Tuesday, May 30, 2023

More Diversions And Some Plants

Azalea Mosaic II: Garden Path

For all my good intentions to focus on the 5 Day Book Challenge last week, it turned into a week of diversions and distractions instead. The routine car servicing of the week before turned up a "sooner than later" need for a 3 hour repair that got scheduled for Wednesday - another hour each way run into the somewhat big city. Time was spent on Thursday digging out a couple of quilts to hang at University of Idaho Sandpoint Organic Ag. Center with this new charity group I've joined - see photo above and below. Both were exercises in matching colors from the garden with my hand-dyes. It's an absolutely gorgeous building with lots of wall space for quilts and I was happy to have a place for these two to be out again. In fact, I didn't realize just how long they'd been in the closet - both made during the time I lived by the lake prior to a move in 2012. And if you've ever had a quilt in an exhibit, you know it's more than steaming out any wrinkles and running a lint roller over them. There's paperwork to fill out and photos to attach and yes, all those things that are not my favorite part. Then Friday it was out to the location to drop off my quilts, but not just drop them off, hang them and help with hanging some others. Just like old times.

Poppies and Peonies

Ah but now it's the holiday weekend and surely I can make time to work on the challenge. But I mostly watched not just the instructional videos but also the daily hour long recorded morning and afternoon community zoom sessions where questions were answered and featured artists interviewed. Let's face it, I did my usual freeze up after making the signatures for two of the three little books in this challenge early in the week. Making life more difficult than it needed to be as I decided to use different kinds of paper for each book and possibly altering one of them to a book with more signatures. Plus we are encouraged to use leather for the covers and the leather from my 99 cent bargain jackets is too thin to use on its own - it needs fabric fused to it which means one more decision to make. So I went plant shopping instead. It's time and I'm getting pretty tired of viewing the dead plants in my deck pots.

It's a start. And there's a purple (!) geranium in there

Ok, yesterday was the day surely when I could make real progress if not finish at least two of the books. (The third is still waiting for me to decide on paper and if I want to paint a Kraft Tex cover.) Then my brother called to catch up. Nice of him to help with my procrastination - lol. But once off the phone, it was time to decide on fabric, find the few I have that are a little heavier than quilting cotton, match them up to the leather which in itself slows me down as I ponder just where to cut. And then this happened.

I'd briefly considered fusing felt to the leather like I've done with the blank journals I make for myself from fabric. I opened that closet door, shifted various small stacks of felt (I'd forgotten that I had more than just the eco felt I buy by the yard) and cracked opened a small bin, only to find these small marbled pieces I'd totally forgotten about. Done in the early days of experimenting with dyeing fabric, I was never very happy with my marbling but did manage some smaller pieces I felt good enough to sell along with Judi and my hand-dyes. My eyes were dazzled and a quick measurement told me these were big enough for the covers and some even on a heavier weight fabric. Now I only have to decide which ones to use . . . freezing up again.

No need to rush I guess. Rushing leads to disappointed results sometimes, and I've had time to think about my choices and how to approach the next step. More confident now to proceed. But first, it's a lovely day, and I have not been on the Bay Trail for too long. It's my maiden voyage as it were back out on a trail since my surgery. My stamina still needs some shoring up, and I couldn't keep myself from walking farther than intended, but it was oh so good to get that walk in. The book project isn't going anywhere.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Lilacs and a New Bookbinding

Lilacs are now blooming and just in time for the Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade which was Saturday night over in Spokane, WA - a little over an hour away from me. I have fond memories of marching in that parade when I was in high school. Always enjoyed band trips and nothing like the sound of drums to get my adrenaline going. Whether or not there will be lilacs the week of the major festivities is always questionable. Will they bloom early or late, or right on time as they did this year? I was delighted that the bush I pick a few blooms off of every year was indeed in full swing and sending out its beautiful scent so I'd have a lovely bouquet for my livingroom this weekend.

