Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Goals for Week of Feb 27th - Carryover

My apologies to my readership - I have been majorly sidetracked and am behind on many things right now. I'd like to blame it exclusively on the Olympics, but they were only part of the problem. But even with them over, and the other events of last week out of the way, I'm waylaid by working on my Guild newsletter yesterday and today. I'll run out to print and mail it tomorrow, and maybe then I can concentrate on my current project again. I keep telling myself that this is ridiculous, this reticence to move on to the next technical challenge, but my self is not listening. It's hyperventilating instead over taxes yet to figure, quilts needing labels and sleeves in a few weeks, dental and doctor check-ups to schedule, an overnight trip to a quilt show to prepare for...why do I back myself into corners like this on a regular basis?

So once again, my sole goal for the week is to make significant progress on my Changing Perspectives entry, which will require reining in my irrational fears. I really don't have that much left to do (I sanely tell myself). I even picked up some additional supplies on Saturday (paint and brushes for the lettering I hope to do), so there really are no more excuses not to proceed.

Since tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, I'll leave you with a picture of my peace lily, which after 10 years of never blooming, suddenly put forth a single bloom on the first Easter after my husband's death. It has since provided me with a single bloom each Easter since. Think what you will, I consider it a sign which comforts me greatly.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Good Day...

Unlike yesterday, today was free of distractions so I could get right down to business. As I quilted away on the base for my Changing Perspectives piece, I kept thinking, "Play to your strengths." Free motion anything is not one of my strengths, at least I don't feel it is, and it makes me uptight to do it. Today's quilting was feed dogs up, walking foot on, follow the lines in the plaid. What could be simpler? The Valdani thread perked up the drabness - subtle, but that's me. Adds just a bit of interest without taking over.

As I quilted, the concept of this design continued to come into focus. I played with placement, and of course, I settled on one not experimented with in my sketching. Here is a cropped picture of where I think I'm going with this now. The leaves are paper - one printed in color and the other not. I decided I need to see their placement to verify the placement of their backgrounds and the quilting that will go in that space. I'm still undecided about how that quilting will be done - on or off the base I quilted today. I also decided that I couldn't choose the thread for satin stitching the squares in place until I knew exactly what color the leaves would be. So no more quilting today but feeling much calmer and confident about finishing in time with a decent quilt.

I've been thinking of options for approaching this transfer of photos to fabric that has me in such a tizzy. Since today was humming along so well, I felt encouraged to go back to experimenting with the printing. Experimenting - yes, I felt up to it and seeing it as time well spent, not wasted as I so often do. I have several things I can try, including iron-on transfers and a different brand of pretreated fabric sheet. I'm getting more comfortable with my Corel Paint Shop Pro program so used it to lay out 4 leaf scans and print on the transfer media. I'll share my results later after I've printed on other options. I may end up with a ton of leaves, but having so many to play with will no doubt be a good thing.

Click on the picture for a larger view, although it really doesn't show a lot of detail. I mostly took this to reference my positioning since all this has to come off before it becomes a permanent part of the piece. I know it doesn't look like much now, but there will also be some lettering on it and who knows what else by the time I finish!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Goals for Week of Feb 20th - Scary Movie Part II

I have only one goal for this week, considering the panic that set in today when I realized just how little time I have left to finish, photograph and complete the entry info for my Changing Perspectives piece. That goal would be to assemble and quilt the piece. If I could get the binding on too, that would be nice but not critical. Well, maybe critical, considering I'm going about this a little backward.

I spent a little time this morning sketching out different sizes and how the two not quite squares will be placed. Sometimes sketches just don't do it, but at least it gave me an idea of possible proportion and placement. So I moved on to cutting an oversized background piece. I want to completely quilt this in a grid, then machine applique my two squares on top. Have yet to decide if I will quilt those squares before or after they get sewn to the main quilt, but a thin batt will have to go in whichever sequence I choose. I'll decide on the final size of the piece after those squares get applied.

