyway since you can’t see any feet. This little guy has no name, but he lives on my sewing machine. He’s my good-luck sewing mascot and keeps me company while I work on quilts and other projects. He’s just 2 inches long.

And as a bonus, check out this little guy at Cute Overload. Awwwwww!

Writing is simple…

I originally wrote the following on 10/26/07:

Every writing book I’ve ever read comes down to this: Writers write. All of them say it is that simple. If you want to be a writer, you have to spend time writing.

It may be that simple, but it just isn’t that easy. Writing is about putting your thoughts onto paper, sharing your memories, dreams, ideas, and emotions through words. Many of the things I want to communicate don’t have any words. How do I write a picture for another to see? How do I lead the reader through the nerves in my body or the synapses in my mind? Things intangible, and yet utterly real, long to be shared, explored, and understood. And words are such a feeble thing to use in the process. Every word has its meaning, and through combinations, many meanings can be achieved. But there is a lack of logic in finding the right words for the look of a sunbeam in a bedroom or the inner collapse depression brings. The best words are a leap from the start. An unexpected connection is made, and the reader thinks, “Yes. That is true. That is something I know.”

But my intellectual brain, with its years of education and study, wants me to think my way through all this. Surely writing would be easier if I just thought about it. Hence, the shelf in my office dedicated to books about writing. Books I go to for insight, sympathy, companionship, hope, support, and guidance. I’ve been fascinated by the creative process, especially the creative writing process, for as long as I can remember. I know in my heart that my ultimate dream has always been to be a writer. From watching me over the years, you would think what I really wanted to be was a reader who can tell you all about how to write.

The odd thing is that I can write when I choose to. Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo and made the deadline with a few days to spare: 50,000 words in under 30 days. I found it easy to sit and write for hours, especially when the fire was stoked and burning well. I can get caught up in the idea of the moment – the scene, situation, characters, action – and then the words flow as if they were water.

I guess the key is the choice. I have to allow myself to write. Even knowing how much I enjoy it, and how energizing I find it, I will often give myself other things to do, divert myself from my dream of dreams, and head off into areas that are also interesting and even fulfilling, but that result in another day about which I have to say, “Today I did not write.”

I haven’t got forever. I want to write the things that are in me. I know I can overflow with ideas. I just have to show up and keep showing up, and over time they will come to the surface for recording.



I realized last night that these two words were only different in the order of two letters, and I thought it was interesting. I even wondered if I couldn’t do something with the observation. Make it the point of something. (Perhaps a mistyped note or letter, which says one but meant the other?) The mind of the writer at work.

I am a writer. It’s my ultimate passion. Reading to see how others have done it. Losing myself in the flow when my muse suddenly gives me the Gift like water from a fire hose. The words come so rapidly the action seems violent. But such glory! Such joy! To stand awash in the flood and lose all sense of time and the world around me. That is immortality.

We now return you to May 2008.

I’m happy to say I write regularly now. I’m currently cranking out 1500+ words per day on my first NaNoWriMo novel (I wrote a second one in Nov 2007; it is currently on the back burner, stewing). My life is a miracle and rarely do I look back on my day and think “I didn’t write”.

There is hope for us all.

Puerto Rico

We’ve been back from Puerto Rico for a week now, so it’s time to post some pictures. Here’s a bird-of-paradise in El Yunque National Park, PR.

Bird of Paradise, El Yunque National Park, PR

Also from El Yunque, a shot of a snail (this sucker was about 3 inches across…)

Here’s an example of the bizarre root systems many trees in the tropics have — up above ground. Kurt tells me they don’t know for sure if this is an adaptation to the high rain fall, a necessary structural buttressing, or both. (I love it when we don’t know things.)

I was fascinated to see palm trees growing wild in the forest. Having lived in AZ and seen all the work required to keep a palm tree alive in a desert, it seemed unreal that there is a climate on the planet that can support them (and tons of other plant and animal life while it’s at it).

One last shot from El Yunque, which was only open for half a day while we were in that part of the island. The storm that made our drive from the airport to our B&B so dramatic brought down limbs and caused some mud slides. It took them a day and a half to clear up the roads enough for visitors to drive into the park, and even then they cautioned us to be careful, especially on the trails. This is La Mina falls, part of a wonderful paved trail we hiked.

On to San Juan. We visited the fort (San Felipe del Morro), which sits on a point at the mouth of the bay. Believe it or not, this fort was actually taken by the enemies several times over the centuries.

There were many walls I couldn’t see over even on my tiptoes. Translation: Kit is short. But we did find a wall taller than Kurt.

Old San Juan has been renovated and is beautiful. I couldn’t get over all the colors — blue brick streets and houses in all sorts of pastel colors.

(I took a million pictures like this one…)

Something I took with my friend Deb Robson in mind (she’s working on a book about wool right now): sheep statues (in old San Juan). At least, I’m pretty sure they’re sheep, and not goats… Their coats look a little scraggy.

Last but not least: proof that our vacation did not suck. The view from our room the last two nights we were there…

The biggest problem with our vacation: it was too short. We were just getting the hang of lying around on the beach all day reading, and it was time to come home.