Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Goals for Week of December 25

It's tempting to say, "Goals? What goals?" again, this being a short week between holidays, and weather permitting, with my plan to be gone for a few days. My mind is focusing on end of the month bills, thank you notes, what needs to be done for the trip, so it's not surprising I'd try to convince myself there's no time for the studio. Today was a good day, though, with me hunkering down to those tasks and getting more taken care of than I'd expected. I do want to get something done in the studio this week, and plan to take something with me to work on, so I took a few moments this afternoon to think about what that would be.

I met my minimum number of days, and exceed my minimum number of hours goal last week while working on the leaf print sheer piece. Didn't get Grid 2 couched since I decided the couching would be done as part of the quilting, so switched gears and got it layered for quilting. Didn't get to Grid 3 at all. I need some design wall space to arrange it on and the pinwheel quilt is in the way. So my primary goal for the week is to get the pinwheel quilt off the wall and layered for quilting. I'm not even going to think about minimum # of days or hours, just focus on the one task.
This will require washing & ironing new fabric for the backing, choosing and cutting a batting and probably safety pin basting the layers. I also like to run a line of hand basting all around the outside of the quilt top to stabilized the edge, then turn the excess backing over to the quilt top edge and safety pin it in place. This makes a tidy bundle for either machine or hand quilting, and I'm always glad I take the extra time to do it. I should have a good chunk of time tomorrow and at least some of Thursday to devote to it, and if I'm efficient, maybe I can even start the quilting. I also need to make a few notes in my tech journal. So here are the week's goals:
  1. Prepare pinwheel quilt for quilting, including prepping backing, layering and basting.
  2. Update tech journal - decor bond results

There's been lots of talk around the art blogs about end of the year assessments. You know, what did I accomplish this year, what can I take care of before the year is out so I can start fresh in 2007? And the big one, what are my goals for 2007? I've been known to work feverishly til the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve in order to finish a quilt so that it doesn't slop into the next year. But I don't have any of that feeling this year. I guess I'm so spent from achieving my goal to get moved that there's not much left for planning the future. I should have time to think on it while I'm away, and will take along a notebook so I can jot down my thoughts. Perhaps setting those year-long goals will be a goal in itself for the first week of January.

A bit of Christmas

Here are two of my favorite gifts, arranged with some of the paper used to cushion the packages that were shipped. That's a set of leaf stamps that I've been coveting - undoubtedly easier to use than the actual leaves and available year round! And the bottle of wine gave me a laugh-out-loud moment or two. It arrived empty, with the explanation that after it'd been bought for me, it was discovered it couldn't be shipped out of state. It's called "Black Dog" with pictures front and back of a black Labrador, so you know why the sender thought of me! Pity her that she had to drink the wine herself before forwarding on the bottle...

And you've gotta know that I've gone over the deep end when I found myself more interested in that variety of wrapping paper than the actual gifts it protected. Seriously, I spent quite a bit of time pulling each out, smoothing it and wondering how I might use it in my art before I reminded myself - oh yeah, I wonder what the gift is. Good grief...

This one particularly interested me, as perhaps something that could lie underneath fabric before painting it so the texture would be picked up on the cloth. It looks like crepe paper to me, but not at all the flimsy stretching streamer kind I remember from High School Prom decorating days. This is heavy with a coating on the back - crepe paper on steroids!

I also got snow for Christmas...5 inches on Saturday, another 3 inches Sunday night, an inch last night. It's been steady flurries most of today; late this afternoon they have thickened so it looks like another inch or two by morning. I'm not complaining - I expect no less at this time of year. This is the view from my kitchen window taken on Saturday.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Insecurities and Turnarounds

So Wednesday started iffy and ended worse. I awoke Thursday morning ready to give life as a whole a huge raspberry, my self-esteem taking a major hit across the board. Surely this mood swing couldn't be totally the result of yesterday's struggles in the studio - but they sure hadn't helped. When I get like this, I know exactly what I need to do - find something that will make me feel successful, then ride that good feeling to overcome the negative feelings about the perceived failure. I couldn't think of anything in the studio that would guarantee me a feel-good experience. I didn't even want to open the door, let alone go in, sensing I'd just beat myself up some more. So that led me to the other thing I know I need to do when I get like this - Avoid any additional stabs at the confidence until the moment passes (and it DOES always pass). I had to do some shopping anyway, so Thursday became studio avoidance day.

