Thursday, June 24, 2010

....With a Little Help from my Friends

The lovely and talented Anonymous suggested that I try Borax to deflea my house. Cheap and effective and no bombing required. So I thought Why not?
I found it in the laundry detergent aisle and came right home and began sprinkling it everywhere.
Here it is on my living room floor. I let it sit a while and then swept up a small area and watched the fleas choke, kick, and cry for Momma. I could see them easily on the white powder. It was so satisfying. Everything got dusted, and then I went outside and counted goldfish while I waited for total annihilation to take place.


At Knitting yesterday I mentioned to the gals that I was looking for a tile store where I could find lots of choices of tile for my studio and bedroom. They had wonderful suggestions, and I made a list. The first place, and the closest, was Home Depot, and voila, the tile I wanted was right there. Not a very exciting looking tile is it? But it is just what I need.
We have five different floor coverings and none of them match each other, so I was looking for something that would provide a subtle segue between them without calling attention to itself. (So unlike me.) It must be lighter however, and shiny, and not beveled, and not really beige. This is the sample tile and it is lighter than the adjacent bathroom sheet goods, but will work, especially in the studio where there will be lots of it. I needed to get 540 square feet and Home Depot ordered it all of one dye lot and I can pick it up next week when I go to Knitting. Of course I got a good sale price.
And then here is a reader question, which goes along with my Process Pledge (see sidebar)

Hi Melody,
Would you please discuss your design decisions some? For instance, I think it's so effective that you've sort of dissected this flower and put overlapping parts here and there. How do you arrive at those decisions?

My answer: O dear. The whole thing is sort of a doodle that leads to another doodle and then a doodle refinement.
As I recall, an invitation arrived to participate in a show and the theme was Floral. Having no ideas in my head, I began to lightly sketch big loose overlapping circles. I just let myself make smooth curving lines and soon there were suggestions of daisy-like shapes. Following that lead, leaf shapes became evident. Then using an old standby design idea, I dissected the leaf shape as I had done many times before.

I think the underlying question is asking for my thinking and truly there was none. I don't have a plan, mostly. The design may or may not show up in the sketch, but usually it does. It is definitely necessary to draw, and often, and keep the drawings in one place where they can be found. Sometimes I draw and don't make the quilt for years.

And, for your wonderful tulip pieces, the sliced petals are wonderful, as well as the tiny pieces in the background. I'd love to gain insight on how you arrived at these choices.
My answer: Once again, the design for the tulips was a drawing of overlapping oval shapes. I made the drawing years before the quilt, and was afraid to go forward with it because my friend Frieda Anderson said that the tulips looked like the man eating flowers from Little Shop of Horrors, or clamshells, not tulips.
But eventually I decided to try for the tulip-y look. I had been teaching in Birmingham, Alabama and the airport had some wonderful paintings which had patterns of curving stripes and wiggly and zigzaggy lines and just a ton of great shapes and colors. I took pictures, thinking I could do something like that in fabric.
After I made the tulip shapes, I added the background, extending the lines from the tulips into the background, dividing up the space.
The quilt was a calculation on my part. I wanted to win one more big prize and then I felt I could quit entering shows (and quit having all that stress). So I had to make something over the top, throwing in all but the kitchen sink. Silk, excessive quilting, excessive patterning, excessive color, it all had to work. And it did. First Place and an immediate sale. The purchaser (now deceased) was going to allow me to enter it in several more shows, but I was satisfied and just so glad to be finished with shows.

I think a lot of artists let their imaginations have priority in their brains. Meaning that they ignore logic and go for the feeling. It takes experience and time to trust yourself and your ideas, but once you do, and they gain acceptance, then it is easier to follow your natural inclinations.


  1. Bloodless killing.. yeah! Borax warfare... hate those nasty fleas... they leave welts on me. Just walk me through a house in less than three minutes I can let you know if there is a flea around.

  2. I need to work on the sketching. My lines are too stiff and don't flow. It looks like I sat down to draw something and it failed. Too uptight when you put a pencil in my hand.

    Hugs - Marie

  3. Wonderful tips, Melody. Not having had any formal art training, the explanations of your process have helped me tremendously. I am always intimidated by comments from others, so now I feel justified to follow my instincts.
    Oh, and thanks to anonymous for the Borax tip - I'm off to buy a box.

