Friday, March 31, 2006

A Teaser

I've just uploaded some pics taken at the quilt show earlier this week at my Yahoo photo site. Click here, then on the album titled 2006 Sun Prairie Show. In the meantime, here is one quilt to entice you into viewing the others. I managed to capture titles and artists on all quilts but this one. I DO remember that it was made by a man in the Madison area, and the title is something, something & rhapsody. My current proclivity toward curves along with the bold graphic design naturally drew me to this piece. I could do without the keyboard and fabric relating to music, but overall I was impressed with this piece.

There were several men represented at this show. Several years ago, I'd begun noticing a rare male or two among pieces that drew me for their simple geometrics and complex palettes. Things with a leaning towards modern art, not art quilting. This time round it was striking that these men are still working this way while the women's work generally has more fussiness, frills and embellishments, or is representational when it is not strickly traditional. This is just a passing observation - certainly my album includes one woman's work that is very graphic and abstract - so I'm not trying to come to any hard and fast conclusions about women's vs men's work in eastern WI. or anywhere else for that matter.

In the continuing affirmation of my own shifting from traditional to more modern work, I found myself less interested in the traditional pieces, even the spectacular traditional pieces, and instead, studying and photographing the art or near-art quilts. I also concentrated on these because of my art quilting friend who couldn't attend - I promised her a bit of a virtual show. The irony here is that the Celtic Stars lonestar quilt is hers - one begun ten years ago and only just finished. Planned for her parents, it was set aside for many years while her own leanings moved far away from such traditional designs. She told me how absolutely freeing it was to finally finish it so she could move on or rather back to her own art quilts again. My lonestar is into its 6th year and I can definitely feel its drag on my forward movement as well. Kudos to her for hanging in there - it is a beautiful quilt with borders of her own design and Celtic quilting designs also of her own hand.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Off to the Quilt Show

The local University is having its yearly Jazz Festival next weekend, so Sunday's paper had a nice spread in the Entertainment section about the featured artists. This quote from Lewis Nash (percussionist who's played with greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Christian McBride) was splashed in large print next to his picture. Where he says "instrumentalists" substitute whatever genre you work in - for me that would be quilters or artists, and for "listen" substitute "look" - and his advice to these students applies to all of us:
"Listen, listen, listen, listen, order to have something to draw from, in order to know the sorts of things instrumentalists are doing, in order to know the possibilities of your instrument so you can find the things that move you, the things that attract you, the things that inspire you."

So I'm off to go look at the possibilities, reaffirm what moves me, what inspires me. This quilt show is one of the oldest and most respected in Wisconsin. It draws busloads of quilters over its three day run. It leans more toward traditional quilting, but in recent years has included more & more contemporary and art styles. Hard not to with the likes of Natalie Sewell & Sue Gilgen (raw-edge landscape quilts), Betty Suiter (original applique designs based on oriental rugs), Ann Fahl (author of Coloring With Thread) and a host of others based nearby and submitting entries. And then, of course will be the vendors. I'm not planning on buying much, but it's always interesting to see what's new, just get the mind turning over, perhaps creating some new neural pathways. Chances are, I'll see some familiar faces too.

Will report in later on in the week, and maybe have a picture or two to share.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reading Habits

I love libraries - my tax dollars at work! Yesterday I emerged from my local one with an armload of books and CD's and nary a credit card needed to be waved for the privilege.

I continue to run across helpful ideas for making and attaining goals. An oft suggested tactic is to plan a reward for successfully achieving (or making serious progress towards) a goal. Examples given of possible "carrots" often require an outlay of money, which doesn't always work for me. Better are the ones that merely give me permission to spend my time frivolously or just differently. One of my favorite rewards is a trip to the library for a new book to read of the recreational kind.

Reading for pleasure has always felt a bit of a guilty sin. Although it often enriches, it doesn't do so in a tangible way - you don't have much to show for your time other than an improved mind or attitude. That's my Puritan Work Ethic upbringing talking. Reading, in fact, has benefits untold. Yet when something has to give, time for recreational reading often is the first to go.

I actually spend quite a bit of my day reading - a quick tally tells me I average 2 to 3 hours a day on magazines, books and newspapers. This does not include time spent reading blogs and websites, which I do most days. This was a bit of a shock because at the moment, I'm barely averaging 4 hours a day working in the studio. Granted, some of the reading is directly related to my quilting or feeds into it indirectly. The rest is just something I enjoy and we all need to do enjoyable things to feed our souls and keep us fresh for the hard work.