I ended up talking to a friend on the phone later in the day - sharing my whine about how my little project had blown up in my face. Turns out THAT's exactly what I needed. Like journaling, talking out the problems helped me identify how I'd sabotaged myself, then let my perfectionist tendencies lead me down the path of dissatisfaction and eventually, insecurity.

Twyla Tharp in "The Creative Habit" says that she believes in starting each project with a stated goal. The goal (written on a 3 x 5 index card) can be as simple as "keep it simple" or "economy," just something to remind her of what she was thinking at the beginning if and when she loses her way. It's a good way to first determine why you're even running off in this direction, then a reference to help keep focus. I'd forgotten about this until I popped open those bins looking for thread earlier in the week. Stashed amongst the fabric, embellishments and books were 3 such index cards I'd filled out. One referenced the series I wanted to explore with willow leaves, and frankly, I'd totally forgotten what my goal was. So taking the time to jot down a goal or two is definitely a good thing.

And it's what I should have done with the leaf print sheer. Had I done so, I would not have been so frustrated when things started going amiss. In describing the sequence of events to my friend, I remembered that this quilt was primarily to find a use for that piece of fabric, period, and that I'd originally intended it to be a journal quilt. Now had I kept it to journal size, my subconscious would have put less importance on how well it turned out because I use the journal quilts exclusively to try out techniques or ideas. Yes, I still feel frustration when struggling to make an idea or technique work, and disappointment if they don't turn out as I envisioned, but it is not the crushing, "I'm no good, I'll never be good" beating up of myself that I do on bigger pieces. I know I am using them to learn, and that because of their uniform size, the finished product simply gets filed away for future reference (unless I'm very pleased with the end result, at which point it goes up in the studio).

As soon as I decided to increase the size of the piece to accommodate larger borders, I got lost. The piece went from experiment and practice to must get it right. Rather than doing it to learn what would happen "if," I got caught up in worrying about its shortcomings and how an outsider might rip it apart. No wonder I was feeling so pressured by the end of Wednesday when the what ifs weren't creating a masterpiece.

This little revelation allowed a shift in attitude so that by Friday morning my mental state had done a 360. I was upbeat and energized, ready to tackle my little quilt with a certain amount of confidence rather than avoid it. First things first - add a little more stitching to the center. Good enough to give me the information I need. Quit feeling sorry for myself that one round of couched thread wasn't enough and stitch another one. Make those final decisions on the binding and piping. Finish that project and call it good!

I did opt to add piping to the border. Since the only green in the piece are some of the leaves, the dark green piping helped them to look a true part of the piece. Once it was in place, I auditioned my final two choices for binding. Although I think either would have worked, I really liked the warmth that the yellow fabric gave the piece, and how it made the thread used for the grass stand out more. My apologies for the quality of the pictures - I took them hastily and tried to fix them on the computer which accounts for the variation in intensities here.

By the time the binding was stitched in place, I'd used most of my 3 hours for the day. I toyed with the idea of fusing or gluing the binding to the back, but decided not to use that shortcut. The hand stitching was a nice end to the day and the week, and assured a finish that wouldn't disappoint me. I'm still wondering if I should have stitched something out in the border, but have to remind myself that one of the reason I used the Decor Bond was so that I wouldn't feel obligated to stitch in the border just to have the piece hang right. I could add something later if the right thing comes to me, but for now I need to be done with this piece so I can move on. As they say, it's time to take the lessons learned into the next piece, not fuss more here. By the end of this day, the piece struck me as not too bad after all, reminding me that sometimes all I need to do is give my work a little space to gain a better perspective on it.

It still needs a hanging sleeve, but for all intents and purposes, it is done. (Finished size is about 13 x 15 inches.) And I think I will call it "Home Again." That friend who gave me the batik chose it because she thought it would remind me of Idaho and it sure does. I haven't seen any mountain sheep since I returned, but I have seen a bear, deer, ducks and geese.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I may have put in 6 hours on Wednesday, but I was not a happy camper at the end of it. I did a little more staring at the two projects, indecisive about each, and came to the conclusion that I'd intended the couching on Grid 2 to be done as part of the quilting, and that I didn't want to use batting in the leaf print sheer. Suddenly I found myself in need of finding backing and batting and my Decor Bond.