  4. Anonymous10:02 AM

    The line that said "I think artists just let imagination have priority in their brains" is genius!! That's it! I'm going to try to let go of all my "pre-judgements" and just do it...

    Melody..for the fleas. If you find that you still have an area where there are resistant fleas, put out a very shallow bowl of water with a bit of dishsoap to break the surface tension on the water (a pie plate works perfectly). Position it right were the fleas are still hiding. Drag over a chair and clip a light to the chair leg...right above (4-6 inches or so) the surface of the water so that it's very brightly lit. Leave it on overnight and the next morning, you'll see that dozens (hundreds, thousands) of the little buggers have drowned in the water.


  5. It's amazing all the uses for Borax! It isn't just for the laundry and Borax is in so many products that we use and we don't even realize it, eg. glass. When we lived in CA the last job my husband had through the union was working at the Borax mine in the Mojave desert (talk about HOT!!!) making new crushers. The size of the equipment they use to mine the borax is humongous! I still use Borax to boast my laundry detergent because we have hard water. Glad it's working on the flea problem :) Nasty little buggers!!!

  6. I love your last paragraph- I hope you don't mind that I copied it for inspiration later!

    That tip about the Borax is brilliant too. It's great how the old simple things still work the best.

  7. Anonymous12:28 PM

    I "rediscovered" Borax about a year ago and it is great stuff! I have almost quit bleaching my white sheets and towels because it softens the water and thus and removes the detergent that causes the greying. I love the way it cleans my tiles, too. no i don't work for them!
    I really appreciate you sharing with us all about your design processes. Since I took a class from you 2 years ago, and now follow your blog every day, my work has definitly improved and my style is developing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  8. That tile looks like a good choice. Bland is good for a room where so much is going on and it looks to be very practical and easy to clean.

    Those pesky fleas. I've had that problem before! Good to know about the borax.

  9. I think what you are saying is that you play with your drawings and then work on them when the time is right to make a quilt. At that time you fix the lines so you can make them work for a quilt and fabric. It sounds like for you, playing and sketching is key.

  10. Brige669:49 AM

    Borax also kills ants... Mix Borax, Sugar, and a tad bit of hot water to make a clear runny goo. Place the goo on a piece of cardboard and set it where the ants are coming into the house.

    They eat the goo then they go back to the ant nest and leave the goo for the other ants in the nest to eat. (you will have a ant highway going to and from the goo)

    It kills the ants back at the nest. (they eat the goo because the sugar but the borax mixed with the sugar and water kills them)

  11. I love this ant killing formula! I did have ant problems earlier this year, and could have used this defense. Off to buy more Borax!

  12. Susie Zol.12:12 PM

    Once again, thank you so much for sharing your process. It is really comforting to hear that your process is simply you and for me, I just need to be, well, me. Thanks!

  13. Quick question about the flea solution: do pets have to be removed from the area before treating it?

    Thanks! Kim

  14. Brige6611:54 PM

    As far as the ants... Terro liquid ant baits (the best on the market) are made from Borax. (make your own or buy the terro liquid baits and watch, but leave the ant highway alone... the ant highway traffic will become less and less in about 24 hours to 36 hours.

    Ms. Mel also keep in mind you need to treat your area for fleas about every 10 days or so. I doubt the Borax will kill flea eggs which will hatch every 10 days or so.

    Fleas have several life stages. The best way to get rid of fleas or to stay ahead of them is to treat the area often and vacuum several times a week. Also look for the eggs (looks like salt grains) and flea poo (looks like fine black pepper) in the same area. The cat (animal) shakes off the flea eggs, flea larve and flea poo. The flea larve needs dust mites and dander to live, but the eggs can live for a long time.

    Treat the animal also with Frontline and keep the animal indoors or you are just going to continue getting reinfested with fleas indoors.

    From what I understand Borax is harmless to pets but I would not use it directly on the pet.

  15. Melody..this post was a godsend. Now that it's summer we have ants finding their way into the house. This borax tip from your reader and seeing that it worked from you is fantastic. Thanks!

  16. Rebecca in SoCal8:28 PM

    Another natural ant solution (well, just a barrier) is chalk. At a quilt retreat, we had a table full of food (imagine that) and noticed ants in the area. We pulled the table away from the wall and drew circles around the legs with sidewalk chalk. No ants!

    There are a number of things ants don't like to walk across, but I remember this. You can really "draw the line" against 'em.


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