Up-Cycle-Just Do It

Nancy Crow is currently in my little town conducting a two week workshop. I attended one two years ago. This experience taught me many good things. One was, how much I dislike strip piecing. Nancy’s assignments are complex and the amount of time for each one is limited. The pressure to produce is intense. The first assignment was to strip piece several units of black and white fabric using precise measurements ranging from very narrow to wider. This took me until about 1 p.m. Then we were to create a composition and stitch it. It was due first thing the next morning.

Pieced units

I tried several layouts.

Layout #1

This was very challenging. Most every layout I did looked the same: busy. I finally decided on this one and sewed it together. This was challenging too as some of the seams were very thin. There were a lot of bumpy seams to sew over.

Stitched composition

Honestly, I thought all the compositions looked alike. Way too many black and white bands, boxes and lines.

We continued to make compositions all week. The last assignment was to make a 4’x8′ composition using the units made with various colors of fabric. This next photo shows my final composition along with the black and white composition and several experiments on the design wall.


I did not like the large composition. When I got home I took it completely apart. I was full of emotions from the workshop. It was nothing like I expected. But, I am glad I took it. It made me do a lot of thinking. So that was two years ago. I have not looked at the work I did since. This week a friend of mine took the current workshop and stayed at my home. I told her I had not looked or worked with my pieces that I sewed in the workshop. That I didn’t know what to do with them. She convinced me there was something worthwhile in the stack. She commented that one person made a grocery bag from the black and white composition. Wow! I loved that idea.


While she was attending the workshop, I proceeded to make a bag from the black and white composition. I was very motivated. I first studied it and concluded it needed something.  I layered it with batting and backing and proceeded to quilt it vertically one inch apart using variegated grey and white thread.  Afterwards, I decided the black and white is so stark that paint would tone it down and unite the pieces. So I decided to stamp it with paint.

I pondered the spaces and saw that the white spaces would be perfect for a specific shape, but what? Then it came to me…CROWS; to commemorate my workshop experience.  I loved this idea! I made two stamps, one of a crow and one of an abstract set of bars. I didn’t have black paint so I used India ink. This worked well as it soaked in and created a nice medium grey. I then applied white paint with the bars. The combination of the greys united the surface and muted the harsh black and white spaces. The white paint dried transparent so in some spots I stamped again changing the position. I loved the results.

b_W_paintedThe bars remind me of telephone poles which crows sit on.

b_W_painted_full viewI was very happy with the results. This piece was looking great. Next came more quilting; this took about four hours. I stitched horizontally with black thread going around the crows. Then I stitched vertically again with the variegated thread.

I love to add text by quilting free hand. I decided to add one of Nancy’s comments in red thread:



Detailed view

The quilting and the paint made this composition come to life.

Now I had to decide what kind of bag to make. The fabric looked sophisticated now so no grocery bag was in mind. Instead I studied bags online and researched in some of my books. I had to make the size of the bag fit the area I had to work with and I wanted the JUST DO IT on the front. I decided upon a 10×19″ finished bag. Most of the crows that were fully stamped wound up on the back.

I worked the next day for about eight hours and finished the bag all except the handle. The lining is a white and tan linen stripe. The next day I decided to add two pockets on the inside in red fabric. I stamped a crow on each one. The perfect final detail.


I am very proud of this bag. It is functional and beautiful.

This project was satisfying and helped me to think of the positives in the workshop. I am grateful for the advice my friend gave me (thanks Barb!).

I took pictures of the construction process and plan to make a tutorial for this bag. I will put a notice when it is available.






Back to main


  1. Darlene says:

    Debbie, I love reading your blog and especially your descriptions about the iterative process that you go through. Add the discipline you exercise and, no wonder you arrive at satisfying and fabulous outcomes. Good work girl!

    • Glad you liked the post. I don’t post often and this is one is a good example of why. I like to tell the story and share the full experience. This requires something called “sitting down to write”. Once I am focused, the project isn’t complete until I put it into words. To capture what the series of events meant to me.

      • Thanks for taking the time to share your story project! Very encouraging! I missed your presentation to the Vashon Island Quilt Guild so loved the internet opportunity!… Pam

  2. Hi Priscilla! How are you? thanks for commenting on this topic. I learned a lot.

  3. Cathy Bertanzetti says:

    Good morning,
    It was so refreshing to read your take on this class. I took the same class in Tennessee awhile back. I had many of the same feelings. I learned a lot, mostly about myself. I learned I do not perform well under such pressure and I much prefer the slow art of learning. I have never finished my pieces either, they bring up frustrated feelings of not being able to achieve a finish in any exercise. I did learn some excellent techniques though. I met some wonderful women and would not take anything for the experience.

    • Thank you Cathy! It is ironic that you wrote this toady…as I have a house guest that is how now taking the crow workshop that is just down the street. I live in a very small town..more like a village. Nancy has been teaching here for many years. After I took the workshop and had several ladies stay here…I became friends with one of them. She has taken 7 in a row now and she always stays here. There are some that have taken over 20! I cannot fathom why!!
      It is interesting to watch the progress and path my friend has taken with these classes.
      One thing is…people want to be with Nancy, to hear her words…to hopefully gain her approval. They are groupies! Ha ha. Oh well…what ever makes you happy, right?
      I too learned some good things there but I do not need anyone’s approval..so, I make my art and go my own path. Best wishes to you!

Comments welcome


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.