I'll be the first to admit that I spend way too much time picking out backing for my quilts, but I've never been able to put just anything on the back. Since I started machine quilting, this has gotten worse as I search for a print that will make the bobbin thread least noticeable. Even though I repeatedly told myself these were experimental pieces, I kept digging through my piles for just the right thing. I was delighted to find this moose fabric for the leaf print. I fussed more over Grid 2, wishing I had a less white blue, a lighter pink or a slightly off-white. I was greatly resisting plain muslin, but that's what I ended up with. Since I want the piece to be fairly flat, I layered it with Hobbs Thermore using 505 Spray Baste and set it aside.

I've used Decor Bond as a stiffener in my mounting technique (see towards end of this post for information on this.). Now I wanted to try it as part and parcel of the quilt itself. Oh, the freedom when one embraces the term "textile art" rather than "art quilt." I suppose some would say that the Decor Bond qualifies as a layer, but I don't buy that since it's fused to the top and in my opinion becomes part of that layer. Semantics again, perhaps, but it's a big step forward for me to eliminate that inner layer that softens and adds dimension to a quilt. I cut the Decor Bond at the finished size of the quilt, centered it on the wrong side of the top and fused it in place, followed by spray basting the top and backing. Not quite ready to tackle the stitching and the thread choices I'd have to make, I started pulling candidates for binding. Picking binding is almost as bad as backing - at least 6 choices surfaced, and I started thinking about adding piping as well.

That took care of my minimum 3 hours for the day, but I'd intended to get that stitching and couching done, so was motivated to get back to work after lunch. That's when things started going down hill. I stitched some samples and settled on two Sulky rayon threads for the "quilting" - a yellow/green twist to outline the leaves and a dark green to quilt in grass. To show you how tentative I was about all this, I stitched around the leaves with the feeddogs up, but I knew I'd have to free-motion the grass. The dark green thread didn't show up like I thought, so out came the first lines of stitching. I changed to a dark brown Oliver Twist cotton which not only didn't look right, but shredded and broke on the second pass. Went back to the Sulky, but this time burnt orange/black color and it was perfect. I was relieved that this stitching (unmarked) went well - almost like I knew what I was doing!

It was another story when I got to the couching. The decorative thread is thick & thin with long "eyelashes" springing out of it here and there. The thickest parts were too thick to run through my braiding foot and it was hard to keep it centered over the edge of the sheer using an embroidery foot. My zigzag stitch wasn't just holding the thread in place, but securing that center in place so had to sufficiently bite into it. I made it around, pulled it out of the machine and was so let down. The thread didn't give the same effect it had when loosely arranged on the top. It struck me as creating too thin of a line. Sigh...maybe another round would help, maybe when the binding is on it will be ok...but my overall sense was I'd done it again, wasted a lot of time creating a mediocre piece that even I wouldn't want around.

I was also questioning my decision to ditch the batting. The center was already stiff from the fusible, but by fusing the Decor bond over the entire backside of the top, the rest of it became stable enough to stitch and couch without any additional stabilizer. That was quite nice. It should also gave a crisp firm edge to turn the binding over. But is it going to look funny when it is hung? I also had the sense that I needed a little more stitching in the center section. But it was late, I was out of steam with my confidence severely shaken and all I wanted to do was get away from it.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Today's Progress?

Here's the leaf printed sheer and its "more interesting" background that I've been talking about. I fused the two together yesterday and was a bit surprised that the sheer became even more "sheer" after the process. I've not noticed that before on other sheers. The fusible web used is Steam-a-Seam 2

As for today, I'm not sure much got accomplished in my 3 hours. I was doing some circling of the project at hand, so decided to clear a few things off the end of the table. In my never ending quest for logical organization, I wanted to move my hand-dyed fat quarters and 1/2 yards from the two small baskets into one larger one. I'd left them on the table because I'd run out of room for them (they used to sit on the closet shelf, but this closet doesn't have the same shelf space). That's when I realized I was still giving my traditional and repro fabrics priority space-wise even though I'm mostly working with batiks and hand-dyes right now. Rectifying that imbalance will take some major re-organization that I'd rather not do right now, so I thought the consolidation might temporarily solve the problem. It didn't work quite like I'd envisioned but it did get them put away under the table rather than out in the linen closet.

