Monday, July 30, 2007

Hard Work

I'm still getting comments on the quotation about Talent in this post. I also shared it with the Alternative Quilt List members. I am amazed at the variety of response it has prompted, and that people are drawn to so many different parts of it for discussion. So far, no one has commented on the quotation in yesterday's post here on Channeling. Are we so unsure of our talents that we have no problem with that particular concept?

Here is the last of the quotations I wished to share. All of these were used in an article highlighting three local artists who accidentally "discovered natural inclinations and unleashed their inner artists." How do you think it relates to the concepts represented in the other two quotations?
"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all." - Michelangelo

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Thanks, BC & Deb, for your reactions to the Winslow Homer quote. If you haven't checked back in the comment section, please do because I entered a response there.

Moving on, here's another quotation for your consideration. As you might imagine, this one sits better with me. But again, I'd be interested in your reaction.

"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel." - Piet Mondrian

Friday, July 27, 2007


"There is no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way."
Winslow Homer

In my opinion, this is a pretty loaded statement, and I rankle at one particular part of it, the part about "the right way." What is your reaction?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ready for Quilting

Here's the angel quilt, layered and safety-pinned. That's Hobbs black 80/20 batting you see, which I later trimmed back so I could turn and baste the backing to the front. See this post for my layering and basting process. Oh, and that white patch next to the lake on the right? That's a bit of paper-backed fusible stuck on a piece of batik; While inserting safety pins, I noticed I'd missed extending one leaf over the seam, so I cut another leaf and fused it in place.

"Um, but where's the angel?" you're undoubtedly asking yourself. Never fear - it's waiting in the wings (no pun intended). I decided the sky, mountains, lake and beach would be easier to quilt if I didn't have to work around the angel to do it. I'm still pondering some technical issues about how it will be attached, or more specifically, how I will finish/secure the edges of the last layer. But however I decide to do it, there's no reason it has to be done before the quilting. I think I'll get a better flow to the quilting lines this way. And because the angel has an extra layer behind it, there should be no problem with shadowing through of either colors or stitching lines.

Ok, go ahead...ask your other question: "Do you realize the bottom of the quilt top isn't straight?" Yes indeed. Back when I was sketching to come up with something other than just a solid background for the angel, I played with echoing curves that would delineate the two shore lines, and I found I liked the idea of the beach also curving below the ends of the side panels. This perhaps is another case of one thing leading to another (see Tuesday's post) because normally, curving any edge of a quilt is not my thing. Remember this quilt and how I came to leave its bottom edge curved? See here for the details.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Magic

I guess it's fair to say I usually design on the fly. I start with an idea, some fabric, and see where it leads me. My best laid plans are often thwarted because the quilt has other ideas. One thing leads to another - solutions to puzzlements present themselves in the most unlikely way, leaving me wondering how I could have been so blind. Here's how one such scenario played out yesterday.

My angel quilt has this brown wood-like fabric running across the top and I decided to add more of the "magic" leaves along it to continue the vining arbor-like feel. They are subtle, yes, but that is what I'm looking for here. I want them to be something you may not see from a distance, something that adds interest as you move in closer. I will quilt around them with navy thread to give them a little more definition. If you look closely at the batik along the side, you'll spot the top of one of my "elegant" scrolls. It too is supposed to be subtle. I knew there wasn't a great deal of contrast between the browns in the two, but once the scrolls were fused in place, they darn near disappeared altogether. Well, I thought, that too can be fixed during the quilting (I hope....).

Next, I tried one of my "clunkier" scrolls along the top of the arbor, in that bright green of the piping. I didn't really think this would work, and I was right. Among other things, it was too prominent, drawing the eye away from the angel in the center. But I also thought by trying it there, I could better envision how those shapes might work if merely quilted in. My eye kept moving to the blank center of that brown above the arbor. I considered arranging more leaves to fill the entire area, but I didn't think that was the look I wanted. What if I took one of the scrolls designed for the skinny sides of the arbor and placed it horizontally in that space? From the paper pattern it looked like it would work, so I used some Steam-a-Seam fusible on the gold fabric used to create the piping effect around the angel and cut the shape out. Yes, I think I like that. The gold isn't used anywhere else so this might be a good tie-in.