And as long as I was enjoying them from my couch, I did a sketch of them in my downstairs sketchbook. Not the first time I've tried my hand at sketching lilacs, and let me tell you, with all those small little flowers making up each large bloom, it is not an easy thing to sketch! It's one of those things that makes you creative in how to portray the general gist. And that vase was fun to sketch as well.

To my exasperation, my handmade book club's next 5 day challenge starts today and of course, I want to participate, but I still hadn't made any of the regular monthly book bindings I have laid out on my work table with instructions and papers. So I set aside more re-quilting of the couch quilt so I could at least make up this Butterfly Binding from January. Members were so thrilled with this one, saying it was quick and easy, and I had some signatures leftover from another project ready to go, so it should be even quicker, right? And handmade paper was suggested for the covers, and guess who succumbed to buying some quite awhile ago and has never used it?

The covers wrap around the first and last signatures, the narrow end glued to the signature and the wider one creating a flap. Holes are then punched through the signature and cover as well as the other two signatures. The handmade paper has bits of flowers embedded in it.

Four needles are used which though sounds complicated, actually makes the sewing easier as one signature after another is attached. I opted to use purple thread to match some of the purple flower bits in the paper.

The result is an elegant slim book with signatures that lie close to each other when open, always a plus. And I opted not to trim any of that flap, but use double sided Scor tape on top and bottom to create pockets. The paper is actually a little thin so it needs that doubling up for a sturdier cover. The size of the book is 9 x 6 inches, and I can see making this in smaller sizes too.

If I had any complaint, it would be that by using 4 needles, you end up with stitches in the center of the signatures that are doubled, but that's a little thing that won't keep me from making this book again. After all, I have an additional 4 leftover signatures to use up and that piece of handmade paper was exactly the right size for a second set of covers.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Intimidation and Insight

Let's start with intimidation. With what was left of my week, I was determined to get out in the nice weather and sketch. I had a place I wanted to capture, and although the view itself was not complicated, the location would put me in full view of traffic along a busy street. Now this would not be the first time I've sketched outside in areas where people and cars might be passing, but for some reason, I found myself intimidated by the thought of doing it at this spot. I'm usually pretty good at just gathering myself up and making myself get on with it, but it took me three days to get over this intimidation. First day, I left all my sketching supplies at home and merely "scoped out" where to position myself for the best view. I was hoping to find a spot where I could sketch from the car - much less intimidating and something I do often - but there was no place where I could get the proper angle. Nope, I was going to have to do it from the sidewalk. Day two, I balked and opted to sketch instead from my front steps again. I'd been eyeing my neighbor's rattan lounge chairs and decided to "warm up" on them.

That turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Lots of odd angles and trouble getting sizing right. I was so frustrated with how it went that I ditched my original intention to add colored pencil. As an afterthought, I loosely added some tree branches which really seemed to help the overall picture. But boy, this was doing nothing to help alleviate my feeling of intimidation. Luckily, when I looked at it the next day, it looked better than I remembered, and knowing I just had to go do it, I packed up my collapsible stool and sketching supplies and took off for my chosen location across the street from a bus stop shelter flanked by big trees sporting some of that bright spring green I've been seeing and wanting to capture. Did I feel conspicuous? You bet. Did I dread that passing cars might honk at me? Yes, but not a one did. Did I quickly relax into the task at hand, starting with the shelter itself, oblivious to most all around me? Exactly, as how it usually happens. And this fairly easy subject came together with not much problem, a very satisfying session.

I'm sure I've said this before, but I'm not much of a fan of this particular sketchbook's toned tan paper, and a part of me wished I'd just used a sketchbook with white paper. Kind of a live and learn how to work with it. And the rollercoaster of emotion my sketching activities put me through sometimes surprises me, that how can I be so adept one session only to struggle the next. Well, to be honest the same thing happens to me with my quilting. One hopes to build on success, but it's not always a given from one project to the next. And too, if you're not consistently practicing, there are going to be rusty moments.