I've always read a wide range of materials. History has always been a love. Growing up in the West got me going on anything having to do with the pioneers and looking for local connections to bigger events. As I moved from place to place, one of the first things I'd do is check the library for books on the area's history. It's not surprising that as my interest in quilting grew, I'd be interested in learning about its history and those who created such wonderful works. The advent of the State Quilt Documentation Projects and subsequent publications fueled my need to know more than reading pioneer diaries could tell me.

Non-fiction is not the only thing I enjoy. Oh, no. I used to read a lot of science fiction, taking my cue from authors presented in college classes or from my husband's favorites: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein. Mixed in with these might be a John LeCarre, Jack Higgins, C. S. Lewis. For pure stream of consciousness whackiness, I turn to Tom Robbins. Margaret Atwood is a real favorite - she writes in a style I fancy I would, if I had a talent that direction, and her descriptions often remind me of the world I grew up in. Later came a love of detective novels. Read everything by the classic Dashiell Hammett and Dick Francis, then discovered Elizabeth George and most recently, Kate Wilhelm. Sometimes seeing a movie will lead me to want to know more about a subject or person. Seeing the restored version of Lawrence of Arabia prompted me to read a biography about T. E. Lawrence, which in turn sent me searching for the books he himself had written.

So you see how it goes with me and reading. One thing leads to another, but there are favorite genres that I always return to like the murder mysteries.
In a recent review of Every Book Its Reader, it is noted that the author, Nicholas Basbanes, argues "reading habits transcend the confines of choice, reflecting "deepest interests and predilections, even...dreams, needs...anxieties." Oh my. Is this predilection for murder mysteries a sign that I am ghoulish, harbor dark thoughts about my fellow man, will commit some atrocity in the future? Wait - no, it's the detective thing I'm honing in on, I'm sure. I love researching topics, finding out all I can about something, discovering disparate bits of data and making the not so obvious connection between them, not unlike what a detective needs to do. Whew! And based on the stack of books I just brought home, I must fancy myself an artist...

One thing that I rarely do is re-read a book. This doesn't apply to ones used as references, or volumes that are primarily photos or illustrations, or poetry of course. As much as I may enjoy a book, there are simply too many titles on my list of want-to-reads and I am too slow of a reader to allow myself that luxury. However, I have come up with some titles that I have read more than once because they made such a deep impression on me. I thought I would share them with you:

The Once And Future King, by T.H. White. This is the story of Merlin, Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. The story begins long before the movie version "Camelot," following Arthur from childhood. I read it while I was still in h.s. on the recommendation of a good friend. It seemed to have so much wisdom to impart to my time mired in the Vietnam war: "Indeed I had some cause to believe that the defense of the country was not disagreeable to any of them, provided they were not required to assist in it." I re-read it much later to revisit the painful love triangle Arthur suffered as an adult - now that I was entangling in my own messy triangles. I exorcised some of those demons a few years ago with a quilt based on Camelot - "Camelot - The Tangled Web We Weave." I don't think I'll read it again.

The Risk Pool, by Richard Russo. I don't remember how I got on to this book, but about 12 chapters in, I found an eerie resemblance to the relationship between the father & son in the book and the relationship between my father and I. The farther into the story, the more like my father this fictional father became. At the very end, the father dies of cancer and at that point, the resemblance to my life experiences ended. Not many years later, my own father DID die of cancer, and in much the same way as the book's character, he didn't want me to know so didn't tell me. Like the son in the story, I had to find out from a concerned friend, and my father had the same response for why he didn't tell me as the father in the book. Needless to say, I had to read the book again to confirm my memories of the parallels, and yes, they were still there.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. This is one from college. There were a lot of jokes about "taking soma." About 10 years ago, I developed a non-stop raging headache that after much testing and rounds of various specialists was traced back to the estrogen I'd been put on after a hysterectomy. My primary physician was close to retirement and small town. When I didn't respond to the obvious and he discovered I wasn't working, he decided to put me on Zoloft which I equated to the valium of my mother's time. He brightly confided that he'd prescribed it for another of his female patients who was so grateful because she "felt like a new woman." Well, I didn't want to feel like a new woman, I just wanted the old one back, and I suspected he'd decided this was all in my head, no pun intended. I did give it a try, but had horrible reactions to it and it did nothing to relieve my pain. All I could think of was "Brave New World" where all problems were solved with soma - drug the populous so they wouldn't complain. I dug out my copy to find the appropriate passages and shared them with my physician who, unfortunately, did not see the connection nor the irony.

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Another favorite of the '70's college set. But it does have some wonderful gentle wisdom. For us artistic types: "And if there come the singers & the dancers & the flute players, buy of their gifts also. For they too are gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul."

Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank. Mmmm - I read this one back in college too. Not the most uplifting book as it deals with the aftermath of nuclear war, the nuts and bolts of what the survivors will go through, the vagaries of human nature under extreme duress. The thing that took my breath away came at the very end and has never left me. In case you decide to read it, I won't give the ending away. Just be prepared for a very sobering piece of fiction.

How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. Ah, at last! A fairly recent book, and non-fiction to boot. Now I am purported to have some Irish in me, so when I saw this title at the library, I couldn't resist picking it up. It is the first in Cahill's "Hinges of History" series - all good in my opinion. For an historian, he writes with great economy and wit - a quick and easy and enjoyable, not to mention informative read that will widen your understanding of how we moved from the dark ages back into the light. According to Cahill, "The great heritage of Western civilization - from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian works - would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of the unconquered Ireland." Worth several reads even if you aren't Irish!

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Gerald Sittser. This is perhaps the single most important book I read as I dealt with the aftermath of my husband's death. I recommend it unconditionally to anyone who has sustained any kind of major loss. The author, who is a professor at my alma mater - Whitworth College in Spokane, WA, writes from his own experience of losing his mother, wife and daughter in a car accident. While he draws on his Christian faith, he makes a number of observations applicable to anyone. The most helpful to me was his remark that our journey through grief is not a matter of checking off one stage after another until we are finally "over it." His writings reassured me that my path, which did not seem to follow society's expectations, was valid, and to hang in there. He observes that our response to loss will vary depending on our relationship to the loved one, and all responses are valid. No twelve step program here, thank goodness, and no pat answers. Just lots of sharing, encouragement and hope where hope does not want to exist. Each time I read it, I can chart my own progress and glean something new. I personally have not experienced every emotion that he did, and he doesn't expect me to. I got a chance to meet him last year and I found him as encouraging and understanding in person as he is on the written page. I can't thank enough the college friend who sent me this book after my loss.

Well, if you've made it to the end, kudos to you for hanging in there and I hope you've been enticed to go find a good book and treat yourself to a little guilty indulgence. Remember, we artistic types know that all that we encounter in our lives feeds into our art.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Changing Perspective Exhibit Now On-line

It's official: The on-line version of Changing Perspective Invitational Challenge sponsored by Fiberarts Connection of Southern California is ready for viewing in downloadable pdf format here. See and read about my entry, "California Christmas...Wisconsin Spring" and all the other great quilts in this exhibit. I also have pieces in the My World in Black & White and Myths & Legends exhibits, also available in pdf format - scroll down the page for the links. Indelible Spirit is another fine collection which you may want to peruse - even though I didn't participate in that challenge. All these exhibits started as virtual presentations which then found an audience in art galleries and major quilt shows. Many are available for purchase, including mine, if you're so inclined. Enjoy!

Colors of Spring

Moving right's another item I can check off my list of goals for the week. Yesterday I sewed together my 4-patches into this quilt top for charity. This pretty much uses up the blue fabric that went into the two Cobblestone quilt tops, and it also used up a white with tiny letters printed on it. As I was adding the borders, I thought - what a change from the dark, very brown quilt I just made for the Changing Perspective exhibit! All those pastels and whites are not what I usually work with but certainly were cheery! I also realized that these are the same colors I'll be using in the piece put on hold until I could find a glue for my foil. Mmm...I must want spring to come more than I thought!

It's hard for me to see trends in my work - probably hard for most of us. But because of the way I keep my documentation files chronologically, I sometimes pick up on themes or trends if I page through it. One observation I've made in the last couple of years is that I seem to work with a certain color palette over several quilts - not intentionally, mind you, but where once each project seemed to be in a different color scheme, suddenly I had a year of predominantly green quilts, then a year of predominantly blue ones. Sometimes fabric from the first quilt will lead me to the next, or find itself suitable for it. What I haven't taken time to analyze is what breaks the pattern to move me on to another set of colors.

As for the fabrics that went into the 4-patches, they are predominantly leftovers from clothing I made for either myself or my mother back in the 1960's, which is the same time period I suspect that blue fabric came from. Oh, we were so mod back then and wearing quite garish patterns and colors. I guess the earthtones that I am now so fond of kicked in a little later, or maybe this is just mostly our spring/Easter frolics. After a long Idaho winter, we really knew how to brighten things up come spring. Of course, most of this is poly/cotton blends or all synthetic, some a bit heavier and some a bit lighter than the cottons used in quilts these days. There's even a dotted Swiss and a flocked gingham, but I think they work just fine for this application. I've had these squares sitting in a box waiting for a give-away quilt since I wielded my first rotary cutter and decided to cut up all those dressmaking scraps into usable-sized squares. I definitely started this creative quilting path in the "use it up" recycling mentality of traditional patchwork. It didn't take terribly long, though, to get caught up in "creating a stash" from all the new and beautiful fabrics that suddenly filled the stores in the 1990's.

