Thursday, November 16, 2017


"The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art."

I love it when I run across a quotation that validates my view or way of operating that doesn't seem to be "trending" in popular circles. I was about to embark on adding the last of the parallel line quilting on the latest Leaf Clusters piece, those very short runs between leaf and stem in the last of the gaps that you can see in the picture below. I'd first done all the lines that ran edge to edge, then went back in and quilted from edge until I ran into the edge of a leaf or the stem. When I'd done the first round of quilting, spacing the lines the width of the presser foot, I didn't pull the thread tails to the back and tie them off until all the stitching was done. That left me with quite a mess on the back, sorting out threads that had tangled and in some cases been run over as I quilted along. This time I quilted up to the leaves on one side, then paused to pull tails to back and tie them off before doing the same on the other half. Much better. 

Note those very small areas between upper leaves and stem yet to be stitched

But those short runs - I remember accidentally pulling a thread all the way out, undoing the 4 or 6 stitches altogether and having to restitch. They also demand precise placement of the needle at beginning and end so no gaps show between the end of the line and the leaf or stem it is headed for, and in the case of the stems, lining up with stitching on the other side of the stem. So with the addition of these lines, I stopped after each pass to tend to the thread ends.

Slow going. And I knew it would be. But I didn't care because I did not want to be backtracking over previously stitched lines to move from one area to the next, and I didn't want to do the "tacking" stitch at starts and stops, preferring instead the clean look of the even stitches. It's my personal aesthetic and I don't care if it takes me longer. And it was nice to run across Junot Dias's quotation (from a The Daily Beast interview) that validated my decision to work this way. In this "hurry up" society, and part of the quilting world that is always flashing "quick and easy" methods at us, it's nice to be reminded that speed is not always necessary, and how much you produce is not always relevant. It's ok to take your time. And for me, taking my time is part of enjoying the process.

Through the magic of Paint Shop Pro, one positioning option

So here's a question for you. When I stamped this leaf cluster on that test print scrap, I specifically placed it down in the corner. I even made notes along the edges of the fabric about placement and which way was up. I decided it would look good in this frame, bought with several other frames when I wasn't sure which would work the best on the first Leaf Cluster I finished. It was a 10 x 10 frame, the same size I've been working with for the ones that went over stretched canvas before going in the floater frame. The piece of fabric itself is about 11 x 12 which is not big enough to wrap around the canvas, thus the decision to use a regular frame. But when I got the frame unwrapped to audition how it would look, there wasn't a lot of my little quilt showing through the window, certainly not ten inches. I got a ruler out to discover that the outside of the frame is 10 x 10 with the opening for the art being only 8-1/2 x 8-1/2. That's way more cropping than I thought I'd be doing. I decided that wasn't an altogether bad thing, so I'm proceeding with that frame, positioning it with the leaf cluster down in the corner.

Second position option - subtle shift to center

But of course, in the midst of moving things around, I suddenly had the frame positioned with the leaf cluster centered in the opening. And now I am torn, unable to decide which looks best. If this was your piece, or if you were a viewer at an exhibit, which would you think is the better positioning for this particular textile? I really want to know what you think.

As I've gone back and forth over the various decisions I've had to make on just this piece, I once again found a reassuring quotation to make me feel better about the time I've spent mulling my options. And I am taking it to heart:

"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely."

Saturday, November 11, 2017


This is the view I woke up to a week ago (November 3). It was forecasted, but still a bit of a shock as to just how much snow we got, how cold it got and how long it hung around with a few lesser repeats of flurries.

Not unheard of to get snow this early around here. This is a picture of me and fellow students on the college's intramural staff taken on November 4, 1973. There was to be an intramural football game that morning and we were totally surprised to wake up to a foot of snow. After some discussion, the games went on!

Because of the direction of the wind, snow blew in under my covered deck and blanketed my little container garden. I was amused at the way the snow formed balls around the daisy-like blooms of one of the plants.

Seeing this from every window instantly changed my mood and drew me into the studio. Suddenly there was no struggle to convince myself to be in there like I experience when the weather is nicer, warmer, inviting you to spend time out in it. Which is a good thing now that Inktober is over and I need to get back to my art quilts in preparation for a December exhibit. I remember hoping during last year's Inktober that the habit formed with the daily drawing would cross over to my textile work. I can't remember all that was going on then, but do remember that I did NOT get back to daily sessions in the studio. Then again, I don't think I had any exhibit to prepare for, although I did end up working on one small piece for a Christmas present.