I thought today I could get the background layered and quilted. This was what I referred to yesterday as the "not so scary" part. But there were so many decisions to be made and I'm just not good at making decisions. First I got hung up on the batting. I want something quite firm, so when I ran across a piece of fleece, I thought this was the ticket. But I also got out a piece of Warm & Natural, which I've used successfully in wall quilts, it being relatively flat and stable. I probably would have dived right into the quilting were I not unsure about the threads to use. I have a set of Oliver Twist Hand dyed threads in wonderful browns, yellows, rusts and was leaning towards them rather than the heavier Valdani. Laying them across my fabric wasn't going to be enough to tell how they would work. And then I noticed how slippery the surface of the fleece was. Better be smart and quilt up a sample.

I think it was about this time that I decided to look at the calendar to see how much time I had left. Yikes! My mind had been saying 4 weeks, but the calendar confirmed I had more like two. Time to shift into high gear and become efficient! The only thing I didn't dither over was choosing a backing. I cut a piece for the quilt, then two smaller pieces for samples. I tried the fleece and Oliver twist threads first and was not happy at all. The fabric shifted (even though I used spray baste) which is unacceptable when working with a plaid, there was too much dimension and a bit of curling that I wasn't sure could be controlled in the final piece, and the thread really didn't show up unless you were fairly close. "I'm making another boring quilt," I thought to myself. Time to attempt a little more boldness.

The second sample is better. The Warm and Natural feels very firm when quilted this closely and is flatter so the thread does not disappear into the shadows. And the heavier Valdani thread has more and brighter variety in its variegation. The cotton grips the fabric better so there is little shifting. This is what I will go with. The quilting should go fast, then it will be on to the next scary part of the quilt - quilting and positioning the squares on the quilted background.

The fleece sample is on the right, the Warm & Natural sample is on the left. Click on the picture for a larger view. Yes, here I go making another dark quilt. It will take more work than my mind's eye envisioned to liven up this one.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Update on last week...Scary Movie Part I

I apparently piqued the interest of a non-quilting friend who reads my blog when I said "I have scary things to tend to." (See Goals for last week.) That would be scary in the artistic sense, not in the conventional sense. I'm referring to the kind of scary that accompanies working through design decisions and applying unfamiliar techniques on a project destined for a touring exhibit and due in short order. This can either be a recipe for disaster or the incentive to push to new heights. I'm not sure yet how my "Scary Movie" will end.

It's not starting off well. One of the scary things to tend to is printing on fabric. Yes, I know...everybody does it, there's a ton of info out there on how to do it, I've even done it successfully myself. But I have not had success since changing printers. I love my Epson Stylus Photo RX500 for every other kind of printing, as well as for its copying and scanning capabilities. It does all that much better than my previous set-up. I particularly chose it over other options because of its individual color cartridges. Nothing irked me more than to do a lot of printing in a certain color range, and having to replace a color cartridge that still had plenty of the other colors in it.

What I struggle with now is two-fold: The Epson is extremely sensitive to any curl in what you send through it. Fabric mounted on freezer paper or pre-treated sheets backed like address labels are tend to jam. A sickening sound that is, not to mention the thought of the wasted ink. But I've almost got that one mastered. What I struggle with now is getting a print that does not look washed out. What I really need to do is run controlled tests and take notes, but of course, I only need to print on fabric when I have no time to experiment. And when I am successful, I don't note what I did. Oh yes, and the black ink seems to run regardless of what the fabric is treated with and I don't know why. Recipe for disaster next time round.

So last week was "next time round." Tried pre-treated fabric sheet and photocopying a leaf. Not even close. (Not to mention, the first send through jammed.) Sigh... So I scanned in a number of leaves and moved on to manipulating a couple of jpgs. Had better success there, even in the printing. But then again, it didn't matter if that particular print was washed out and it was hard to tell if it was. It was the sort of day that made me want to give up on the whole idea and work on a different design for the exhibit (or maybe no design at all for it). But in the process of scanning, another design idea came to me and I thought maybe I'd try to print that one, which meant picking some fabric and treating it myself. In the process of looking for that fabric, I stumbled upon what I could use for the background of my original idea. I found another fabric to incorporate. My theme was coming together and it occurred to me that I didn't have to successfully print my leaves to fabric first. In fact, they are the last thing that will be added to the quilt and I have other options for making them should I not be able to get a decent print. Wow - I can just move right on and complete the quilt and leave this scary part for later. That realization turned my week around and got me feeling confident about the concept again - because, I suppose, I could go ahead and work on a part of it that isn't so scary.