In the process of sorting through them, I made a lovely discovery - a piece of hand-dyed fabric which should work for the border on my Chinese poem challenge. I've been studying it for days wondering what to do next and how to frame it - frankly, I don't think I would have looked in that basket for a solution.

This sort of accidental problem solving is something I really enjoy. Many times I've found solutions or had ideas sparked by the unintended juxtaposition of fabric while sorting through my various stashes. Here's another one: Once I cut the center panel for the pinwheel quilt, I had a fairly large piece of the leaf fabric left. I set it aside along with the other fabric from the project. That black sheer leaf print has been moving from fabric to fabric for several weeks while I try to figure out how to use the funny cut. It got tossed on top of the stack when I cleared a space to cut that panel. I've been looking at it there for a week, but it just dawned on me how I can use the two together in yet another birch trunk piece.

But before I do that, back to the other leaf print sheer. I decided on a size to square it to, laid it on the border fabric and went in search of my decorative threads. My thought is to stitch it to that fabric (rather than piece it to border strips), covering the edge with couched thread. But just where did I put the thread I have in mind? Talk about opening a Pandora's box (or two)! Two bins came open to find it and a selection of threads that might stitch it in place. And in the process, out popped all those ideas, leftover pieces, paint experiments and started projects so carefully packed away months ago and not really thought about since. Suddenly I need much more design wall space!

What stayed out though was Grid Series 2 and a bunch of thread. I alternated between it and the leaf print pondering not only my thread choices but what to stitch and the sequence of stitching.

Somehow, I think I may have too many choices here. And not being in a decision making mood, I decided to let it go until tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Goals for Week of Dec 18th

I didn't track my hours well this week so am unsure that I put in the minimum I'd set for the week. I know there were several days that I spent an hour or two working, but on the other hand, I did something 6 of 7 days. Surely that added up to the minimum 12 I had in mind?

I finished my nephews block, and the pinwheel quilt top. But I didn't get to the little piece with the sheer. So that goes to the top of the list for this week. I think I'll pull out a couple pieces from the grid series that were left in various stages of incomplete and get them to quilting stage. Then maybe next week I can devote my studio time to all quilting, using the smaller pieces as warm-up for the more demanding quilting I anticipate for the pinwheel quilt. So here are my goals:
  1. Minimum 4 days in the studio, minimum 12 hrs.
  2. Make small quilt from leaf print sheer
  3. Couch decorative thread on Grid 2
  4. Satin stitch squares to background of Grid 3

Look what came in the mail today!

When I left Wisconsin, I put a little bug in a friend's ear. "If perchance the guild decides to make me a going away quilt or blocks, please have them make crow's feet blocks," I implored. I know of several quilters who made a quilt from this pattern when they turned 50 - an inside joke at growing old. It's a traditional block I like and I figured I'd probably never get around to doing it for myself. So look at that - those ladies came through!

I'd like the quilt to be bigger - these are only 6 inch blocks - so when I need a change of pace, I'll break out some fabric and make additional blocks. It will be a bit of a challenge to make these disparate fabrics work together, but surely I've got something lurking in a corner that will pull it all together?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Studio Setup

Thought I'd give you a quick tour around my studio, now that it is 99 percent set up. To the right is the machine I use for freemotion and embroidery work - a Viking Lily 535. It doesn't have many bells and whistles, but is infinitely better for the job than the machine on the left - my old warhorse Viking 990. Although they are the same brand, they have a few differences, one of them being the sound of the motor. The foot feeds are quite different too, and I much prefer the one with my old machine. If only I could somehow meld the best of both machines into one. I could certainly do everything with the newer machine, but the old machine has a sentimental history which will make it hard to ever part with. The sounds that it makes are so familiar as to be comforting, so as long as it chugs away with straight stitching, it will have a place in my studio. Besides, it is such a luxury to have two machines - each with their dedicated purpose and almost assuring me that I'll always have a working machine available as back-up should something go awry with one of them.

Here are two shots taken from the far end of the room. The closet is perhaps half the size of the one in my previous workspace, so it has been a challenge to find storage for what I was used to putting in there. Fortunately, there is a large linen closet right outside the door which had room to catch the overflow.