I think these three scrap quilts have gotten the charity sewing bug out of me for the time being. My brain is rested from the rigors of the problem solving of that last art piece and I'm itching to work through a new technique and design challenge.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sidetracked...But in a Good Way

Today was the day to take the car in for service before I head out for the quilt show next week. I dread doing things like this, not because they are so horrible or hard, but because I never had to worry about car maintenance before my dearly departed husband rode off to his great reward. A little bit of guilt creeps in when I realize I miss him most these days when I have to handle these things that he always did for me. Oh, well, I know he is up there getting a great deal of enjoyment out of my uncomfortableness. I worry about embarrassing myself with my lack of knowledge, hoping I don't ask stupid questions or fail to mention something that I should. I needn't work myself up about it because the dealership service department is nothing but kind and helpful, but I also dread that I might get a lecture about how poorly I've taken care of my car. That says a lot about me - I really hate lectures, even when I deserve them.

I decided to take a magazine to read while I waited. I'm dreadfully behind on my Antiques subscription - October 2005 issue being the next one on top of the pile. I figured I wouldn't be able to concentrate on any "heavy" reading and the first part of this magazine is mostly pictures of paintings and furniture, jewelry and decorative things featured in ads or the museum notes. Those ads have exposed me to more good art than anything else I've had around the house, and studying their compositions as well as designs/motifs on the other items often helps me with my own textile art ideas.

An ad featuring a Raymond Jonson watercolor (Pictographic Composition No.17, 1947) caught my eye. Yesterday I read Lisa Call's blog featuring another of her sketches she is calling her Plains series. The similarities were striking. So when I finally got home from running my errands, I did not do what I'd planned to do on the computer, but instead tried to find this painting online. I couldn't find it anywhere, but found others of his works and was totally blown away. This is an artist I had not run into before, so I spent quite a bit of time following links to find out more about him and to see as many of his pieces as I could find. His style and subject matter really speaks to me and I think I could learn a lot by studying him. So this particular sidetrack was a very good thing.

If you would like to be similarly sidetracked, this link will take you to a biographical sketch:; while this one will take you to a links page to view his work: I also had good luck using the search engine, then clicking on pictures.

This wasn't my only sidetrack of the day. I decided to stop in at Hancock Fabrics to see what adhesives they carried. Remember my so far unsuccessful search for a glue to stick foil to fabric and still be able to sew through it all? Well Hallelujah! They had two of the ones on my list, so I am hopeful one of them will do the trick (and one goal for the week met). The sidetrack came though before I even got back to the adhesives section. It's been a long time since I've been in any kind of a fabric store and I found myself doing "the float," eyeing the rows of fabrics with hand brushing over them, perusing the wall displays, considering a piece of poly-rayon in luscious browns that could serve as a wonderful lining to a jacket or purse, spotting a basket on top of that round with discounted remnants of shantung silk...Ack! Silk!!! I'm a sucker for silk and it's so much easier when it's discounted AND I don't have to decide on how much to get. One cream, one tan, both usable with the rayon, oh, I really should not. But of course you know I did. They surely can go into my art if not into a piece of clothing or a special handbag. Yes, even after my bad experience with the three pocket purse, I want to experiment with other patterns. So I also found myself eyeing the purse accessories - magnetic snaps, cords for straps - Oh, my god get me out of here!!! But not before I'd purchased $50 worth of fabric and supplies and greased those balky creative wheels in my mind!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Goals for Week of March 20th

I'm going to make it simple and straight-forward this week. Normal life is making demands on me so my studio time and my concentration will be fragmented. A good week to continue my tidying up and charity sewing:
  1. Sew borders on Cobblestones 2
  2. Sew 30 4-patches & assemble with pre-cut alternate squares/setting triangles/borders
  3. Finish entries in technical journal
  4. Box & ship quilts to Green Bay Show
  5. Track down more adhesives and continue foil to fabric experiment
I'm inexplicably tired today - a certain level of exhaustion that makes me want to sit and do nothing, but I don't trust that. The lethargy could very well be mental - my subconscious reaction to some things I need to take care of this week before leaving on my overnighter to a quilt show next week. As I've noted before, if there's something I'm dreading doing, even though I know I can't get out of it, I'll put it off as long as I can, and worse, not want to do anything else in the meantime. Stupid logic - or rather, illogic - a behavior I'm trying to be more aware of and to break.