As for the rest of the week's goals, well - I didn't manage to get out to look for that metal to fabric adhesive until today, so that experiment was put on hold. And the hand quilting? Don't ask! I didn't actually do any sketching either, but while rummaging around for my saved leaves, I unearthed a large sketch pad where I'd drawn out two different groupings of birch trunks. Mmm, had forgotten I'd done that and one was exactly what I was to work on last week. The other I'd given up on because I didn't think I was getting an interesting mix, but I think it actually looks pretty good now. I guess some things need to sit and simmer.

Stay tuned for "Scary Movie Part II."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fluidity of Designing

When I had to clean everything off my table to tie the charity quilt a couple weeks ago, I ran across this sketch. I'd looked for it earlier when I was writing about What To Do With Inspiration but couldn't find it, deciding I must have tossed it (even though I know I rarely toss anything). It's only 3-1/2 x 4 inches, a scrap of paper that happened to be by my bedside when an idea started to form. I'd been trying to figure out what to do with a challenge theme "Flights of Fancy." I was trying to stay away from the obvious, but then again, I'd always wanted to play around with undulating flying geese. I think my original thought for the center might have been just quilting, and you can see I was considering just swirling lines. I was sketching in pen, so rather than being able to erase lines, I just kept drawing when I considered the more vertical curve with traditional feathers. The quilting type feathers are on the lower part of it, but then I started thinking about reverse applique at the top. That is what I eventually went with.

Now see what happened once I got into the studio and worked up a full-size sketch. Where is that wavy flying geese border? Couldn't do it for several reasons: too predictable (and yes, there were many entries that used flying geese in one form or another); I was short on fabric; by the time I got to the borders, I'd run out of steam to design and sew them; the challenge rules said "No odd shapes;" and then there were the muses that interceded. While I stared at the finished center trying to decide what to do, I started seeing this kind of border around it. I've never used this kind of border, wasn't even thinking it. Closed my eyes and shook my head and tried again, but that border of rectangles kept fading back in place. So I succumbed and think it is a better solution than the geese would have been anyway. Plus it allowed me to use the few scraps of challenge fabric that were left and more easily mix in similar fabrics from my stash.

I don't always let go of an original concept as easily as I did this one. Usually I spend much time trying to make it work, even if I suspect it isn't the best idea after all. But in truth, when it comes to design, you often don't know where you're going until you get there. It's best to remain fluid.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Goals for Week of Feb 13th

I have a rather ambitious set of goals planned for the week, probably because I was so all over the map last week. I think I'm trying to shock myself back into productivity along the artistic front. I have scary things to tend to in the next 4 weeks and I'd rather run back to the safety of what I know. Each foray into the studio finds me "circling" several ideas and hesitant to take the big step into the unknown. Honestly, if just quit balking and take that first step, I'm always fine. Well, here's what I really need to do this week, like it or not:
  1. Make decisions and fill out paperwork on entries for two WI shows.
  2. Work on designs for Changing Perspectives entry. This includes photo manipulation in Corel Paint Shop Pro, a program I am still learning, and printing on fabric. Then some sketching. I played around a bit yesterday with a couple of my birch tree photos and am making progress.
  3. Experiment with adhesives for gluing foil to fabric. This is for an idea for using candy foil without an overlay. Yesterday I tried two different glues which did not work. A little research on the internet today provided me with a couple of other choices which I will have to track down. The adhesive needs to be something I can stitch through and that doesn't require heat from an iron. Any ideas?
  4. Finish the hand quilting on the current corner square of the Lone Star Quilt. I got quite a bit done last week, the Olympics providing me with a reason to come down earlier for dinner, then sit and stitch.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Object Lesson in Fabric Choice