This shot shows the area I'm using for a design wall. I decided I could wrap around that corner because I doubt very much I'll be working on any really big quilts, and if I do, well, having that 90 degree angle might make it more interesting. The ironing board and second machine wedged in there makes it a little awkward, but I can get around the ping pong table to stand against the opposite wall when I need to get some perspective. Not perfect, but as Penny commented, "good enough" to get working.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Delightful Day of Work

So delightful was my time at the machine today that it hardly felt like work. The task at hand was satin stitching the edges of the tree trunks to attach them to the center panel of the pinwheel quilt. My freshly serviced machine hummed pleasantly while it stitched away along the gentle curves. My mind was free to wander a bit, and it decided that some of my feeling of well being was my comfort level with both the form of the birches and the technique I was using on them. It was affirmation that not only am I on the right track, but also starting to settle into a personal style. Funny that it is so much clearer now than before I moved, even though I've been working with birches off and on for at least 3 years and the satin stitching for about a year. I feel like a lot of detritus has dropped away with the relocation. Simply changing scenery doesn't guarantee improved clarity and lord knows I've had plenty of questions about my direction since landing here, so it was especially sweet to experience this mini-revelation.

I hadn't planned to secure the trunks this way, but after studying them on the background, I could see they needed more definition than a line of black quilting would give them. The satin stitching in black makes them quite bold which helps to match the boldness of those pinwheels. I use a Sulky tearaway stabilizer pinned underneath to keep the fabric from puckering. It really does tear away cleanly with little effort.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What Constitutes Studio Time

Much of today's time in the studio was not spent on designing, or cutting or construction - things that immediately come to mind if one says "I'm putting in time in the studio." Instead, it involved working on set-up, which I've decided is legitimate to count towards the hours I want to get in this week. It's hard to work if your set-up isn't right, your work space cluttered, tools and materials hard to find. And I've learned that small irritations turn into major distractions, so it's just as well to address them rather than continue to work around them. The irritation becoming a distraction happened to be my design wall flannel, hastily hung and in need of fixing. What I really need to do is find a large piece of grey felt to continuously fill the space between windows, but until I do, the two pieces of white flannel must suffice. They are hung with velcro along the top, and in the past I've added short strips of velcro along the sides to hold it flat against the wall, but I didn't want to do that anymore. Been brooding about how better to attach it while trying to work around the curls and flapping. Today was the day to do something about it, so I herringbone stitched the two pieces together where they weren't meeting well, then used small tacks around the outer edges. Not real pretty but so much better, and much more inviting to use.

And so I was more willing to tackle tree trunk placement on my pinwheel quilt. I admit I was over-thinking this process, working way too hard to get them just right. I even printed out a few reference pictures rather than throw them up quickly as I'd done for the picture here. Eventually, I settled on an arrangement, pinned them in place and will satin stitch them down tomorrow.

Why not stitch them today? Because the machine I use for satin stitching and free motion work had recently returned from servicing and I'd not set up its work area yet. So I unboxed the extension table, moved the small table into place and popped the top off the machine. As I was sliding it into place, I noticed that the back had not been put back on right by the repairman, leaving a gap that would not only collect gruck, but probably catch fabric on the way through. Arrgghh! I should have boxed it back up and taken it in to have him do it right, but hey, I don't want to spend the time and I'm pretty handy with a screwdriver...

Wouldn't you know, the screws holding things together have a weird head on them, but surely there's the right tool in the tool box I inherited. Ah, hex keys! That's what I need and there's a full set. Thank you Allen! In no time I had the back popped in correctly, extension table height adjusted and machine plugged in. Minor irritations duly attended to!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Goals for Week of December 11

Boy, having no goals last week was a mistake - I drifted and got very little done, when I definitely could have been more productive. While a few Christmas things still lurk unfinished, I want to make some real progress in the studio this week. We'll see how it goes.