As I stepped back to view the overall effect, it occurred to me that I could have used this same gold behind my elegant scrolls to highlight them, just like I had the angel. Argh! Too late now because those scrolls were firmly fused in place. Well, I thought, I must have some golden thread in my stash that would do the same thing. Probably one of those King Tut threads I'd stocked up on recently. As I opened my thread cabinet, my eyes fell on this luscious silk thread. Technically, it is buttonhole twist, but I purchased my first spools of it at a quilt show and loved the way it worked up as a quilting thread. It's the dickens to find though, and when I finally found a specialty fabric shop carrying a good supply, I stocked up.

Rather than wait and use it to quilt around the scrolls, I decided to just stitch around them now. My free-motion quilting isn't good enough to trust to something that would be so visible and need to be perfect. Stitching before layering for quilting meant I could do this with feeddogs up and not have to mess with a walking foot or maneuvering the bulky quilt sandwich in the machine. You'll note I am stitching next to, not through, the applique. This is another thing I like about Steam-a-Seam II over WonderUnder; the edges of your applique do not need to be secured by anything other than the fusible itself.

This thread was just the right color and thickness to visually pull those scrolls out of the background just enough. In this picture, the lower scroll is outlined while the upper one is not and fades into the distance.

I'm very pleased. And I'm relatively sure that I wouldn't have thought to use that thread had I not added that gold scroll along the top. I'd been considering a gold metallic or even a navy thread. I probably wouldn't have thought to use that scroll either, had I not been playing with a similar motif just underneath that space. The pictures unfortunately do not capture the effect very well, although if you click on any of them, you'll see a larger view and more detail. You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Friday, July 20, 2007


More tedious work in the studio today - tracing and tracing again, careful slow cutting - but it's cool again today and the results are going to be so worth it, I think. When I held the first scroll up to the quilt top, my thought was, "Oh, how elegant. Yes, this is just what I wanted." Here they are, my 4 elegant scrolls which will be added to the side borders. They are much more refined than the modification based on them. Now those scrolls which I'd planned to use around the arbor look quite clunky.

Elegant is not a term I've used to described my work, or anyone elses, I don't think. But I liked the sound of it. It's akin to the term "quiet sophistication" that I started using several years ago and talk about here. It came about after the completion of Changing Seasons in 2005 (seen here on the right). Changing Seasons was a bit of a breakthrough quilt for me, not only different in style, but in the way it was put together. It was quieter, more subtle than my usual attempts at quilt art, and it jettisoned my usual approach of piecing the design or hand appliqueing. It's not even fused although I had started using some fusing in my work, but with its satin stitched edges, it was a quicker way to design and execute without sacrificing my aesthetic. I remember stepping back to look at it and thinking, "This is what I want to make, work that is sophisticated." See this post for more details about my process.

Two years later, I'm not sure I've made a great deal of progress towards making consistently sophisticated work. That may be part of what prompted me to start a list not long ago. That and a thought that popped into my head unbidden as I paged through a book or magazine of other artists' work: "I want to make interesting work. I want my work to be interesting." Just as unbidden, its opposite quickly came to mind: "I don't want my art to be trite or cliche." Over the next few days, more descriptive words of what I'd like and not like my work to exhibit surfaced. And that is when I thought to start a list, two columns, one to be things to embrace, the other to be things to avoid. I posted it prominently by my sewing machine as a constant reminder, and continue to add to it as thoughts occur.

On the top of the list is that word I've been holding on to since 2005 - embrace sophistication - followed by the more recent things to embrace: interesting work, subtlety, calm, relaxed, and my new favorite, elegance. I can read them off the list like a mantra. Across from them are their opposites and more to avoid: cliches, triteness, predictable work, "punniness", unrefined, frantic and uptight. These too are good to repeat out loud once in a while.