My studio gallery with quilts both mine and friends showing our quilting paths

As for insight, I had an odd experience last week. I'm nurturing a newish friendship, one of my yoga classmates that helped me in the weeks after my back surgery. This out of class time opened the doors to learning how much we have in common and that we wanted to keep doing things together after I no longer needed her help. She had mentioned hoping that she could see more of my quilts than just the ones hanging downstairs and I thought that would be fun too. My upstairs though, particularly my studio, has been off limits to guests for quite awhile, but heck, if I waited until I got it into shape, she might never get to see it. So I just told her to put her blinders on and ignore my piles. But as I moved from design wall to gallery wall to framed work leaning against the bookcase to the quilt on my bed and on the upstairs walls, I experienced something different, a realization how all these quilts represented not just my history as a quilter but also the history of quilting itself during the last 25 years. Showing them to someone mostly unfamiliar with quilting, I realized she would not know that this one's fabric was generated during a surface design experiment phase, and this one a snow-dying phase, and this one the result of burning holes in sheer leaf shapes added for a 3-dimensional touch, and this one stamped with a leaf shape I carved myself. And batiks, do you know what a batik is and it marked a new buying craze for me. Oh, and that small one, it's from when making fabric postcards was all the rage, and these slightly bigger ones are during a journal quilt phase. 

I could go on, but perhaps you could look at your own quilts and see the influence of fads and experiments and the art quilt movement in general. I'm not sure why it hit me the way it did, but it all made me feel a bit unsteady, one who always felt she knew where she had come from and where she was going with all this. Maybe it's because I've not had to talk about my quilting history and techniques for quite some time? Did I feel like a relic? Or did it emphasize how I've gone from one thing to another without settling on any one technique or style? Honestly, this was a totally new experience, and I'm still uncertain what it meant. The insight is limited.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Diverted and Distracted

Late in posting this week, partly because not much has happened since I last checked in. I'd mentioned that I'd made a trip into the somewhat big city last week, something that at minimum takes up 3 hours of my day, but then I had to go again a couple of days later. The first trip really wiped me out - sometimes my auto immune syndrome doesn't mind the extra energy tap of trips like that, other times it hits me with debilitating fatigue once I get home. No way of knowing which it will be in advance or how long it will take to recover, but was glad that the second trip didn't bother me at all. At any rate, I didn't make progress on much of anything before the weekend, although I took a stab at reducing part of a studio pile by getting back to catching up on my documentation files.

There were back to back motorcycle races to watch on Saturday and Sunday so a few more stitches got put into the stitch camp piece. I decided to do the spiral running stitch in the two oblong blotches as well as to squeeze it into the smaller blue circles after I finished a bit of the twisted running stitch. I can see a few more areas where I can work that stitch in, hoping that I will use up that teal rayon embroidery thread. Pondering where I can work in some different stitches like seed stitch and satin stitch and what color thread I might use to do that.

I thought there'd be more to catch my eye and add to my downstairs sketchbook but there really isn't from my place on the couch. However, I realized that in watching tv, I'd become a little obsessed with eyebrows, especially as I watched different newscasters. These are just experiments as I tried to remember some of the ones I'd noticed that were different from the usual arch. Then I found myself adding some full faces which to be honest I'm not very good at. But it exercises one's imagination.

I can report that in the space of a few days we went from bleak winter with nothing showing on the branches of trees to full-on spring with bright lime green leaves unfurling and beautiful blooms emerging. The chokecherry in front of my place obliged with not just blooms but heady fragrance. I'm really feeling the urge to get out and sketch some of the trees around town before the blooms fade. The weather will be heating up again, and I am free of obligations for the rest of the week so I have no excuse not to!