So as I took a few days off to catch up on things I'd put aside to accommodate the daily drawing, I thought about why I can successfully commit to a daily challenge like Inktober but not commit to daily time in the studio. The excuse of not being able to find the time obviously does not hold. The sketches took anywhere from 45 minutes to almost 3 hours in one case. Think how much I could get done in the studio if I consistently got in there for even an hour each day. Why do I keep talking myself out of it? It really is a matter of mindset, I decided, and that is when I came up with the idea of creating my own month-long challenge that I am calling Stitchvember.

I started by reassessing the pieces in the leaf cluster series that are in various stages of completion and the frames I'd recently purchased for some of them. I settled on beginning my Stitchvember challenge with this one that I'd quilted back in July. I still had some thread tails to pull to the back and tie off and was unsure whether it needed more lines of stitching or not. I'd asked that question of the art group last month and they were as iffy as I about that, but agreed it probably needed something more. Now that I auditioned what it would look like in the intended frame, with more cropping than I remembered it would get, it looked like maybe it wouldn't need more stitching after all.

But when looking at a friend's blog and how she was using Photoshop to audition motifs and paint colors she might stamp or stencil over a pieced quilt, it dawned on me that I could use my own Paint Shop Pro to add stitching to that photo I'd taken with the frame, and get a better idea than I was getting by laying down lengths of thread. It convinced me that adding more stitching is the way to go.

One suggestion from the art group that really appealed to me was that if I could somehow add some loft to the leaves, it would help them to stand out from the busy background. Since I used felt and not batting under the top, I got no real dimension under those leaves and in fact, the fabric looked a bit loose in those areas. I'd considered maybe stitching in veins, but I liked the idea of padding them better, and knew just the method. It's a faux trapunto technique where you add acrylic yarn under the backing if you have sandwiched your top with batting and backing. In this case, I am using the needle to thread the yarn in between the felt and the top. When the area is filled in, the yarn tails are clipped close to the backing to slip fully inside.

Because acrylic yarn has spring, it will fluff up and add the desired dimension, which you can sort of see here. The first yarn I tried in this example though did not have the desired springiness, and I've replaced it and completed the other leaves' padding with a different yarn. Now all I need to do is stitch in those additional lines, trim to size, attach to poster board and pop into the frame.

I've not been as faithful to the Stitchvember as I was to Inktober, but I'm certainly doing better than I think I would otherwise without the catchy name of a challenge to spur me on. While threading the yarn under the leaves, I've had ample time to contemplate why I've been able to do daily sketching challenges but not daily studio time. One thought prevails: with the sketching, there is a subject and a definitive end. Pick a shoe, or a cup, or whatever, draw it and you are done. But with the textile work, it is not that straightforward and doesn't always result in an end product or quantifiable progress each session. So much of what I do is long-term and to get to the end is a succession of steps that can't always be completed in a single session. I think this plays on my mind when I think, do I have time to work in the studio today? I seldom think the opposite direction, as in, I have an hour, let's see how far I can get on something. Now that I am fresh out of the mindset of "I have to make time to complete a drawing" and know that I indeed have time to devote to something arty, I am suppressing that all or nothing part of my personality that often finds me turning myself away at the studio door because the "something" always seems to require a bigger chunk of time.

And sometimes, the "something" isn't even something that results in visible progress. My first Stitchvember day was just that, the reassessing of the leaf cluster pieces to determine which ones I should tackle for the exhibit, and the consideration of framing and seeing what I had on hand. Needed activity but difficult to quantify and one that initially left me thinking, I've done nothing today, even though I did. Another day it was that time on the computer adding the additional lines of stitching. No actual stitching but I almost didn't do it because of that, my mind saying I must be working with piece in hand for it to count, not time for visuals on the computer. It was quite exciting when I ditched that thought and realized I could indeed include this kind of valuable activity towards my Stitchvember challenge. Yes, my mind is and always has been my biggest enemy. But maybe by the end of my Stitchvember, I will have gently molded it into a new way of looking at studio time and into a new habit. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


I've been so fixated on my daily #INKtober challenge drawing that I nearly forgot all about my pocket calendar spread for November. So it has been a rather quick coloring in over the last 10 days or so, not a lot of thought going into it. But I think I like what I ended up doing, again limiting the colors this time to those in the yellow/orange/brown range to give off a nice autumn feel. If only I had big beautiful blooms like this on my back deck... 

