Pappa Pomodoro is a specialty of the region of Tuscany that we were visiting and I completely fell in love.  It is a simple tomato basil soup with the addition of bread which is simmered in the soup to make a thick hearty porridge-like texture.  If that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, just trust me.  In some places it is served slightly spicy and sometimes just plain.  We sampled several varieties.  It is the ultimate in fresh and flavorful comfort food.  When we got back from the trip, I knew I had to find a recipe and capture this before I forgot what it tasted like.

This is my very slight variation on a recipe I found from Jamie Oliver.

Pappa Pomodoro

2-3 cups chopped tomatoes – Jamie uses cherry tomatoes, I used romas from the Farmers Market chopped into quarters or big chunks.

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

a large handful of fresh basil leaves

olive oil

salt & pepper

a large can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)

2-3 cups of stale ciabatta bread, chopped/ripped into bite-sized pieces

crushed red pepper (optional)

Chop the roma tomatoes into large chunks (or use cherry tomatoes and slash the skins so they don’t “pop”).  Place those on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Add one of the garlic cloves and rip up a small batch of basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top.  Roast these tomatoes at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, add a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot and saute the remaining garlic for just a couple of minutes over medium heat. Rip up the rest of the basil leaves and add them to the pot.  Add the canned tomatoes and then fill the can with water and add that.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Finally add the bread and the tray of roasted tomatoes, scraping it with a rubber spatula to get all of the juices and oil. If you want to add a little red pepper, this would be the place to do it. I didn’t make the spicy version (yet), but I think a scant 1/4 tsp would be about right.  Simmer this for about 10 more minutes until the bread is very soft.  Then give it a good stir to break up the bread and get a thick porridge kind of texture.  Depending on how you feel about tomato skins, you can also puree this a little bit with a hand-blender to chop up some of the larger pieces.  This is served with a little fresh basil over the top and an extra drizzle of olive oil.  So very very good.  We had this the other night with some sliced pears, cheese and a glass of wine.

I didn’t take a photo of it, but this is a photo from Trattoria Omero, an excellent restaurant who introduced me to this dish.


The Passamaneria Valmar is a tiny gem of a shop that carries an amazing selection of specialty trims.  Ribbons, cording, tassels, fringe – you name it and they have some.  The shelves literally go from floor to ceiling.  (Be sure to click on these panorama shots to see them larger in more detail.)  The shopkeeper and I didn’t have a lot of vocabulary in common, but when he saw the kinds of ribbons I was admiring, he started pulling out the ones that he thought were real treasures.  The two pieces I got he tells me were woven in Florence in the 50′s.

photo(5)Both are woven from silk and metallic threads (each is about 1.5 inches wide)  The blue and silver one is very shimmery and the cords on the black and brown one are thick silk cords that are couched on the top of the weave.  They are beautiful pieces and the photo doesn’t do justice at all to the rich colors (silk is too shiny to photograph well.)



Fondazione Lisio is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the traditions of of weaving silk velvet and brocade on jacquard looms, which are probably two of the most intricate and fascinating techniques I have ever seen woven.  We were very fortunate to have one of the fantastic and very knowledgable instructors, Julie Holyoke, who was willing to give us a guided tour of the school while there were about 10 students working on the looms.  The girl pictured above was creating a velvet.  The loom is two “stories” high (you can see the ladder to the top level in the photos below).  The students plot out a pattern and then key it into the cardboard punch cards, which are a very simple kind of computer program which helps the loom know which threads to move up and down for each row of the pattern.  We talked to one of the students who was making her punch cards that day and she was concentrating very hard to make sure she kept them in the right order.  On this loom, the warp threads are all on individual spools because when weaving a velvet, you need to be able to pull up the extra warp to make the velvet pile.  For each row of velvet, the weaver inserts a tiny brass slat that pulls up the warp threads to make a loop of a certain height.  A few rows are woven to hold them in place and then the weaver runs a razor blade along the top of the metal slat and hand cuts each row of pile.  You can see a photo on their website here.  Seriously.


The students were all young and most were there filling some kind of course requirement for their college program.  I didn’t talk to many of them as they were very busy working, but they come from all over the world to study at Lisio.  The photos below are fabrics made at the school.  The top left was the last bit of a commission they had done for Versailles.  They had a sketch and had reproduced a textile that had been worn out or damaged.  This was also a cut velvet, but the background was solid silver threads.  If you got at the right angle to look at the piece, it was like a mirror.  The velvet pattern was in a sky blue over top of the silver background.  The bottom left was a bag woven for Fendi.  The Lisio has a great partnership with Fendi to make an exclusive woven purse for them every year.  This one in the photo was woven with silk, raffia and brocaded flowers and others had feathers and all kinds of other fanciful designs.  Fendi has an awesome video here and you can watch the weaver cutting the velvet.  I saw the weaver working on next year’s Fendi bag, but I am sworn to secrecy.  ;)