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

A Little Mending A Little Painting

Look for the orange and blue yarn ties

Not quite a year ago, I was showing you what I called a quilting fail, where the invisible thread had worn through the cotton bobbin in numerous places on my couch quilt. This left me with loops big and small on the right side, loops that my fingers easily caught on when I pulled the quilt over me. In the ensuing year, more of these fails have shown up, and for reasons justified and not, I put off doing anything about it, save to tie a piece of yarn through the loops as I found them so they'd be easier to find once I did mend those places. Well, the loops never stopped showing up and that couch quilt is covered in yarn knots as you can see in the above photo. But honestly, it's difficult to convince myself to spend time mending when I could be working on something new. However, I had a surprise visit from some high school friends on Saturday, and since I didn't know exactly when to expect them, starting the mending on this quilt was a perfect project. And because there are so many breaks in the bobbin thread with the expectation of even more fails, I decided to just requilt along all the stitch in the ditch lines. And even as I rearranged the quilt as I stitched, my little finger found more loops. And there are also some spots where I did a clam shell design in the borders and setting triangles that will have to be resewn, but that will not be over all of them. 

I'm using a sturdy Superior The Bottom Line polyester thread in the bobbin that I think must have come in a grab bag sort of offer from Superior. Surely, I would not have picked this pink thread on my own, but fortunately it blends pretty well with the backing and should be impervious to the invisible thread. There's a part of me that can't believe I'm actually wearing out a quilt, but it really has had almost constant use since it was made over 20 years ago and it has been washed more than the quilts I have used on my bed or the guest bed. I can't imagine what I would replace it with. I think I care too much about the other quilts this size I have made whereas with this one, I knew I was using lesser quality fabric that was some of my first purchases and didn't cost nearly as much per yard as fabric I got in the habit of buying as I got more knowledgeable about those things. After all, I was using a mystery quilt pattern so if I ended up not liking it, I wasn't out much. But I did like it - a lot!

I did do a tiny bit of painting last week. I've had this pussy willow branch waiting for me for well over a month, thinking it would be an easy subject to practice on. I thought I could sketch it with a variety of mediums: pen, pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, brush pens. It would provide a quick study for trying out these different tools. But I also thought about that botanical drawing with India ink class and the sketchbook I used for that. Plenty of pages left so I got a brush and a few drops of ink and drew the above. I was astounded by how easy it was to get this good result.

And because I am a waste not want not kinda gal, I painted a second page with what ink was left in the tiny container. Tulips are not blooming yet but since I'd just sketched those tulip leaves, I thought I'd do a quick leaves and blooms with the India ink. NOT as successful - my up stroke was pretty steady while my downward stroke was not. Oh well, this is supposed to be a practice book, with some sketches a learning tool leading to more success. Thinking of adding some color . . . could be with ink or could be with the Posca Pens I picked up yesterday when I was in the somewhat big city for a doctor's appointment. Yeah, I had a coupon and I keep seeing people using them. We'll see if they are really better than the Painters ones from Walmart.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Warming Up

I've really had a craving to get back to sketching and having this new sketchbook to work in has given me a place to "warm up" as it were. You know, like any skill, if you're not using it on a regular basis, you get rusty and lose proficiency. I'm reminding my brain and eyes and hand how to work together again, and  decided to sketch a couple of things I could see from my couch. Those yoga blocks were great for practicing getting the angle of the lines right and the part of the furniture behind it sized proportionally. That part I did in one sitting while adding the foreground with part of the coffee table with magazines the next day. Then I moved on to the more challenging sketch of my beloved wing-back chair. It is actually more squat with the back not so straight up and down but as so often happens, I misjudged as I added chair to the first lines at the bottom of the chair and soon it was squeezed into a space that needed to be bigger. It's a subject I can sketch again and from different angles, all really good practice.

