Saturday, November 20, 2021

Moving On

Tick Tock, Thanksgiving is next week, and then Christmas soon behind, and the baby for which the Kaffe inspired quilt is for will be celebrating his first birthday. So time to quit dilly dallying, set the book projects aside, and finish clearing the work table so the top can be sandwiched. As it turned out, there wasn't all that much to sort, put away or set aside  - I was just dreading picking through the first piles containing paper scraps (I have designs to try some weaving of the narrower strips). The rest pretty up stacked to be moved to the floor until they can return to the table. Look at that beautiful cleared off table! Well, except for a small strip at the end which I knew I could leave after measuring the backing.

And here it is with the quilt sandwich ready to pin baste (I keep my pins in a big Almond Roca tin.). It shouldn't take long, and I will also thread baste around the outside. I've pretty much settled on the design I will quilt over it. Hopefully, that won't take too long either. By the way, that Warm and Plush batting really does feel plusher than other cotton or cotton blend battings I generally use. We'll see how it quilts up.

In the meantime, we got our first real snow the other day and overnight. The neighbor kids did not disappoint, getting right out there to make a snow family, creatively decorated. Click on the picture for a larger version and check out the glasses.

Although I didn't get out soon enough to check how much snow we got as it was pretty wet and heavy and started settling (but not melting) early on, the weather report noted we got 5 inches and with temps in the 30's, it will be staying around. When I went for my walk, I noted quite a few fir trees that still had big piles of snow on their branches. Winter is here. 

Monday, November 15, 2021


This quotation, found here on Austin Kleon's Tumblr, seemed an appropriate follow-up to my last post about free may not cost you money but it does cost you time:

“I don’t want more, I want less. I want to have less, so I will have more time to devote to this gift that I have. Because in the final analysis, the only thing that we have that is not renewable is our life. When I am dead, they will still make money. My time, I have decided, is more important. To claim my time to do what I want to do in that time.”

After posting, I hoped readers would not think I fancied myself above or not in need of more information at all. No, I have several blogs I follow, like Austin's, where I find much that is thought provoking and sometimes, useful quotations I'm not seeing elsewhere. As I worked on my current book project (part of my slow cleaning off of my work table), this post on The Principles of Patience popped up on Austin's Tumblr. It's short and I give you its bullet points as a teaser, hoping you will follow the link and read the explanation under each one. They all seemed to apply to my current project.

Embrace radical incrementalism.

First let me say, making books leads to as much leftover bits and pieces too good to throw out but sometimes head scratchers to figure out what to do with as making quilts. After finishing the last leather book, I had 8 perfectly good signatures from the bottom half of the paper I was using left over. Shorter than the signatures for the long stitch link stitch leather book but still a decent height for another leather book I wanted to try. I cut a piece from the smooth leather bomber jacket had for 99 cents, fused a heavier batik to it with Steam-A-Seam (hoping it would prevent fraying along the edges which Heat and Bond did not do), chose the handspun hemp thread I'd used in a Japanese stab stitch book, punched holes in the spine and started sewing in the signatures.

This is supposed to be one of those easy and relatively quick books to make, and with the signatures already cut and pressed, I should have been able to finish it in a couple of days. But instead, I found myself doing small bits at a time, stretched over an entire week. Working incrementally. After the first signature was sewn in and I had the hang of doing the "packing" around each long stitch, I moved my materials to my office so I could do that meditative wrapping of the thread while watching, or at least listening to, videos on my computer. I think I did that for 3 days before all five signatures were sewn in.

As a side note, I had to laugh when listening to an interview with a bookmaker while I worked on the covers. She had attended some sort of class herself where she was introduced to the idea of "stacking" which I realized is just a new-fangled term for multi-tasking and was actually exactly what I was doing at the moment. In other words, find another thing you can do while involved in something else - say, do some sketching while watching tv (her example). Lordy, I've been "stacking" for all my life! 

Develop a taste for having problems.

Well yeah, anyone who has sewn or quilted or done any kind of craft or art should be familiar with running into problems as one works through a project. In fact, I can remember a few times when things went flawlessly and quickly and it absolutely unnerved me I was so used to issues cropping up. As you can see, I was incorporating seams into the cover in a different way from the first leather book, not stopping to think that by centering a seam horizontally, it would become a problem when I started punching sewing holes and adding a closure. Too late now - forge ahead.