There's not much I do that I don't try to make into a learning experience. Such was the case with the little project I took on Friday when I wasn't feeling so hot. This is a pattern called "Cobblestones" (sorry, can't remember what book it came out of) which called for 3 values of blue plus yellow for most of the centers and inner border. As you can see, I took liberties with the color scheme, using only one blue (the fabric I rescued) adding a purple and pink from a collection of reproduction 1930's fabric. The yellow is also repro thirties, but I used a white for the inner border and some centers. Choosing those other colors to go with the blue was the learning experience. I have always struggled with fabric selection, as what I think will work when laying out the yardage often looks quite different when cut up and spread out in different proportions.

On the left is the original set of blocks. I had rejected a stronger pink thinking it would overpower the blue, but once sewn into blocks, that pink blended right in with rest of the 30's fabric. Even with the blue borders in place, I didn't think it worked. If you think about Depression Era quilts you've seen, you'll recall how all the fabrics rather blend together, and I should have remembered that. But the quilt was destined for charity, so I was going to chalk it up to experience and finish it up.

By Sunday, I was feeling pretty good and in the mood to sew, planning to join the blocks and add the borders. But that color problem was bugging me. It dawned on me that the blocks worked up so quickly there was no reason why I couldn't make 8 more blocks in the brighter pink and see if I liked it better. The results are on the right and indeed, this created the balance I desired. I don't often "fix" problems like this, but I am in a learning mood these days, and am more open to taking the time for trying something different even if it means more work. I really should have that attitude more often.

I'm also trying to learn features of my Corel Paint Shop Pro program, so spent some time manipulating these photos. I'm not sure the top one does justice to the colors in the quilt. Here is the finished top with possibly truer colors. The purple is still a little off, but you get the idea. I like it so much I've decided not to give it to charity, but to a friend's little newborn.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Training Wheels

Since I've not had anything original to show for a bit, I thought this might be a good time to talk about the value of patterns. This is a shot of a design from Suzanne Marshall's quilt "Rhapsody In Bloom" that was started in a class with her. I was getting it prepared for hand quilting about the same time as I started this blog and before I was ready to start the hand quilting on my nephew's Lone Star. Next to it you can see sources for a few quilting designs I added in the corners. Click on the photo for a larger view. I took her class for two reasons: first because I'd been looking for a class on hand applique to see if I was on the right track and to pick up some pointers, and second because I am a real fan of Suzanne's Art Nouveau influenced designs. I wanted to learn while working on a piece I could be enthused about. I'd passed up other workshops with well known teachers precisely because I did not like the project for the class. What I did not anticipate was that her class would also teach me things about using color. By studying her quilt and following her suggestions for fabrics, I was pushed to expand my idea of what works together. Since "arriving" in the art quilt world, I've noted that there are some out there that totally disdain the use of someone else's pattern for any reason. Why use someone else's idea, they reason, when you can draw up your own and have a totally original piece with no worries about copyright infringement? While there's validity to this argument, I think it ignores the fact that not every aspiring artist comes out of the box ready to create. There's a learning curve here, steeper for some than for others. Some pieces are learning tools, some for our own enjoyment or to gift, and if we're really lucky, some will be worthy of exhibition and even selling. That last category is the one that should show total originality and independence from the work of others. The other two, learning and gifting may be the perfect place to work from someone else's pattern. Patterns can be like training wheels on a bicycle. They can provide support while we get our balance, but unlike a tricycle, those extra wheels don't totally hold us upright. There's some room for us to wobble without totally crashing, and a warning when we lean too far. Eventually, we get the hang of staying upright while peddling and steering and can dispense with the training wheels altogether. Others may never get the hang of it, or need longer to gain experience and confidence in the process. A few will not like the training wheels at all, finding them too constricting, and would prefer a few tumbles over not being able to push the limits of their skills right away. By using a pattern like training wheels, you can concentrate on a particular aspect of the work instead of being overwhelmed with the responsibility for every aspect of it. For instance, by using the Rhapsody pattern and general color scheme, I could hone in on the applique process and experiment with mixing different greens and reds effectively. I also could study over time the intricacies of her design and why it worked. By replicating good design, I think we add to our own design sensibility, by osmosis if nothing else. As long as we don't try to pass it off as our own, I think using patterns, as is or with our own tweaks, is a great learning tool. Before I got into quilting, I did many other forms of needlework, almost always from a kit or someone else's pattern. I seldom changed anything about these projects, not even a color here or there. It wasn't until I started working with fabrics in quilts that my design sensibilities kicked in. I can't help but think that all those years of using someone else's designs taught me things without being aware of it and instilled a certain confidence I otherwise wouldn't have had that helped me with my own designing. At first, I was still using patterns, but now I was substituting colors, altering sizes, changing sets, creating different borders. The pattern became a jumping off point, and in some cases, saved me time by giving me the basic information about block dimensions and template pieces. Yes, I could have drafted my own patterns, but why waste the time if someone else had already done it? Eventually, I began coming up with original designs, but I still find occasions when referencing a part of someone's pattern saves me valuable time. And that brings me to my final thought about the value of using patterns: for the most basic information, and for things in the public domain, and for pieces not destined as original works of art, why re-invent the wheel? Take those feather motifs I'll be quilting in the corners of my Rhapsody above. Sure, I know how to draw feather motifs. But since this piece is a learning piece that will only be displayed in my home, I saw nothing wrong with using a pattern from a book that was just the right size and feel. Our medium of quilting is time consuming enough without needlessly adding to the time it takes to move from idea to completion. A little help from a pattern when appropriate is nothing to be ashamed of.