Studying my list, it occurred to me that the things I want for my work, I also want for myself and in some cases am struggling to achieve. And that does make a lot of sense. If someone wants to be the life of the party, a joke teller, then it should be no surprise to see that personality coming out in the person's art, for their work to be full of fun, puns and color. A bit of frantic-ness might work for some, but I seem to do better work with calm, and that makes me more comfortable with my quilts that exhibit a bit of calm. If I'm struggling to feel calm myself, is it any wonder that I can't strike a calmness in the piece I'm working on? If feeling a bit sophisticated when out with friends makes me feel good inside, doesn't it follow that sensing I'd achieved a bit of sophistication in a quilt would made me feel good as well?

My list is just that, my list, and is giving me some insight into my developing personal style. It's a reminder when I stray, full of answers when I'm unsatisfied, benchmarks for critiquing my progress. Not every quilt I make has to adhere to this criteria, but I sense my best work, the work that satisfies me the most, will.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This was such a good day. The heatwave finally broke, complete with much needed rains overnight and again for awhile this morning. I took the next step on the angel quilt, one I've been avoiding because I knew it would be tedious, needing some patience to complete. And when it's hot, patience is hard to come by; shortcuts are actively sought. However, if there's one thing I have learned about this quilt, it's that it will suffer no shortcuts. So with the heat gone and my energy and confidence renewed, here is what I did.

As soon as I decided to add this batik as the side borders, I knew that I should extend the leaves over the seam line. In this picture you can see how the top leaf does this. Look at the lower portion of the picture and you can see the leaf tip "cut off" in the seam. The extended leaf looks like magic - even close inspection might not reveal how this is achieved.

But the magic is just Lite Steam-A-Seam II and a little fussy cutting. A complete leaf is cut out and positioned carefully over the partial one, then fused in place. The reason I like to use this fusible over other brands for this particular technique is because it does not have to be fused to the fabric until the motif is cut out and positioned. How is this possible? Steam-A-Seam is tacky, so it will adhere to fabric temporarily without applying heat. Once the motif is fussy cut, remove the paper backing and this side of the fusible is tacky as well. You can arrange and rearrange your pieces to your heart's content, even on a vertical surface, and they will stay in place. Once everything is exactly where you want it, heat setting with a steam iron makes the bond permanent. Any fusible remaining on the fabric beyond the fussy cutting can be removed leaving no residue.

As for my revelation from yesterday, I found just what I was looking for in my pile of reduced and manipulated patterns from this work day. A reduction of the original side scroll looks to be just what I need to run up those side borders, but needed to be just a touch bigger. So I took the pattern and enlarged it 125% which made it perfect. I'm anxious to make a master pattern of this and cut one from the fabric I think will work for it - see if in reality it does for the design what I was seeing in my head. I'll tackle that tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm sighing a sigh of relief at being back on track and feeling like I know what I'm doing in my studio.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Day Out

Yesterday my faithful dog was at the vet for a little minor surgery so I took the opportunity to spend the day out and about, something I haven't done for a long time. Yes, there were a few errands to run, but I also wanted to incorporate a little "artist date" into it. I've really been neglecting that, coming up with one excuse after another for why I didn't have time or wasn't motivated to stop by galleries, do a little fun shopping or give myself a different view to gaze off into. I didn't want to admit it, but it's been hurting my art, stifling me a bit, making me pulled in and small when I should be open and expansive.

I had about 6 hours to do whatever I pleased, minus an hour for a previously scheduled haircut. Well, I shouldn't dismiss the haircut like that. The gal who cuts my hair is such a character and such a kick, and is so different from me in the way she dresses that an hour with her is always fun and exhilarating. And I always look so good and feel so much better after she's done with me that I hate to go straight home, so usually go wander through some shops or galleries. So even though I packed up my swim gear with the thought of spending the afternoon at the city beach, cooling myself in the lake and reading or sketching, I ended up just eating my picnic lunch there, then heading to main street and those shops & galleries.

I ducked into a used book store to peruse for nothing in particular. I fingered the fabrics, drank in the colors and textures at several clothing stores. I hit several venues displaying Artwalk I works. I've been avoiding this, I realized, because I lost my nerve, talked myself out of submitting anything to this juried show. I won't bore you with the reasons, but because this was the sort of thing I expected to be involved in here, and now wasn't, I'd subconsciously convinced myself I didn't belong in this circle of artists. So I didn't want to go see it and have my suspicions confirmed. Better to go on deluding myself. So went the convoluted logic. But I also knew I'd hate myself if I didn't see at least part of it before it closed, and I was running out of time.