I'm feeling energized and a little more focused after a chat with a developing friend at church. All last week I kept thinking, I still haven't gotten my feet under me yet, I'm still feeling like I don't know where I'm going with all this. I'm supposed to be experimenting, exploring, making work, developing a style so that I can present myself to a gallery eventually and produce pieces more likely to make the jury cut. Instead, I find myself letting little things stand in the way of putting in the kind of time I'd intended, and tempted to work on old projects which I know are a kind of safe haven. You know - I feel more at ease and confident working on the more traditional work, and uneasy and unsure with the more experimental work. This gal at church keeps asking how my art is going and saying that she can't wait to see some of it, which of course makes me a little uncomfortable in my current unsure state. What if she looks at it and says, "oh," meaning, this isn't what I expected, this isn't art. It's the old art and fear thing.

Yet these people at church have really taken me in, are active in each other's lives, and strike me as a safe audience to open myself up to. I got to thinking I should have an open house, or at least invite a few of them over, and make it a studio tour of sorts. Step one of making the transformation from quilter to art quilter, and something that would boost the confidence and give me practice for when I dip my toe into the art community here. Well, there's nothing like sharing an idea to give you the incentive to actually go through with it. So this Sunday when she approached me again, I told her my plan and she was not only excited but offering to make appetizers! I immediately realized that this was the bit of direction I needed to get me moving. I thought having no deadlines or definitive plans would be a good thing, but apparently not. Now I have a reason to finish the last bit of unpacking and move ahead on a few ideas. I'm already envisioning how I can display work, set up the studio, talk about my work and vision. Not everyone needs something like that to be motivated to work, but I seem to at the moment.

So with a tentative date in mind, that is why I'm anxious to get more seriously to work. I've been setting a goal of a minimum of three days in the studio, but have managed four without much trouble, so I should go ahead and up the ante. Along with that, I should specify the minimum time allotted to a "day in the studio." My current average of 2-3 hours really should be more like 4-5. That will take a rearranging of my daily schedule as well as my mind set.

Here is one of my project goals for this week - this block for my nephew. While it has nothing to do with my art quilting, it IS a yearly commitment that got waylaid in the move. Said nephew's birthday is in September, and when he was born, I had the bright idea of making a block a year for him, blocks that would reflect events in his life and which would eventually be put together into a "freedom" quilt when he turned 21. For an explanation of "freedom" quilts, go here. I may have quite a task ahead of me making the disparate blocks work together, even though I've kept track of the fabrics that have gone into them. This is the 10th block, and my skills and tastes have grown and changed right along with my nephew. In a way, each block has been a reflection of my quilting journey. And since my move to Idaho derailed my making the block on time, I decided why not play on that and make him my signature Idaho Beauty block using some of the fabrics in my current quilt. I think it came out quite well.

I think my other emphasis needs to be on completing the pinwheel quilt top. It shouldn't take much - I just have to stop worrying about the placement of the trunks and JUST DO IT, then attach the borders. Still no thoughts on how I'll quilt it, but I'll JUST DO THAT too, I guess. Must move on.

I may have found the solution to a background fabric to go under one of my leaf printed sheers, so time permitting, it would be great to make that little piece which may or may not just be a journal quilt.

So here it is spelled out:
  1. Spend minimum of four 3-hour days in studio working on the following:
  2. Make nephew's birthday block (done!)
  3. Arrange and sew down trunks and attached borders to pinwheel quilt
  4. Make small quilt with leaf print sheer

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pinwheel Quilt Revisited

Thanks to Margaret, Sally and Felicity for their comments on the pinwheel quilt. I'm glad Margaret asked, "What would happen if [the trunks] spread more into the borders?" I was asking that question myself. What do you think? Should I tuck the base of the trunks into the border seam, but let the tops extend into the borders both top and/or sides? Should the bases also start in the border area? Or would it be better to restrain myself? I think if I spread them out a little more and slop into the border area, it will only help the problem with the borders being a tad too wide.

Speaking of the overbearing borders, Sally saw perfectly my concern in her comment and offered some suggestions, which actually were things I tried in my EQ5 program. I ignored the wisdom of what I was seeing on the screen and continued with my original idea. I am my own worst enemy at times. Here are two versions with shading added to the outer row of pinwheels, which I think is what Sally was getting at:

I'm afraid I boxed myself into a corner on this one, letting certain things influence my decisions. Right off the bat, I needed this piece to be a specific size to be part of a seasonal rotation of quilts in a specific wall space. Then I patterned its basic layout after a quilt that is already part of that rotation - Out Of The Night seen here on the right. It has a 6 inch border of snail's trail blocks surrounding a center panel, and I thought the proportions worked just fine. Of course, there's much more of the background fabric reading in the border section than is going on in my pinwheel borders.