Quilt National

It occurred to me that some of you might not be familiar with Quilt National that I referenced in the last post. You can go to their website here to find out more and see some of the quilts that have been juried into their prestigious biennial exhibition. As a partial explanation, I quote from their website:

Quilt National was intended to demonstrate the transformations taking place in the world of quilting. Its purpose was then, and still is, to carry the definition of quilting far beyond its traditional parameters and to promote quiltmaking as what it always has been -- an art form."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Deterrents to Creativity: Illness

Yesterday I woke to the beginnings of a sore throat. I didn't want to think I might be coming down with something, so hoped it was because of yelling at the dog, or the fact that I'd talked several hours on the phone with several people the day before (when you live alone and don't exercise your voice, normal interaction with the world can leave it scratchy - how pitiful is that?). I went about my business and didn't notice it again until I plopped down on the couch after dinner. Yes, that faint soreness was back and I was more exhausted than the day's activities would explain away. There was an achiness that I'd attributed to the bending and tugging while tying that quilt (see previous post) that now seemed part and parcel of a cold or virus. I dug out my zinc tablets and mentally prepared for a few days of feeling under the weather.

After hitting the snooze alarm a few times this morning, I decided to stay in bed for a bit, the throat feeling a bit worse. It's Friday, I kept reminding myself, a play day it was to be and still could be. Nothing important has to happen so take it easy. When I did roust myself out, I really did feel off. Definitely a battle going on with my body fighting off whatever this is. Illness saps not only our physical strength but our mental sharpness as well so it is no wonder it's a struggle to do anything when we don't feel well. Creativity may as well take a sabbatical.

My mother used to say that sickness was God's way of telling us to slow down. Ok, Mom, today I will take it slow. I don't feel bad enough to have to lie down, just don't do so well standing. The dog had the good graces to go out on her own to attend to business instead of waiting for our walk, so we settled in on the couch under a quilt after I'd had some breakfast. I pulled out the 2005 Quilt National book I'd gotten a few weeks ago and started through it. It was a lovely late morning indulgence. Since I didn't have the wherewithal to push my own creative envelop today, I could more easily enjoy and study, ponder and marvel at the creations before me. Another advantage of the late start...My neighbor shoveled the 2 inches of new snow from my sidewalk before I got around to taking that morning walk. I certainly didn't feel like doing that, so what a blessing!