But that was minor compared with what I discovered when I sewed the last signature in and closed the book. The spine rounded pushing the signatures with it to make them uneven and not what was supposed to happen. The spacing between long stitch stitches was too wide (or the signatures could have been fatter). The whole structure was unstable and wonky.

And the first and last long stitch was visible on the front and back. I'd have to come up with a solution. Oh yes, I definitely have a taste for having problems! And for the most part, I am a patient person, not that interested in immediate gratification, so bumping up against issues that slow me down become welcome challenges. But there IS a limit to my patience!

More often than not, originality lies on the far side of unoriginality.  

So here we go, analyzing the problem to determine its cause and how it might be fixed. I had used 5 of the 8 signatures instead 4 as shown in the directions because I wanted the remainder for yet another kind of leather book calling for 3 signatures. I placed the 3 between the sewn-in signatures to see if adding more would fix the problem.

Even just the 3 showed that, if I could figure out a way of adding a signature between the ones already attached, my book should behave as it's supposed to.

But adding with more long stitches with packing won't work - just not enough room between the stitches already there. I've been muddling options for days, as well as trying to work out how to attach some kind of wrap for a closure (that dang center seam!) and may have hit upon something (which hopefully won't leave me with even more unused signatures). Whatever I choose, it will take me from just following a set of directions into original territory for this binding. Originality from unoriginality. 

If you are interested in giving this book a try, the instructions are free over on Ali Manning's Vintage Page Designs website here.  And video instructions are here.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Notes To Myself

I've been slowly clearing the piles off the worktable so I can get that baby quilt that has been ready for so long layered up for quilting. In the process I uncovered these - bits of inspiration either copied from someone else or coming into my mind on their own. I had these stuck up in my studio before I moved to my current location, and although I've come across the stack more than once, I've always hesitated to put them up in the new studio. I do think they are still good advice to myself but I am thinking of putting them in a journal instead of out in the open. I have so little wall space for things like that.

I've been thinking more about being more selective with what I spend my time on, thinking about how many of the free e-mails I've signed up for focus on supporting the emerging artist, filling the page with inspirational thoughts about creating and creativity, encouragement not to give up or worry about what one might perceive as failures. All those artists acting as cheerleaders for the rest of us - team novice. There was a time I really needed to hear all those words of support as well as the many suggestions about what to do if you feel blocked, managing your time, building confidence. I'm sure you know just what I mean. The last few months I realize I'm just scanning those and don't usually need any of the information in them, I've heard it all before. I've sort of plateaued in my journey, having absorbed all kinds of advice, technical information, ideas, and have gained a pretty good understanding of when my work is good and when it is not.  I liked both of the comments on my last post, one in particular from a woman who I think has traveled a similar road to mine and has arrived at a similar place. It is good to face the facts and make decisions that will free us to get on with what we really want to do. Although I have to admit, I'm still struggling a bit with what that thing is. No amount of free e-mail advice is going to help me with that at this point! But it is a good start to jettison the time-suckers that don't push me forward and leave behind groups that don't serve me well anymore. Tough love I guess.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

What Happened To Inktober?

Longtime readers may be wondering why I haven't been posting any Inktober drawings since I've been doing it faithfully since 2016. For those unfamiliar with Inktober, it is a worldwide challenge to get out pen and paper and sketch something - anything - each day of October and post it, even if it is only on your refrigerator. When I decided to join in, I decided it would be more interesting for me and keep me on track better if I chose a theme for my drawings. The first year it was cups, the next my shoes, then a year when I focused on Zentangles. Maybe the most interesting and educational for me was the month of Medieval Bestiary. Last year I focused on TV quick draw Portraits as I'd just finished watching a part of a Sketchbook Skool Class that covered that and I not only needed the practice but felt it was something I could do that wouldn't suck up too much time each day. Boy did those other themes absorb my attention and time! But every year I have done this, I've been quite surprised at how good most of the sketches are and how much I learned and how much better I got by the end of the month. I remember being a little disappointed in the Zentangle year and my quick draw portraits often made me laugh or cringe at how bad they were, but I never felt like it was a wasted effort. 