We just returned from a truly remarkable vacation in Florence, Italy and London, England.  I am very fortunate to be married to an amazing guy who is interested in almost anything I am enthusiastic about, so we spent a great deal of this trip doing things that had to do with art.  It all started with an invitation from two dear friends who were planning their own trip to Florence and asked us to join them there if we were planning a trip in that part of the world anyway.  We had already decided to go to England this fall since we have family there, and so the trip to Italy was an easy yes.  My friend Cy studied in Florence and it has become a second home for him.  So we got to see not the tourist’s view of Florence (although we did that a little bit too) but the artist’s view of Florence.

There is too much to talk about in one post, so I just want to give you a taste of what’s to come.

What am I forgetting?



First a very big thank you to everyone who attended, volunteered or wished me well from near or far on Thursday.  It was a lovely lovely party.  For those that missed my post about it earlier, I was honored by Textile Center with a Spun Gold award on Thursday night.  The Spun Gold is a kind of lifetime achievement award for contributions to the fiber art field.  One of the very neatest things for me was the excuse to bring a whole collection of my work to be part of the celebration.  I have never seen this whole collection in one place before and I was just blown away.  It was neat to see.

These are 13 digitally printed garments I created over the last 2+ years.  The waterlily skirt was the very first garment I created from Spoonflower fabric.  The dress I am wearing in the photos called “Wallflower” is the most recent.  I can’t get this gallery gadget to show you captions, so I will caption these below.  (You can mouseover to see the title for each piece. Top to bottom, left to right.  You can also click each one to zoom in.)

I work primarily in digitally manipulated photos and engineered prints. That means that each of these designs started with a photo as inspiration and then I sculpt it into a fabric design.  Some of them have filters and effects applied.  I cut out and rescale or move elements and bend parts of the image to fit the curves of the pieces I am working with.  I always know exactly what the garment design is before I start the design for the fabric and for the most part, each one is designed to fit the exact pieces I need to make it.

Glaciology:  There is a whole post about this one here.  Digitally printed silk cotton.  Manipulated photo of two views of ice.  One is an icy sidewalk beginning to melt, the other is ice blocks stacking up in the spring on the shore of Lake Superior.

Vein:  Digitally printed linen cotton.  A manipulated photo of a giant leaf at the Como Park Conservatory, St Paul MN.

Mosaic:  Another post about this one here.  Digitally printed cotton voile, layered with cotton.  A photo of a “mosaic plant” from the Como Conservatory water garden.

Wallflower: Digitally printed cotton sateen.  Hand beaded (the very last white stripe is sequined so the hem shimmers), belt made from grosgrain ribbon.  Manipulated photo of the wall of yarn and fiber from the Weavers Guild of MN.  The white lines you see on the dress are the shelves.

Guardian:  Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas.  Manipulated photo of a lion guarding the doors to Parliament in London and a photo of a stone street in Bayeux France.

1060: Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas.  Manipulated photo of my husband’s oboe.  Named for his favorite Bach solo piece.

Gallery: Digitally printed organic cotton knit.  Manipulated photo of a wall of art from the Minneapolis Institute of Art “Foot in the Door” exhibition.  My piece from that exhibition can be seen in several places in the print.

Coils:  Post about this piece here.  Digitally printed silk/cotton.  Photo of a huge pile of video cables.

Strut:  Post about this piece here.  Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas, vintage velvet ribbon.  Photo of a piece of lace from the Victoria & Albert museum collection in London.

Zinnia: Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas and hand-dyed cotton.  Manipulated photo of zinnias from Sioux Park flower garden in Rapid City, SD, combined with digitally created stripe and hand-dyed trim on pockets.

Flamingo Mambo:  Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas.  Manipulated photos of flamingos from Sea World Florida and a scanned sharpie drawing.

Neighborhood DNA: Digitally printed cotton sateen.  Manipulated combined photos of weathered paint from a curb cut and a parking lot paint marking.  Created for Spoonflower/Textile Center Urban Sightings challenge and exhibition.

Waterlily:  Digitally printed linen/cotton canvas.  A photo of a waterlily from my own tiny water garden.  My first printed garment.

Some of these are also accessorized with jewelry I made.  I paired them mainly with solid colored t-shirts so that the prints were really what draws your eye.  (And this is the way I wear most of them anyway.)