Still, this might have been ok had I not been a bit lazy. The blocks from the pattern which gave me my idea did not finish at 3 inches but at 3-1/2. This increased the border to 7 inches. I really should have redrafted the block, but as I said, I was being lazy. And by increasing the border width, but not the overall width of the quilt, I narrowed the width of the center panel. There went my balance, I believe.

I've got too much of this sewn together at this point to make the changes both Sally and I know would improve this work. However, I have a batik and a different set of hand-dyes that could easily make a second quilt like this, with improvements. I could resize the block, resize the whole quilt, work without those silly self-imposed restrictions. In fact, as I've been studying the quilt on the design wall, thinking how I could do it better, it occurred to me that more of the background would show through if I shifted the placement of fabrics in the pinwheel block. It places the background print in the largest triangle and the two solid triangles now form their own separate pinwheels. Here's a computer mock-up of that, plus one with the shading in part of the border.

Now the only question is, do I have the patience to rework this idea and make a slew more pinwheel blocks?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Making the change

In a week, I will have officially resided in Idaho for 90 days, at which time I am required to have taken a written test to get my Idaho driver's license, and get Idaho plates for the car. I've nearly waited until the last minute, and decided I'd better do it today. So now I am officially an Idahoan again. And yes, the plate not only says "Scenic Idaho" but also "Famous Potatoes." And just to show you how nice everyone is here, the lady at the DMV rooted around in the boxes under the counter for a bit until she explained that she was trying to find a plate number that would be easy for me to remember! The first one she came up with was 9339, which was perfectly fine, but then she found this one which she thought was better. Now THAT'S service.

Speaking of famous potatoes, shortly after arriving here, I was reminded that there used to be a candy bar called "Idaho Spud" and I wondered if they still made them. Ah, yes - they do. And I'd forgotten that it was "the candy bar that made Idaho famous." Uh, really? I also seemed to remember that they weren't particularly good, but I bought one anyway for old time's sake. Oh, my...these really are awful, with a somewhat tasteless marshmallow center, similarly substandard chocolate and a coating of coconut. If this is what made Idaho famous, I cringe. More like infamous!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Question about ornament

Margaret wanted to know if there was a pattern for the folded ornament. I just knew I should have taken the time to share that, so here's the info. I used directions from an article in Quiltmaker magazine from Nov/Dec 2000. Designer is Rebecca Wat and the original pattern along with many more is in her book "Fantastic Fabric Folding: Innovative Quilting Projects."

She's been on Simply Quilts a couple of times too. And yes, Margaret, these foldy things can be incorporated into quilts. I'm not sure I'm accurate enough to have hexagons fitting well enough together to stitch a bunch side by side - there's a lot of finger pressing in her method and I notice that my star points don't always come together quite right. I believe she attached these as ornaments to a tree quilt top.

Time in the "Kitchen" Studio

My bad humor yesterday may have been at least partly due to the beginnings of a cold. By bedtime there was a hint of a sore throat and by morning I knew I'd picked something up. Tis the season for that too.

So what does one do when feeling lousy and low on energy, but has the day
earmarked for the studio? I could not have foreseen that I'd want to paint this week, but paint is what I did. It didn't start out that way, though. It started with thinking I'd pick out buttons for my folded ornaments and led to this.

That black one bothered me because the folded design wasn't showing up very well. I'd thought about it last night and wondered if a wash of silver paint would help things stand out. Wouldn't require a lot of set up time or a lot of mess, so I decided to do it. And you can probably guess the rest...

I've been thinking about my Chinese poem challenge for several weeks now. I figured my next step might be to paint in some faces, then some sun streaks, but that seamed pretty ambitious. Today, after dipping a brush into paint, the draw to get on with that piece was very strong, so I dug it out.

Here's my inspiration for the faces to represent the part of the poem that refers to no one in sight but hearing voices. They are from 18th century Puritan gravestones found in New England (see Smithsonian Magazine article here). These images mesmerized me and have haunted me ever since. Here at last was I place where I could use them.