It could also be the onset of my spring allergies. For several years running now, I've gone through a physical slump early in the year. I lose my pep, seem to need more sleep than usual, just feel off. Not enough symptoms to indicate the flu, a cold, anything normal. I start to worry which only makes it worse. By the time I see my doctor for my yearly exam, I'm suggesting blood tests to check for anemia, thyroid disfunction, anything else that strikes women after age 50. The results always come back negative - I'm in perfect health, should be doing hand-stands I'm so healthy. Eventually, I make the connection between my tiredness and the fact that those darn seasonal allergies have struck again. Even if the antihistimines I eventually have to take didn't make me sleepy, fighting the allergens certainly tires one out. I never realize just how much they tax my system until the pollens go away and my nose and eyes clear up. Like night and day the way I can then function.

Last year I promised myself I'd remember this. That I wouldn't panic when the tiredness set in after a winter of feeling great. So even though snow's still on the ground, I know that the first of the trees to bud are doing so. I've already had a day here and there of sneezing, a stuffed up ear, a drippy nose - again seemingly for no good reason - but I may as well admit it; it's probably those darn allergies ready to explode.

So tired or not, I rallied and spent a good 4 hours sewing on my two charity quilts. Cobblestones 2's borders are on and the 4-patches are all sewn and arranged on my design wall. A good start to the week.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Update on last week...And National Quilting Day

What a great week! I was mildly skeptical about actually making my way through the lengthy list of goals I'd set forth (see previous post), but for once my estimate about what I could get done was pretty much right on. Each day I ticked another one or two things off my "housekeeping" list and maintained my energy right up through Friday. So all entry details got attended to on time, sleeves and labels got made and sewn on, documentation was completed. I didn't quite get my technical journal caught up, though. I worked on that Thursday and when I got to my transfer experiments, I decided I needed to print off some of the pictures I'd taken to paste as references. Too late in the day so I put that off to Friday. As long as I was printing those, I took time to clean-up photo files on my computer, print out some other things I've been putting off, delete files no longer needed and move others into folders or onto CD. More housekeeping, but boy, did it feel good to have it done. It's that "clean slate" feeling that helps me get on with the next creative project.

The last thing on my list was to work on the second cobblestone quilt and perhaps a 4-patch - both of which will go to charity. When I realized how close the Changing Perspective deadline was, I reluctantly moved the pieces of these projects to the far side of the ping pong table, and I really wanted to get them done, or nearly done to clear that table space for the next "real" project. I definitely didn't want to fold up fabric or shunt it off to some drawer or stack to be forgotten like so many of my in-process ideas. If I could get started on them Friday, great, but I suspected it would have to wait until Saturday. At any rate, with Saturday being National Quilting Day, I knew I'd work at least one day on them, and such a project would be a perfect way to spend that day.

In the past, I've organized various events for my guild to celebrate National Quilting Day, including workdays to make charity quilts, public demos, and last year I even secured a speaker. But I seem to be the only one who really pays attention to this, really cares about it, so this year I thought I'd see what would happen if I didn't mention it. Sure enough, no one else in the guild brought it up and it's a lot easier to stay home and sew by myself. So that is what I did.

I thought I had enough leftover pieces assembled to put with the extra blocks from the first Cobblestones quilt (read more about that here), but I must have gotten it confused with the number of 4-patches I required for the other quilt. I needed to find bits and pieces for 10 more blocks! Well, I quickly realized that I didn't need to make stripsets for the center portion as I had done on the first set of blocks. I'd already cut the unused tails from the original stripsets into 2" squares and had just enough fabric from the original fat quarters to eke out the longer strips for the sides of 5 blocks. Then there were 5 of the blue 2" squares but nothing left to pair them with...until I realized I could use white. I'd already cut most of what was left of the original white into centers or strips for the first border, but plain white fabric worked just fine. I'm not so sure I don't like this combination of colors even better than the first one. I'm still having trouble getting a picture that I think captures the colors well, but I think this is a little better than my previous try.

You'll notice that I've arranged more of that passed-over blue around it. Besides sewing together the cobblestone blocks, my other goal was to see how far I could make the rest of that blue go. Not only did I have enough for the Cobblestone borders, but I was able to cut borders for the 4 patch as well as alternate squares and setting triangles. I was so pleased! That equivalent of 2 yards of fabric from a discarded skirt played prominently in three baby quilts. Yes, I'm feeling a bit smug!