This is the Renfrew Top by Sewaholic patterns.  It is seriously one of my favorite patterns ever.  I have made about 6 shirts in several variations and I still love it.  I admit I was a total chicken about working with knits.  I do all kinds of crazy sewing projects but I didn’t even touch knits until about a year ago.  I saw this pattern and I had a piece of vintage knit and it was absolute love.  I bought a serger a few months later and I am now getting brave enough to tackling a few alterations to the pattern – I made a version with what my husband calls “princess sleeves” that are puffed on top with long very fitted cuffs.  This is basically everything I love in a good t-shirt – it’s not too short or too tight or see-through.  It’s cute and flattering and dead easy.

You can just make the short sleeved version in my size with a yard of Spoonflower knit.  They have a new knit fabric out and I so I ordered a yard so I could check it out.  And the most perfect design just jumped in to my cart: Wild Horse Stampede by MulberryTree.  Guys, it has seahorses.  Total love.  The trim I did with a bit of orange rayon/cotton knit from Joanns that has tiny tiny little orange and grey stripes.  It just happened to be just the right orange (there are a few little orange seahorses) and I thought the contrast would make the shirt a little more sophisticated.  I wore this to work on Friday and my summer camp kids loved it.

This is one of our favorite Textile Center make-and-takes.  This little goat is Spoonflower printed fa

This is one of our favorite Textile Center make-and-takes. This little goat is Spoonflower printed fabric.  

Here is our second round of project requests for the Spoonflower Book.  Some of these are seriously easy, so if you have been hesitating, please send in your submissions.  We would love to be overwhelmed with amazing projects!

We couldn’t write the book without our community, and so we’ve asked for your help! We’ve already made one call for submissions, and the due date is soon: this Monday, August 12th! You can find more details about those projects and submit using these forms:

And now we’re opening up our second call. We’re looking for four more kinds of projects that demonstrate the creative uses and diversity of design on Spoonflower.  Here are the new projects we’re asking for you to contribute:

Submissions for the second call are due September 4, 2013.


Elizabeth Peters, mystery writer and creator of the indomitable Amelia Peabody, has passed away.  I have read every one of the books in that series several times, as well as a number of titles under her other pseudonyms. A description from the Washington Post of her 85th birthday party last year makes me certain that she was as much of a character as the ones she wrote about.  I am sad that I won’t have any more of her books to look forward to.


Textile Center is giving me an award called the “Spun Gold”, which is a kind of a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the fiber art community and to the field.  It is a an amazing honor and so very cool to be recognized and I feel more than a little weird about getting a lifetime achievement award when I haven’t yet reached 40, but I digress. What I really want to talk about is the photo.  I designed this for the invitation for the award presentation.  They wanted a photo of my work and I wanted something with a little personality.  This photo itself is a piece of art.

First, the skirt is called “Strut” and it is digitally printed linen-cotton (printed by my dear friends at Spoonflower) and trimmed with vintage velvet ribbon and hand-stitched sequins.  You only see a tiny bit of the ribbon in this shot, there are more stripes down the back.  The pattern is just a classic pencil skirt.  The peacock is a detail of a bobbin lace fan that is in the collection at the V&A museum in London.  We photographed it when we were there a few years ago and I played with it in Photoshop and made this skirt.  Here’s what the fan looks like.  It is breathtaking in person.  That little peacock is about 2 inches high.


Here’s also a detail of the skirt and the sequins.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.43.21 PM

I wanted to keep the focus of this photo on the skirt so that your eye was drawn right to that and not to my face because I wanted the “message” to be about my work and not about whatever dorky expression was on my face.  I have no aspirations to be a model.   So I started thinking about a way to make that change of focus happen.  The obvious solution was to just crop my face out of the photo, which would certainly work but it seemed a little too obvious.   But then I thought of this painting:  The Son of Man by Rene Magritte.

Son of Man by Rene Magritte, courtesy of Wikipedia

You might recognize it as it has been featured in a bunch of movies and the like.  It is supposed to be a self portrait of Magritte and he is said to have said the following about it (and a series of similar works that he did.)

 It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.

I like this idea, that the “visible that is hidden” makes you fill in the blank about what you know about me and there is a little story going on in your mind.  You will notice I have an apple in my portrait too.

My husband and very best and most favorite collaborator actually took the photo; I just “art directed”.  The desk is a piece of plexiglass propped between two sawhorses.  The computer is suspended from a steel cable (photoshopped out) because it bent the plexi too much and we wanted that high tech looking desk illusion.  The glow around the computer was from a really big light behind me and I am standing on a big sheet of white paper which I tip-toed over to on a towel so I wouldn’t leave dirty footprints that we would have to Photoshop out.  The computer was the actual machine that sat on my desk at work for many years until the fan died and it wheezed its last breath.  But it is cool and I have kept it as a photo prop (although we gutted it so it was lighter).  We would snap a few shots, he would show them to me on the screen on the back of the camera and I would step a 1/2 inch this way or that and move my shoulders up or down until we got it just right.