I had bought a big bag of assorted candies in preparation for trick or treaters last night. Generally I don't get too many kids coming by but I always enjoy the costumes as well as watching the parents who come with them. But last night I only had two little ones show up at my door, one dressed in a bear costume, the other totally encased in a Star Wars storm trooper costume. If I could have given him a prize for best costume, I would have. Instead, I told him to take more than one piece of candy. Very impressive how many pieces he managed to grab with his storm trooper-gloved hands!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The End of #INKtober Shoe Sketches

Whew! I actually did it. A drawing each day of October without fail. Here are the last three, one more boot, an everyday shoe, and a vintage heirloom passed on to me from my mother.

Full disclosure, there are two more shoes I could sketch - an old pair of white tennis shoes that I only use for my daily walks (a bit of broken stitching but still serviceable as long as I keep replacing the insoles) and a pair of white water shoes that are like tennis shoes only with mesh so the water runs right out (great for our gravelly shorelines that would hurt bare feet when wading and for washing the car). I'm glad I didn't have to sketch them.

And now, regular service must return. I need to finish up some art quilts for a December exhibit...

Sunday, October 29, 2017

#INKtober Shoe Cavalcade End In Sight!

Here is week four's shoes from my #INKtober sketching challenge. It found me sketching styles from dress shoes to winter boots.

And so I've diligently sketched each day for four weeks, a whole month, right? Not quite. Seven days in a week times four weeks is only 28 days and there are 31 days in October. Just three more days with three more shoes to go!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Autumn Overachiever

That's a 12 inch ruler at the top
It's been windy the last few days so I've stayed away from the park on my walks. There's a big stand of cottonwoods at the end of it, all golden and beautiful and for the most part, holding on to their leaves. But not all of them, I discovered yesterday when I ventured back into the park as I enjoyed the crisp but sunny day. Holy Cow!!! I had no idea cottonwood trees could produce such huge leaves.

Now you all know I've sworn off bringing home colorful leaves, but really, do you blame me? If nothing else, I needed a picture and I didn't have a camera with me. The leaf picking is addictive though, and as you see, some smaller versions also came home along with a few really small (by comparison) aspen leaves and one leaf that is still pretty green. All these strewn together on the path skirting that stand of trees.

And I have a mind to do something with them, although my first guilty thoughts were to just take pics and toss them. I like that fan arrangement of the big ones. I'm wondering about using them for sun printing or some other kind of printing. I've layered the smallest ones between sheets of that paper I made not long ago, wondering if any of the pigment with bleed into it as they dry under weights. The big ones have been flattened as best I could (they were quite ruffly around the tops) and also are under weights. No harm in that, right? Let the imagination percolate a bit, right? Fall IS my favorite season, no doubt about it. So much so that the poem below sent me on my own flights of fancy.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
from The Writings of George Eliot, vol. 23 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1908)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Third Week and Still #INKtobering

The third week of a month long challenge can be the make it or break it week for me. I had  an unusually busy week of meetings and appointments, and even if I hadn't, it would have been very easy to say I didn't have time for the sketching, should be using my time another way. It's that mid-race slump where your mind is apt to try to talk you out of finishing. But I soldiered on, with only one misstep (no pun intended). There was one pair in which my over-confidence was put in its place! Can you guess which one?

One week and a few days to go. I've done a count of what's left to sketch and it looks like I'll have just enough shoes to finish out the challenge. Others are telling me that they can see my sketching improving, and with these last two pairs, I think I now can see it too. Plus I've gained a new appreciation for what I have available to put on my feet, and see that some of them have been collecting dust for no good reason. It's been fascinating to observe each shoe's construction as well, just how the detailing was done, the variety of ways one can crisscross straps to create different patterns, how many shoes I own that have the overlapping straps and not just sandals. This week has been full of that kind of discovery.