I ran out of time to add the borders to this or to sew four patches, so I may do that next week. Would like to get these done, as I said, so they will not be a distraction, subconscious or otherwise, to my next idea. This coming week may be a little disjointed anyway because I have several appointments to break into my days and should get a start on yet another guild newsletter. Gee, those deadlines seem to come around quickly. Finishing these two up would be easy to deal with around the interruptions. And I can work here and there on finishing the notes in the technical journal.

The only thing I didn't do was track down that glue, which I need for my next experimental piece. Well, the search can continue when I'm out and about next week.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Goals for Week of March 13th

This may be a first - posting my goals for the week on Monday instead of Tuesday. But I am feeling so much more in control, so less tunnel visioned now that my Changing Perspective piece is done. Deadline for completing the on-line entry form is Wednesday, but I just completed it. Yeah - 2 days early!

This definitely feels like a catch-up week. So many "housekeeping" details I wouldn't let myself attend to until I'd finished the true work. I nearly filled a page this morning with this and that to do:

  1. Complete entry process for Changing Perspective Challenge including clean-up, resize and name jpgs, write artist statement, set sale price, complete on-line entry form, send Paypal entry fee payment and e-mail jpgs, and package & ship quilt. All but the packaging and shipping are done.
  2. Complete entry form for Green Bay quilt show.
  3. Make & sew label and sleeve for two quilts.
  4. Fill out documentation file for Changing Perspective quilt (including printing out some pictures).
  5. Update technical journal with samples & notes. When I did my year's worth of monthly journal quilts, I kept a written journal as well to document inspiration and experiments. Now I am running experiments separate from any monthly journal quilt, so got myself a new, slightly bigger journal in which to do that. I like having a reference I can go back to on these new things I'm trying with paints and stamping and working with non-traditional materials. Starting this journal should make it easier for me than trying to refer back to an actual quilt using them. There are things from this last quilt I want to enter there.
  6. Track down Jones Tones Glue. This was suggested to me for adhering foil to fabric and supposedly could be found "everywhere." Are we surprised that my local Michael's did not have it? I need to resolve this issue so I can proceed with my next idea before it flees me.
  7. Finish up enough "Cobblestone" blocks for a second quilt and sew together. This was the little baby quilt for charity pattern that turned out so well that I decided to keep it. But I ended up with extra blocks and stripsets - enough for another quilt.
  8. And if I'm really with it, I might have time to sew together some 4-patches from squares I set aside to go with the rest of the rescued blue fabric used in Cobblestones.
I also need to get the dog to the vet this week and think about scheduling the car for an oil change. And work on my taxes. All those things I shoved to the back of my brain while I panicked over that quilt! I suspect in a few days the very wet snow that fell today will be gone or at least plowed so getting out won't be such a big deal. I think we got around 8" after early morning thunderstorms and sleet. Ah, spring in the Northland...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Update on Project...Scary Movie Part III - Finale

I was right about needing to put some distance between me and my Changing Perspective piece and giving my brain a chance to reset - see Wednesday's post. First, I looked at a picture I took of the last arrangement of leaves (a safety net in case I played more with the arrangement and couldn't get back to the last one I thought worked). Mmmm, ok, better than I remembered and certainly photographed better than I expected. Then I braved the studio, opened the shades, and in the light of day inspected my progress. Although the piece still has problems (i.e., if I were to do it again, I can see places to improve), I decided it's working well enough to not be an embarrassment. Yeah, I know that sounds like faint praise, but I'm judging it against several different criteria: how successfully it matches my original inner vision, how well it will "read" viewed in the virtual exhibit on, how it will compare to the other entries in the exhibit, and finally (and probably the most harsh judgment), how it fits with my personal progress and goals for my art.

I tried shifting a few of the leaves but basically, I decided any more fiddling would only be avoiding the inevitable - time to face the last scary part of the quilt and attach those leaves. And what's so scary about that? Well, I planned to glue them down with Beacon Fabri-tac, a quick setting and very permanent glue. In other words, if I glued a leaf down and changed my mind about its placement, well, tough luck. That baby's there to stay. I carefully removed the quilt from the design wall (the leaves were only held in place by the natural grab of fabric to fabric) and placed it on the table so that I could lift a part of each leaf and apply a bit of glue down the center. I wanted the edges of the leaves free so that they retain the realistic look of real leaves resting on the ground. This was a slightly different effect from what I wanted of the single leaf on each square. In that case, I wanted the leaf to actually float off the surface of the quilt. I achieved this by sewing a thick button to the quilt with nymo beading thread, then using a thin straw needle to run a thread between the fused layers of the leaf and snugging it down onto the button. Actually, I was surprised I could get the needle in between, and only tried because I definitely didn't like having a little stitch of thread showing on the top of the leaf. I did try gluing the leaf to the button, but it didn't seem to get the bond that would assure me the leaf would not pull loose during the rigors of the repeated hanging and shipping it will be subjected to as this exhibit travels for the next year. The thread gave me peace of mind, and I slipped a little glue under there as well for added security. Here's a close-up of the center portion where you can sort of see how these leaves lie and shadow. Click on the picture for a larger view.