The day was not a total loss. I was feeling a bit better by the time the walk was over and felt up to the "play" I'd thought about doing today. My guild was gifted with the contents of some woman's sewing room - mostly clothing stuff that we can't use, but the women who work on our charity quilts had gone through it for anything they could use. The rest was stacked at the meeting for the rest of the members to paw through. I shouldn't have but I couldn't resist - those old habits dying hard. I found several good size pieces of suitable cotton that was either missed or dismissed by the charity group and brought them home. There was nearly 2 yards of a turquoise blue and white floral print that struck me as perfect for a little girl's or baby's quilt. I'd already gone through my pre-cut squares and fabric stash yesterday and thought I'd either sew up 4-patches or use another simple pattern a bit like a one-round log cabin. Like I said the other day, I just wanted to sit and sew at the machine for awhile; working with either of these ideas would fit the bill and help use up some fabric.

I opted for the 2nd pattern, cutting strips, sewing stripsets, sub-cutting and stitching pieces on either side. Simple, not boring because of the variety of fabric, not tiring because the quilt is small. The blocks are all sewn and arranged on my design wall. With what's left over, I'll do those 4-patches and make a second quilt. Perfect project for the day and I feel like I got something worthwhile done. Next week when I'm feeling spiffier, I'll tackle the more daunting designing I must get to if I expect to have my Changing Perspectives piece done in time.

But what if today had held difficult things that had to be done? I know from experience that most of the time I can force myself to function, push myself to get work done, somehow meet or work towards deadlines when I'm not feeling my best, let other things go until later. It's just not fun. And it takes longer than normal to do tasks. And the error index rises. I could tell it was time to take a break today when I realized I'd sewn a string of segments to a strip of fabric turned wrong side up. Little stupid mistakes like that happen when we're tired, our brains are foggy, we're not firing on all cylinders. We may struggle to figure something out that on any other day would be obvious. Creativity takes a hike.

So I say, you do your best work when you are physically and mentally at your best. You can still do your work
(and probably should) when you're not, but when God suggests you slow down a bit, heed his advice if you can! Chances are, you'll recover faster and not lose as much time as you think. I know, easy for me to say since I don't have kids or a job to go out to every day. Still, this American tough-it-out mentality is not embraced by many cultures and I wish the business world would wise up.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Update on last week...This week's goals on hold

I have been so fixated on this Warmth From Wisconsin quilt entry that I can't see past it to anything else. Here it is on Sunday as I start to tie it. Not a particularly inspiring quilt, yet not an unpleasant one either. As a utility quilt it is fine, maybe more than fine. I just didn't think it would take me as long as it did to complete the tying. The plan was to tie it Sunday, bind it Monday, so that I could show it off at Guild Monday night. Well, I shouldn't have been surprised to be a day off in my estimate - typical me. So I was lucky to finish the tying yesterday before taking off for the meeting. Guild members are SO flexible - they don't mind you showing off a quilt before it is totally done. Today the binding got on so I am through with this project. I need to let my head clear before I can decide what to do with the rest of the week, though. I may be struggling with "shoulds and oughts" vs "wannas and wills." I still have that sense of wanting to work piecemeal - whatever catches my fancy at the moment. At other times that felt like aimless drifting, but recently it has had a more purposeful "seize the moment" feel to it. Now I am wondering if my current mindset is one of avoidance. I should be looking at entry forms and making some decisions about what should go where, or if any of it should go at all. Please, can I put that off til next week? (Whine, whine, whine...)

Actually, I am quite pleased with how last week went, considering I only had two days in the studio. If you've been reading along, you know that I finished the self-portrait journal quilt. Perhaps I should re-think how well I do representational art. I showed this piece to three people prior to last night's meeting and they all thought it was a leg kicking something. Mmm. I almost didn't bring it out during show-&-tell, but decided, what the heck. Same puzzled looks and comments about it being a leg. Then one gal started circling her fist and asked, Is it a tractor crank? Close enough! Well, to be fair, this group is not overly into the more contemporary quilts, but I didn't think the imagery was that obscure.