I've thought a lot about how I could transfer the images - always starting from the assumption that I can't draw. Perhaps I can make a stamp - but that seemed too tedious. Maybe I can paint them on - but I'd have to trace the image on first. That last one was where I was headed today, taking a piece of paper and holding it over the page against the window. Well, THAT was going to be tedious too, so I thought I'd try sketching freehand, going over the pencil lines later with black pen once I got the images the way I wanted them. Then I could use a lightbox to trace them on the fabric and paint over the tracing. Uhh, I didn't feel up to that much work today either. So I sketched the most compelling images to practice, then tried painting freehand on a scrap of fabric. Here are my sketches and I was surprised how easy it was to "sketch" on fabric with the "spotter" brush.

I chose my favorite Versatex paints, the bronze seeming to look the best. But it didn't have quite as much definition as I wanted. So I tried sketching the image with a fine black Micron permanent pen, then painting over that. It seemed to help - I'm going for subtle, but there's a limit to just how subtle you can go before you lose it altogether.

Here's a shot after painting, and a close-up. Click on any picture for a larger view. I'm a little disturbed that the one face in the center shows up so much more than the others. I either need to define the others more or tone this one down. Maybe it will blend better after the sunray wash.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Step eight...

...Joining the blocks together, to form the borders. I'm using two rows of pinwheels to get the width and effect I want. My pressing system broke down a bit at this stage. I still had nice opposing seams everywhere, but when I went to spin those centers, they were all going in the opposite direction from the rest of the seams. Oh, well. It didn't appear to cause a real problem, but I think the next time I sew pinwheels block to block, I'll consider pressing all seams open.

When I arranged the borders around my central panel, vision and reality met, and they were not the same. Time for my repeated rant of wishing I could envision more accurately how my ideas will look executed. I caught myself hedging and doubting myself. I'm afraid the border is too wide and overpowering - it's reading pretty bright. Don't know if I like the scale of the leaf fabric in the center panel - too large? Don't know, don't know, don't know! A part of me says just let it sit on the design wall and work on something else for awhile. Probably good advice. So this is how I left it at the end of last week.

I had a feeling that I needed to cut those birch trunks and arranged them over it, that they might make all my misgivings disappear. So I did that this afternoon and indeed, it totally changed my feelings. This is a tentative arrangement, but if nothing else, I can see that I don't have to worry about the scale of the leaf print.

Goals? What goals?

I found myself in a bit of a snit today. Must be the holiday spirit kicking in...

Wish I could get over my dread of making phone calls and setting up appointments - I know that was a big part of my mood today. Dog needs to go to the vet, my hair needs a trim. Wish I didn't immediately think my day is shot if I have to run out for something. Need to run across town to pick up my sewing machine from repair. Have to go take my driver's test and get my Idaho plates this week. Just thinking about it makes me think I won't get any sewing done this week. I just want to sit and do nothing.

Bad plan. So I steeled myself and made phone calls first. Funny - made four in less than 10 minutes and got those appointments set up without a hitch. What made me think it was going to be so awful?

So should I go run the errands today or save it for tomorrow. Oh, heck - it's early in the day, and if I go now, I'll be back by lunch, leaving all afternoon to do whatever. So I make a quick list, grab a few things and tend to business. Five things taken care of and back in no time. And now I have my free-motion everything machine back just in time for the next step in my pinwheel quilt.

After lunch, the mood was back. I didn't want to go to the studio, but I really didn't want to do anything else either. I hate it when I get this way. So I made a cup of tea and decided to download my e-mail. I've signed up for Alyson B. Stanfield, ArtBizCoach.com newsletters and one arrived today. She encouraged that rather than be a Scrooge (like I was feeling), to take advantage of the season. Ok, fine! I'd been thinking about making some folded ornaments, so decided this afternoon was as good a time as any to do it. Here are the three I worked on, ready for a button or something to be sewn in the middle.

And on impulse, I also took the next step on my pinwheel quilt. I'd spent all weekend giving myself the "you're a fraud" lecture because this didn't seem to be turning out well, and I'd not been working on any art stuff. That's the big reason I didn't want to be in the studio, I'm sure. I thought if I was concentrating on the ornaments, I could ignore the other, but of course, I couldn't. See the next post for the results.

As for the goals for the week? I'm still tempted not to set any, but with what I got done and set up today, the week magically opened up. Will have to think on it tonight.