There was one other really scary part of this quilt that I worked on Sunday - adding lettering to the quilt. Because of my inexperience in this area and the fact that I quilted and applied the binding first, I decided the safest and easiest way for me to do this was to stencil the letters on using fabric paint. The quickest way to make the stencil was to compose it on the computer, print on freezer paper and then cut out the stencil. I'm always amazed at how eagerly I settle into what others might consider fussy and tedious non-creative work, but I was amazingly relaxed and really enjoyed cutting away the lettering with my exacto knife.

I have to admit that the lettering is one thing I'm not happy with. It was difficult to gauge how big to make the letters, even though I ran off a sample of two different sizes to hold up to the quilt. I opted for the slightly smaller size and now think the larger lettering would have looked better. Paint color was another issue. I tried several things on a sample and seemed to only have colors that were too dark or too bright. I definitely did not like the look or feel of the Liquitex acrylic (although if I'd taken the time to dilute it and maybe mix it with another color, I may have liked it better). I'm definitely in love with Versatex paint right now and thought the creamy looking gold would be just the thing. I was very surprised and disappointed that as it dried, it turned a very metallic gold, not at all the look I wanted. I also tried some Lumiere acrylic, but I wasn't thinking when I bought the "Exciter Pack" - I had meant to pick up the opaques, not the metallics. Mmmm, what to do? Well, I also had some Dye-na-Flow which is more like an ink, and thus doesn't have the coverage of the thicker acrylics so wasn't useful on its own. However, a little Golden Yellow painted over the Lumiere toned down the metallic sheen; unfortunately it was a brighter yellow than I wanted. So I tried overpainting that with a little Dye-na-Flow Brick. Now I was closer to the color I wanted. So I ironed my stencils in place and painted away. I got an acceptable result, but not as refined a look as I'd like. I would have loved to have been able to free-hand paint in script instead, but I'm just not there in my abilities. I still felt the lettering needed something to define it better and did that by inking around each letter with a brown Micron Pigma pen. Here's a close-up of one of the lettered areas:
Another problem I encountered was with how the quilting thread used to define the footprints showed up. In the snow area I felt it was too dark. A comment from June Underwood about painting over stitches she was unhappy with in one of her pieces encouraged me to give it a go on mine. In truth, it probably would have been faster to take out the offending stitches and carefully restitch with another thread, but instead I went back to the Lumiere paint and carefully painted a little Pearl White over the grey cotton thread. It wasn't totally opaque which was fine - I just needed to lighten up the grey a bit - and it lent a nice frosty sparkle. The other footprint turned out not to show up enough, so I experimented with light inking next to the quilting line using a black Micron Pigma pen. Amazing how much difference that made.

If you click on the above picture for a larger version, you can see the hand-dyed Oliver Twist thread used for the satin stitching. Again, I couldn't believe I didn't have a better color on hand, but this was definitely the best of what I had. Like the lettering, it just didn't have the definition I expected, so I ran a line of straight stitches right next to it using a silk buttonhole twist thread in dark brown. Once again, amazing how such a little touch made such a difference. You can also see in this picture how I used a narrow brown piping in the binding - another accent that really helped.

When the on-line exhibit is ready for viewing, I'll post the link so you can see the full quilt along with its artist's statement. In the meantime, I hope all this process information has been of interest. I learned a lot, and now am reveling in the sense of freedom now that I am through with this project!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Photo Transfer Results

One of the things I wanted to incorporate into my Changing Perspective piece was leaves produced from scans of oak and maple leaves I've collected over the years. Ok, so it would have been much easier to cut shapes from hand-dyed or batik fabrics, or even fussy-cut leaves from commercial fabrics, but my stubborn streak insisted I try to use real leaves. My other goal was to figure out a way to float the leaves off the surface of the quilt, requiring them to have a certain stiffness. If I printed my images directly onto fabric, I figured fusing them to another fabric would do the trick and eliminate the need to finish the edges. But as I've mentioned, I've not had good luck printing on fabric, so my mind was considering other options. I discovered I had two different types of photo transfer paper, the iron on types that normally leave the fabric in an undesirable state - stiff and hard to sew through. Well, in this case, I would not be needing to sew through my piece AND stiffness was what I was looking for. Plus, I knew these sheets would run through my printer without incident and would give me better detail than I could probably get on fabric anyway. It was a place to start and as it turned out, where I ended my experiment as well.