The other thing on my list from last week was the hand quilting. This has been a struggle from the start, but with each week, it has gotten easier and more enjoyable. Last week, it suddenly took off and I worked 5 nights straight, catching up on what didn't get done from the previous week, and nearly completely the current week's goal. I'm wondering if my sudden enthusiasm for it can be linked to the fact that my daytime activities Sunday through Wednesday were filled with non-sewing/quilting activities. Is it possible that if I spend quality time during the day in the studio, I am too spent to continue working in the evening? I think that is highly possible.

I really enjoyed all that handwork I did last week - the quilting at night and the beading on the journal quilt towards the end of the week. Even the tying I did Sunday & Monday had that relaxing rhythm that I enjoy. And yet today I was chomping at the bit to sit at the machine. I really feel the need to do some machine sewing again, why I don't know. Perhaps that drive will determine how I spend the rest of the week.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Related thoughts on happiness

As I mentioned in the previous post, I was having a bit of trouble last fall. Actually, it started before that, but came to crisis point in November. I simply was not happy about much in my life and had been drifting for far too long. Starting this blog was part of a discipline I decided I must enforce to turn things around. And they have turned around dramatically.

As if to chide me for taking so long to figure it out and make a change, I came across these three quotations or thoughts over the course of about three weeks in January. They made me smile because, in my better place, they seem so obvious, and in thinking back to my struggles last year, the advice I needed. If only I can keep them in mind should things turn again

"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about." -Kingsley

"If [Tom Sawyer] had been a great & wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

"Relax. You can't achieve any goal if you're uninspired, overworked and out of balance." -Leslie Groene, Picture Yourself & The Life You Want

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Self-Portrait Journal Quilt

I love that feeling of freedom once a project is completed, allowing me to move on (or return) to something else. That is what faced me this morning - freedom and renewed energy - and what better way to embrace it than to get back to the beading on my journal quilt? If I could complete that today, then I could clear the ping pong table to lay out that WFW quilt to tie. I still need to tack down the binding but otherwise, "Self-Portrait: The Crank" is done. Click on the picture for a larger view.

I can't help but notice how many artists are drawn to doing self-portraits. This has never tempted me, however, probably because I’ve never done much drawing and what I do is a far cry from portraiture. Even though quilters have gotten into the act through applique, painting on fabric, and thread painting, I never saw it as something I cared to do with my quilting. I was amused, though, upon seeing the results of a guild challenge to make a self-portrait of oneself as an animal. Now maybe I could do something like THAT, I thought.

November was a tough month for me. I have a tendency to be a bit of a crank anyway, but I'd found myself crankier than usual with events in November pushing me over the edge. That's when it came to me - I needed to make a self-portrait representing myself as a hand crank! I'd been saving some foil candy wrappers to work into a quilt, so I used those for the metal part of my crank. I toned them down by dabbing them with thinned black acrylic paint, then rubbing the excess off. They were wrapped around wool batting to maintain a 3-dimensional effect and held in place with netting sewn over the top. I had second thoughts about how well that batting could hold up to the foil, that maybe I should have used a denser filling, but the wool is amazingly resilient. The handle is black satin with a bit of wool batting under it as well. I free-motion zigzagged the edges of the satin and netting with Sulky twist rayon thread.

The background Idaho Beauty block was pieced using Judy Mathieson's fold-back freezer paper foundation method. The fabric represents my growth from traditional to contemporary quilting and how I incorporate both in my work. The darker fabric is a reproduction that I over-dyed and is paired with a commercial marbled fabric. See Demons Under Control for more about the fabric and the piecing process. The quilting is in the ditch with mono-filament thread (almost my trademark) and the piece is topped off with beading. The binding is fabric used in an experiment with Versatex fabric paint.

I think this makes a fitting portrayal of me. It incorporates not only my personality (cranky, fussy), but my quilting life past and present (traditional with a fondness for reproductions, my move into hand-dyeing and marbling, and contemporary work including machine quilting, hand beading, fabric paints and non-traditional materials), along with my favorite color and my signature block. Yup, I think I got it all in there.