Sometimes, I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to do something, and I'd gotten myself in the right frame of mind to see these works. A lot of variety both in type of media and styles, some things I liked, others not my cup of tea. More than a few that made me wonder how in the heck they were accepted. That was the beginning of the realization that my work really is good enough and appropriate to show with what else is coming out of this area. When I ran across an art quilt, I knew for sure I'd made a mistake. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't spectacular either, and more derivative than original. I was kicking myself all the way out the door. Now if I can just remember this feeling when next year's call for entries appears...

Last stop on my tour was one of my favorites, the local artist coop, Art Works Gallery. Right off the bat, I was drawn to the pottery display of Coeur d'Alene, ID artist Matthew Hulse (Mountain Thrown Studio). There's something about a hand thrown mug that feels different in your hand, and here were several with stylized herons incised into the design. I hefted, I studied, I put back, and continued to the other displays. Deeply rich wood turnings, stunningly beautiful watercolors, soft Alpaca wool yarns and scarves, glittering crystals and stained glass. And then the heron on the mug came home with me. It can be my Monday coffee mug, the symbol of rebirth in my hand to start off each week. (See this post for the heron connection.)

I've been so blocked on this angel quilt, and I've tried all kinds of ways to identify what the problem is, or better yet, the solution. When I awoke this morning with such a clear idea of the next step that had been eluding me, I couldn't help but think yesterday's change of scenery and routine, coupled with relief at getting the dog taken care of, had worked its magic of unblocking me. Perhaps allowing me to risk seeing other's work to assess how I measure up, and finding it to be favorable, also unlocked a fearful part of me, reinstated confidence lost or shaken. Of course, I have yet to try out my idea on the angel quilt. Perhaps I will be as frustrated and disappointed with it as I have other great solutions I've come up with along the way. But I'm hoping that's not the case. I'm so close to being at the end of this project, this particular journey, and I sense it is holding me up, holding me back, having a negative effect on several areas of my life. It needs to get resolved, get out of my face. I need to master it, learn from it and move on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Staying Power

I recently acquired this 1984 edition of The Quilt Digest. This is the second in an annual publication put together by Roderick Kiracofe* and Michael Kile. I'm not sure how many years it was published, but this is the 4th book I have personally run across. A shame that it didn't have more longevity, since the articles in these Digests are so interesting, and perhaps the first stab at real scholarship in the quilting world, coming on the heels of the first state quilt documentation project.

One of the articles in this issue juxtapositions antique quilts with modern ones. Here we have examples of what was then thought of as contemporary, more so than art quilts, even older than the ones I mentioned in yesterday's post here. More of the names are familiar to me: Pauline Burbidge, Francoise Barnes, Terrie Hancock Mangat, Pam Studstill, Chris Wolf Edmonds, Therese May. Their individual styles, for the most part, are recognizable, although many of the colors and some of the themes look dated.

However, I did not find this to be true of one quilt in particular: Diagonal Study II by Jan Myers, copyright 1983 (seen here on the right). As I was ho-hummingly flipping through the pages, not paying attention to who had made the quilts, I was stopped by this one, thinking, now there's a quilt with staying power. Not everyone might agree with me, but the use of color, the flow of the design struck me as timeless. And this, I realize, is the point and the test of good art, that it has staying power, resonates beyond its moment of creation, transcends time.

*RODERICK KIRACOFE was cofounder of The Quilt Digest, produced Homage to Amanda: 200 Years of American Quilts, and authored Cloth & Comfort. He has assembled corporate and private quilt collections across the country and curated quilt exhibits here and abroad. He lives in San Francisco.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nature's Patterns

Not long ago, I paged through this book, Nature's Patterns: Inspiration and Techniques for Quilt Makers, by Joyce R. Becker, for the first time in a long time. Those of you familiar with my current work would not be surprised to find such a title on my shelves. But when I bought this, back when it was first published in 1996, I was just getting my quilting feet under me, doing very traditional work and not incorporating nature themes to speak of in my work. Enamored with nature in general, yes, but working it into my quilts, no.