Feeling a bit warmed up, I headed out to sketch one end of Foster's Crossing, an old freight depot that now houses shops and an eatery. In a recent drive-by, I was so surprised to see that large sunflowers had been painted on the outside and I definitely wanted to try and capture that. This one I did in the toned paper sketchbook that I've designated for architecture and to be honest, I don't like that toned paper. Hard for a novice like me to figure out how to get things to show up on it, although I'm starting to get the knack. The paper will not take wet media but ink and colored pencil work fine on it. I'm trying to work a little faster, not get bogged down in trying to capture every little detail, and when adding color, not fuss as much trying to get a perfect match. I made progress on all that with this sketch but it still took me a couple of hours to complete!

Just as I was ready to sit down at the computer late yesterday for my end of the day check and maybe start this blog post, the power went out. I got an alert that it was a transformer that had blown so questionable as to how long before electricity would be back on. I took a walk and then pondered what I could do before it got dark, deciding this was the perfect time to take a sketchbook and colored pencils outside to sketch this little scene next door. I'd been watching those tulip leaves pushing up but we are far from having blooms or even leaves on some of the shrubs but that tipped over watering can said, we have a story here to capture. I'm getting more comfortable with my colored pencils and so, I enjoy using them more. With this sketch I wanted to practice "cropping" my composition before starting. I pour over the many urban sketcher sketches on Facebook, noting the different styles and what people choose to capture. When actually out sketching, I tend to see a whole building or a whole scene and end up trying to capture it all in my sketchbook, but I'm realizing that is one reason it takes me so long to do a sketch. If I was taking a snapshot, I might still try to get a whole building if it were interesting, but then I'd get some close-up shots as well. So I'm hoping to focus in on subjects and details, practice that cropping as I observe and decide what to sketch.

The weekend was full of motorcycle racing to watch so little else got done. I remembered I had my stitch camp piece sitting nearby and managed a few more lengths of that twisted running stitch. I still have no idea where this is going or what to do with those circles made with the end of a thread spool, but I continue to add in the hopes that a lightbulb moment will ensue. As for studio work, I think a few handmade books are in order, that and the very needed straightening up. I might be able to eliminate some piles or at least find some things that have gone missing, and catch up on my documentation files. I might even discover what my next "continue finishing more" sewing/quilting project will be.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Grandma's Work

I snuck that little bookbinding project in last week between finishing up my taxes. Did them in fits and starts as usual, putting off finalization longer than necessary and letting the state ones nearly trip me up. But they got mailed off Friday and I could return my focus to finishing up Naomi's quilt. I'd laid it out on the carpet to steam the edges before squaring up and it stayed there for more than a week as other distractions presented themselves. But over the weekend I was able to cut and piece the binding strips and trim off that excess batting and backing, and then get the binding sewn on.

You'll no doubt remember that I used the quilting paper to draw out the design for quilting the borders, pinning the strips in place and free motion quilting through them. As I did so, it occurred to me that I might be quilting in some tucks since I couldn't see the surface of the quilt . . .

. . . and I sure did, in just two places though. One more imperfection few will notice I'm sure. And something to file away in my memory for next time.

Because I only had pieces of the blue fabric on hand, the binding strips were only about 28" long. That's a lot of angled seams, and even when I join 44 inch strips for bigger quilts, I always do a test around the outside of the quilt to be sure one of those angles doesn't end up right where I am turning the corner to make a nice miter. I have had those angled joins fall right there at the corner more than once and it is not a good thing. But to my surprise, not one of those joins even came close to a corner! I cut my binding slightly wider than the standard 2" so that there is plenty to pull to the back and cover the seam stitching and allow for machine stitching it in place from the front.

I decided to call it Grandma's Work because that is exactly what it is. It is made of the fabric this baby's grandmother dyed herself and that batik backing is from her stash. The pattern is of her and my design. It is a good representation of an important part of her life, a part that meant so much to her.

I'm still really glad I picked this batik for the backing - it plays so well with the hand-dyes on the front. I still need to ink in some label info on it, but then it is ready to send off along with additional explanations and memories of my good friend that will help her granddaughter learn more about her one day.