This year though, I simply could not rally enthusiasm for the practice. I tossed around ideas for a theme, unable to settle on anything that I didn't think would be too time consuming, and I've felt so bogged down lately that I didn't want to add anything else to the list of must dos. But paging through those past successful beautiful pages made me not want to break the cycle. I finally decided to go back to a practice I learned in one of the Sketchbook Revival classes, the one where you draw for no more than 10 minutes on a sticky note using two random words as inspiration. That practice was one suggested to do for at least 30 days and while at first it might seem nothing special was happening, eventually one would see usable ideas being sparked.

Well, I tried. I really did. But it was a slog, something I could feel I didn't want to do and wasn't getting into and not pleased at all with results. I fessed up to myself and quit after 6 days. This just wasn't the year.

Oddly enough, this whole thing got me thinking about things that are free, like free You Tube tutorials and free lectures and free e-newsletters. I spend so much time on these free things which is part of the reason I fall behind on other things. It finally dawned on me that much that is "free" out there in the world really isn't free. It may not cost money but it does cost time. And who among us does not usually feel short on time.

So I am now looking more closely at the free things I am spending my time on/with and really analyzing which actually benefit me and my creative journey and which need to be jettisoned. It's hard to pass up those freebies, but if I'm going to break away from too much computer time in order to have quality studio time as well as time for my other interests, then the freebies that aren't all free will have to go.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Close Look At Leaves

Daniel Sroka's Untitled Leaf #662

I've shared Daniel Sroka's macro-photography in the past, and am all agog at his recent collection of autumn leaves. You can view the curated page here

I was also intrigued by his Litterfall Gallery Exhibit which includes short videos panning a photo while he describes what has drawn him to this work. It feels like the ultimate in artist statements to me. Go take a look: Rediscovering our Connection to nature.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Leather Long Stitch Link Stitch Book

It started with these, snagged off the 99 cent rack at a thrift store shortly before everything shut down because of covid last year. One is smooth leather, the other suede, both showing enough wear that I didn't feel guilty about cutting them up. There were several book binding structures for leather covers presented in my Handmade Book Club that I wanted to try, and recycling appealed greatly.

Once I started cutting away linings, collars and cuffs, I was surprised by how thin the leather was, about half as thick as recommended for book covers. I'd read where others in the club had fused fabric to their leather and I hoped by doing so, it would give the leather enough heft for a cover. Of course, I pondered over this a very long time before actually getting around to choosing a book binding pattern, determining the size of the book and making signatures. Why I did not think sooner to make a quick sample I do not know, but once I did, it was clear that using Heat and Bond fusible (which is fused with low heat and no steam) with the batik would work on the leather and give it a little more sturdiness.

There were other issues to surmount regarding working with leather. Even with that African batik (which is done on a slightly heavier base fabric than Bali batiks), the suede had a tendency to stretch more than expected along the edges. And I did not have a punch to make the sewing holes with as was recommended. Trying to make them with an awl was very difficult and the holes tended to close right back up. I ended up marking the hole openings on the batik side with micron pen so I'd be able to find them when sewing. It also didn't occur to me that these jackets would be made of smaller pieces of leather seamed together and that I would not be able to find a section big enough for the cover that would not have a seam in it. As it turned out, careful positioning put this seam angling across the back of the cover which I really like.

I chose this particular batik for the lining because of the "S" design on it. The recipient's last name starts with an "S". I was surprised to find that as I handled the book to sew in the signatures, the fabric started fraying along the edges. I expected the fusible to do a better job of keeping it from doing that. I trimmed the threads away and applied some Fray Check around the edges. You can see that I decided to attach a piece of leather to the flap to make a strap closure.

Here's the beauty shot, the stitching holding it all together that shows on the spine and gives the binding its name. The link stitch at top and bottom looks like a chain stitch but isn't done like the embroidery kind. The star in the center actually is an embroidery detail added before stitching the signatures into the cover.

Although there were some struggles in the making, I'm very pleased with how this book turned out and the way the strap closure works and looks. Here's hoping the recipient likes it and finds a use for it. I've found this size of 4-1/4 x 6-1/4 quite handy. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Full On

Gorgeous sunny weekend here and as I enjoyed my Sunday morning cup of coffee, I was also enjoying the view out the dining room window of that birch tree I said was turning color a bit at a time. Well, it has turned all out golden which is an uplifting sight to see. That birch tree is what made me choose this particular townhouse unit over the other two available at the time. Birch trees and I have a special connection and I think of them as my own personal talisman. This one has not disappointed.