We were on a trip, I'm thinking it was our first one back to Washington since moving to Wisconsin. Whenever we traveled, we'd find ourselves in bookstores perusing titles in our separate favorite sections. I remember I was kneeling down when I pulled this book out and started turning pages. I don't know if I audibly gasped or not, but I do remember I'd seen nothing like the quilts on these pages, plus there were beautiful nature photographs as well. It included patterns (I'd forgotten that), and I think they impressed me as being too complicated for my current skills. In any case, as much as I found myself wanting that book, I didn't feel I could justify buying it - we were always on a bit of a tight budget.

Well, the old husband must have been watching for awhile. I realized he was looming behind me and I just thought he was ready to go. I quickly showed him the book - look at this, these beautiful pictures, I must have said. "Do you want it?" he asked. "Well," I hesitated, "yes, but I don't really need it, and it's kind of expensive." "Well," he countered, "if you want it, get it." I stood there like a child, not believing he meant it, that I could take this home with me. What a loving gesture, so indicative of our relationship. I swear I must have caressed it all the way back home. I remember it went on my carry-on so I could spend time with it on the plane trip back. It lit up my imagination; it cause me to dream...

So imagine my surprise as I paged through it again and found I hardly recognized a single quilt in it. Worse yet, imagine my puzzlement that so few of the quilts caught my imagination as they had all those years ago, so few of them even appealed to me anymore. Frankly, the only quilt artist represented in this book who's work still sings to me is Karen Perrine. I'm not sure if this is where I was introduced to her, but I do know I've followed her work all these years and she never disappoints me. It is her quilt "River Rocks" that is shown in a close-up on the cover of this book.

I think what's surprising me here is how very traditional many of these quilts are. It would figure that quilts based on traditional blocks and tweaked with an artistic flair would have very much appealed to me at that point in my creative journey. Karen's work made me think beyond that, though. There are a couple other quilts in the collection that still do that, by makers I can find no reference for on the web: "Dreaming Pool" by Rosy Carolan, and "Goldfinches at the Feeder" by Heather W. Tewell. A few names are familiar to me now, still active in the quilt world like Heather: Melody Crust and Barbara Olson. It's interesting to note how their work has evolved, what bit of these older quilts have carried forward.

If I were back in that bookstore today, and picked up this book, I'm not sure I'd even entertain the idea of adding it to my collection. However, there's enough beauty in it still that I will not be getting rid of it any time soon. And it is a graphic reminder of how much I've learned, how I've grown, how my tastes have changed over the years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Little Hand Applique

Ok, I know you're out there; sitemeter confirms people are looking at my posts, yet no one has weighed in on which direction Willow Leaves II should hang. I'm not ready to decide yet, so I started the hand appliqueing of the angel - that under layer that will look like piping once sewn down to the next layer.

I can't remember the last time I hand appliqued something. Definitely haven't since the move - it took me awhile to remember where I'd stashed my needles. I'm using YLI Heirloom #100 silk thread as recommended by Elly Sienkiewicz; I fell in love with it for applique when I was learning to do Baltimore Album style applique. It practically disappears into the fabric, it's so fine. I was again reminded just how long I've been away from applique when I opened my needlecase and was confronted with two lengths of sharps. Mmmm, I know I started with the shorter ones, but then, do I recall I developed a fondness for the longer straw needles? I opted for the shorter length until I got back into the rhythm again. It's amazing how quickly one can forget, and equally amazing how quickly one remembers again. I felt awkward and unsure for the first few stitches, then, once I remembered the unique needle position I learned from Becky Goldsmith, I was off and running as if no time had passed at all. Only the lack of calluses on my fingertips reminded me I was out of practice.

I have almost always found hand work to be soothing, meditative work. I think I needed this slowed down, focused, rhythmic motion today. I've needed to feel more in touch with this quilt, this design process, and holding the angel in my hand, slowly working my way around its features, was most gratifying.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Signs & Symbols

I often see this Great Blue Heron when I make my rounds. At first, I thought it was a rare siting. Now I've come to realize this heron is a regular, coming to roost on the end of a dock near the boat house where the slough enters the lake. The first few time I came upon it, it soon flew off, but now it seems to regard me as harmless. We stare at each other minutes on end, until I finally drag myself away. It's not budging, no doubt, because it's waiting for dinner to swim by.