I got exactly the results I expected using the ink jet printer iron-on transfers by Hammermill Papers. My scans were not terribly bright since the leaves had been dry for so long, but by upping the saturation in my printer settings, the printed colors became a bit richer. Not easy to see from these pictures. There was a real difference, though, between ironing them to a white fabric and a colored fabric. I thought to eliminate the need of fusing to a second fabric by ironing the transfer to a batik that would mimic the underside of the leaf. As you can see, the transfer is much darker and the detail does not show up as well. I can also see some shadowing through of the pattern in the batik.

Here are more leaves printed on white fabric. I added the colored background to the oak leaf scan thinking it would help when I cut out the individual leaves, but I'm not sure it made any difference. I did note however, that the color changed once it was transferred on. I used more of a peach on another leaf and it became quite a bit darker and peachier whereas this tan turned a yellowish green. Yet the leaf colors seemed not to change at all. No clue there.

The other transfer paper I had on hand was Quiltmakers Photo Transfer Paper for color copiers. I've had this a really long time so I don't even know if it is made anymore. And based on the length of time I've had it, I decided it was reasonable to assume my chances of actually preparing photos and taking them to a color copy shop for them to print on this paper was probably pretty slim, so I may as well experiment with it here at home. Yes, I know that color copier and ink jet printer technologies are different but I was curious to see what would happen and figured there was nothing that could happen to hurt my printer. The results were pretty interesting. The ink merely puddled on the surface of the paper. Detail was lost, but texture was created. Here is a picture comparing how the two transfer papers looked after printing (and before transferring to fabric); the oak leaf on the bottom is the one on the color copier transfer paper:

After a week, the ink still had not dried completely so any touching smudged the image. That made the transfer tricky, but I liked the end results. The other major difference in the two transfer mediums is the color copier one is not as heavy and stiff and the surface is smoother as well. I haven't tried sewing through it yet, but I imagine it would be less of a problem than with traditional iron-on transfers. I'm guessing details would also be much sharper, so if I seriously wanted to transfer a photo to fabric for use in a quilt, I think I would make the effort to get myself to that color copy shop. Here is the transferred leaf on the left with comparison to the inkjet transfer on the right:

One other technical note: Thank goodness I was thinking straight when I went to fuse the transferred leaf to a second backing fabric. I placed it face down on a teflon sheet, then added Steam-a-Seam 2 lite and the backing fabric. Using a medium setting on the iron was enough to complete the fusing, but had I not protected the ironing surface with the teflon sheet, I think I would have re-transferred my leaf to another surface. As it was, the transfer peeled right off without damage. I trimmed away the background from around the leaf and ended up with sealed edges and a leaf ready to mount on my quilt.

Emerging Artist

Or rather, would-be artist emerges. I've been working with the phones off again - I do this when I'm emotionally overloaded and need to keep interaction with the outside world at a minimum so I can get those emotions under control. Or sometimes I turn them off to minimize interruptions and distractions that disrupt my focus on whatever it is that has to get done- not that I get many phone calls, but it doesn't take much to derail me. Last week, emotional overload collided with needing to focus, so not only did the phones shut off, but I didn't spend much time on the computer either. However, one cannot work (or live) in isolation forever, so today I emerged, turned the phones back on and reconnected with the world a bit.

Actually, I'm taking a mental health day.
Since my last post, I've done something every day towards completing my Changing Perspective piece and it has mostly been a struggle. I've solved the technical issues I challenged myself with, had days when I was frustrated to tears (that emotional overload kicking in) and others when I was enjoyably absorbed in the process at hand. Yet the individual successes within the components are not adding up to a successful overall design in my opinion. The quilt is lacking, no zing, and I don't know what to do to fix it. It is virtually done, with the exception of affixing some leaves once I decide their final placement, so at the end of yesterday, I decided to switch to paperwork and re-check the entry requirements and due dates. Turns out I have a little more breathing space than I thought before it has to be in the mail. So I printed out my label, made a sleeve and closed the studio door. I think I need to put some space between the quilt and me. Chances are it is not as bad as I think it is at the moment. Chances are I need to give my brain a rest and then maybe I can see what to do to make it a little more interesting. Thus the mental health day.

I had to laugh though, when I realized that I had dressed today in something that looked very much like the background fabric in the quilt - a brown plaid flannel shirt!