I've seen it so often lately, almost every day, that I not only have started thinking of it as my great blue heron, but also wonder if it is trying to tell me something. I really do believe in signs, if we are only open to them, so I wondered if herons had any symbolism or mythology tied to them. It turns out that they indeed do. Some believe they are the prototype for the Egyptian Phoenix, symbol of rebirth. This site has a list of animals and what they symbolize. For the heron they list: Vigilance, quiet, power of water, the underworld, tact, delicacy, renewal, life, transformation.

Ok, I don't need to tie this heron to the underworld, but I can accept any of the other ones. My move to this area was in hopes of transforming and renewing my life. I have experienced the power of the water I view each day as I look over the lake. My role according to my landlord is one of vigilance (run off those trespassers!). Quiet and delicacy is something I'd like to see more of in my design work. And tact...we can always use more tact! Yes, I definitely think my heron is trying to tell me something.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Willow Leaves II - Which Way Is Up?

I'm ready to put the sleeve on Willow Leaves II, and was reminded that I'd briefly entertained the idea of displaying it on its side. That is to say, when I stamped on the leaf impressions, I did so with the long dimension running up and down as in Willow Leaves I, fully intending it to be viewed that way. While the leaf placements are similar, I'm not convinced I arranged them as well as I did on the first effort. As so often happens, I was jogged into considering an alternate orientation purely by accident as the top was turned during the course of basting it for quilting. Not only would it make Willow II less of a duplicate of Willow I, I found I liked the look of this particular rectangle (14" x 20-1/2") viewed horizontally. The leaves within it seemed to look better that direction too.

I'd pretty much forgotten about that until yesterday when I laid out the freshly bound quilt and realized I'd lost sight of which way was up. I'm guessing it doesn't matter much since I'm having such a hard time figuring it out, but I think the picture above right is the original orientation. Below is the sideways orientation that I'm leaning towards. Which do you think works best?

As far as critiquing the finished product, I totally misjudged how the batik would read. Willow I's background was a dark grey solid. I thought the batik would be lighter and the painted leaves would show up better on it. I didn't realize how busy it would be, convincing the eye to dwell on it and not the leaves. I didn't improve matters much with the quilting, although I do like it very much. It just needs to be on a quieter background and perhaps the leaves need to be a little more intense in color.

As for the binding, I'm very pleased with the wider green with the yellow piping. (Click on the picture for a larger view.) Normally, I prefer a nice narrow 1/4" binding, although I've used a wider one on occasion, when I felt the piece needed a little more statement on the outside, something to balance it more. I've come to realize that it is the contemporary and art quilts that seem to demand this wider 1/2" binding. While other art quilters are dispensing with a binding altogether, I'm finding I like the way it frames my pieces, almost making the center float above it. It gives a somewhat matted look. A 1/4 inch binding just wouldn't give the same importance or balance to the piece. In fact, after staring long and hard at Grid 3 to figure out why I was less than happy with it, I decided it was because the binding was too narrow. Compare Grid 3 to the wider-bound Grids that preceded it here and here.

Apparently, I've never posted the finished version of Willow Leaves I, so here it is for comparison. Its binding is my standard 1/4" which seemed to add just enough interest around the outside. Still, I'd wondered if the piece wouldn't have been better with a border or wider binding.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Heat Wave

I'm without air-conditioning for the first time in years. I've been managing pretty well keeping the house fairly comfortable by closing it up during the day with shades drawn, running fans when it starts to warm, then opening everything up in the evening when it cools off. The inside thermometer fluctuates between 70 and 81. Outside it's been breezy, a hint of coolness coming off the lake, but still, it is hot - too hot to open up the house.

At 4:15 I went to the kitchen for a glass of water, looked out the window to see what my thermometer was reading and got a shock. Yikes! This is in the shade, on the backside of the house where it is coolest, where in spite of local official temp readings in the 90's, my little thermometer hasn't been up much higher than 83.

No wonder I was sweating...

Putting a Value on Art

Check out this post on Artworld Salon blog. It takes a look at how subject matter affects the value of artwork. It reminds me of the hard reality I learned while taking quilt appraisal classes - on the open market, blue quilts are worth more than red, regardless of any other factor because a blue textile is easier for the collector to work into his or her home decorating scheme. Sheesh.

So, according to this particular list, I can keep water in my quilts, as long as it is calm, but if I'm going to include flowers, best they be roses. And if a dog wanders into the scene - better a purebred than a mongrel. Is that enough of a tease to get you to click on the link?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Learning Curve

Today is America's birthday: potato salad, barbecues, fireworks...

But first, I decided to treat today like a bonus day. That's what I used to do when I had a 9 to 5 job. That extra day off was an opportunity to do something special. And since I haven't exactly been nose-to-the-grindstone lately in the studio, I decided to use my bonus day to learn more about my new machine while finishing up Willow II.

I've been trying out bindings for several weeks now, so today I decided it was time to make up my mind. It took me awhile to figure out why my favorite choices weren't working. All that busy quilting required a quiet binding, and I'd been looking at ones with lots going on in them. Yellow was tempting but pulled the eye away from the leaves. Brown didn't look right with the grey background. But this dull green batik was just the ticket. I didn't want to give up totally on the yellow though, so incorporated it in a narrow piping. Zing! I like it very much.

And I'm liking my machine very much too. Today I learned to wind a bobbin. Then I tried out my walking foot which led to learning how to override the automatic presser foot tension. To be honest, I'm a knobs and dials kind of person, so to have to press menu buttons to access set-up options mildly irritates me, but I'll get used to it. The recommended settings for the walking foot worked like a dream. I'm in love!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Misty-fuse Test Run

I'm slowly working through some technical issues on the angel quilt. I took a deep breath today and fused the angel onto a golden fabric with metallic highlights. I'm hoping to create a narrow glow around it similar to what I did with piping around the arch of the "arbor" but piping was out of the question. I left plenty of this fabric exposed beyond the edge of the angel, unsure just how I'd attach the whole piece to the quilt top. Fusing, of course, was my first thought. Ok, my ONLY thought. But since I was not cutting away this new layer from under the angel, fusing the entire piece struck me as being too much of a good thing. I could cut the fusible to just a thin outline like I did with the angel (see here.) But there would still be areas of double fusing which might be problematic.

This led me to considering a fusible product I've yet had a chance to try - Misty-fuse by Esterita Austin. I've heard rave revues of this sheer paperless fusible and had a pack of it on hand. It's supposed to work particularly well with such non-traditional fabrics as organza so I thought perhaps it would be lightweight enough to use under the entire angel. Then I could trim back my gold fabric outlining the angel and fuse the whole thing in place. For once, I heeded the instructions to test it out first.

Do you remember Stitch Witchery? This may have been the first fusible on the market and had no paper backing like we are so used to now with WonderUnder and Steam-A-Seam II. I ran across some the other day, hidden deep in a drawer for many many years. When I pulled the Misty-fuse from the package, I thought - hey, looks just like Stitch Witchery. Well, it does up to a point. When I compared the two side by side, Misty-fuse is indeed much finer, sheerer, less stiff. However, when I fused up a sample, there was more body or stiffness than I expected. In fairness to the scientific method, I realized I should fuse up identical samples of the other two fusibles, not rely on my faulty memory as to how they worked up. I knew WonderUnder would be stiffer, but I thought my Lite Steam-A-Seam II would be less stiff. My apologies to Misty-fuse. It indeed is slightly less stiff. Still, I felt it was more body than I wanted behind my angel, so I will save it for something else.

The good news is that while I was handling the angel, pondering how to finish off those edges in attaching it to the quilt top, I rolled the edge back to test the effect of just a little of the gold showing. And in that one simple move, it dawned on me how easy it would be to needleturn applique that edge. Eureka! Another option might be to baste it under along the edge of the angel, then machine stitch it to the quilt top also close to the angel, leaving the rolled-under edge free like the piping. What a relief to know how I will handle this now. It frees my mind up to consider those side borders and additional design details.