Saturday, August 30, 2008

Open For Business

I've spent the better part of the last few days setting up and adding product to my cafepress shop, Idaho Beauty's Textile Arts at For years I've used the slogan: " alternative lifestyle" on my business cards and letterhead. I even transfer-printed it on a sweatshirt for myself. I always thought it would be cool to offer it to others in the form of magnets, mugs, sweatshirts etc., and with cafepress, I can.

I've also printed notecards and postcards at home for my own use for almost as long as I've had inkjet printers, using images of my quilts on the fronts. Some of my favorites are quilts I would never sell, even though people have inquired about purchasing them. Once again, cafepress to the rescue. I had one of those lightbulb moments that through cafepress, I could offer these quilts for sale, but in the form of notecards and even framed prints. I've heard good things about the quality of cafepress merchandise, so I'm hoping for good things here.

Right now I have notecards and greeting cards available with my "wisdom" journal quilt on them, and postcards with June! June! Strawberry Moon. You'll have to slog through the slogan merchandise to get to them (but then again, maybe you want a slogan t-shirt ;-}). Go take a look and see what you think. There's an option to sign up for a newsletter which I'll use to notify of new items in the store.

If you've had dealings with cafepress, either as a customer or shop owner, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Time for a Test

Today was a putter day, catching up on paper work to help clear more off the work table. And also the day to set up my test on a product touted to provide UV protection for fabrics. Since Quilt Guard is no longer available, I've not heard any quilter suggest a replacement. So I did some research myself and stumbled upon 303 High Tech Fabric Guard. It's main use seems to be to protect auto upholstery and convertible tops, but can be used on a variety of items and types of fabric. I figured, who besides quilters, are more obsessive about protecting their babies than male car owners! Yes, I'm stereotyping here. It does sound like a bit of magic though, containing no silicone to draw dirt yet protecting from water and stains as well as the sun. I ordered some up.

I think what has been holding me back is that it only comes in a pump spray, not an aerosol spray. I don't feel I have the same control, worry about uneven coverage, getting the fabric too saturated. Actually, the spray bottle has several adjustments and I was able to get a relatively fine even spray after several tries. The directions say to totally saturate the material, which I'm not keen to do. I worry about bleeding and spotting. But the samples got a good soaking just because I wasn't sure what I was doing.

The group on the bottom is untreated. The masking tape should block light so that each swatch will have an unexposed strip for comparison. The top group is thoroughly saturated with 303. The two sheets are now taped to my south facing studio window where they will get both direct sun and strong light most of the day. I'll leave them up for a month and report the result.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Slightly More Exciting

I finished quilting the tie quilt today, and I have to tell you, the conservative in me wasn't altogether sure about that thread choice. Here you should be able to see how it varies. (Click on any picture for a larger view.) When you're quilting through tightly woven hand-dyed fabric and silk, there's no taking out of stitches and doing over. It's next to impossible to get rid of the needle holes. So changing to something else wasn't an option, even if I had a better idea, which I didn't.

Let me also tell you, quilting nice perfect circles is not easy. I fear if Allen were still with us, he would be pointing out numerous places that should be redone. But he's not, and this isn't for competition, so the less than perfect quilting stays. On this full circle block, I decided to do a spiral in the center, starting in the upper left quadrant where it wouldn't show. I didn't want all those starts and stops and having to line them up. I think it worked rather well.

The color's not totally true on this since I took it without a flash, but I wanted to show the overall effect of the quilting, which I like. I think I'll make my peace with the thread color eventually - already it is not bothering me nearly as much as when I started. When I spread this out to take the picture, I suddenly thought how cool it would be to add lines of beads between the rays. That background area is wider than the rays and could stand some stitching. Beads really appeal as they would add additional interest and shine. Well, I hadn't planned on it, but I suspect now that I've thought of it, I won't be happy until I add them. And here I thought I would finish this this week...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not too exciting

I started the quilting on my NY Beauty tie quilt today. Just stitching in the ditch along the arc and point seams. with the walking foot on. At least I didn't default to monofilament thread; on this part I'm using this darker Oliver Twist hand-dyed thread. I'll use a lighter one with more color variation on the open areas. That's for tomorrow.

The basting spray is holding just fine, to my relief. Everything seems to be lying flat and undistorted with no puckers. Let's hope that I don't run into problems when I add echo quilting following the curve of the arcs.

Thanks to everyone who expressed their druthers on binding color. It is unanimous for the orange! This makes me happy, because it is what I felt I should use, but the conservative side of me was afraid it might be too much. I often opt for a "safe" color choice in my quilts that I regret later. No regret this time hopefully.

Monday, August 25, 2008

August TIFC

Today's my birthday, and I didn't want it to be just another Monday doing ordinary Monday things. The plan was to pack my bathing suit, a novel & my sketchbook and head for the city park on the lake, stopping along the way to pick up a huckleberry milkshake. Even a few hours spread out on the sandy beach vegetating, interrupted by the occasional dip in the water sounded like a grand way to treat myself. However, 60 degrees and rain does not a fun day at the beach make. So I've done my best to shun the ordinary, and enjoy my day at home.

And that is how the piece above came about. I let myself get intimidated by the tie quilt Friday. I did get it layered for quilting, but then found myself panicking about how to quilt it. It was the old fear of ruining the piece, fear of picking the wrong thread that would either show up too much or not enough., quilted in the wrong design There was even fear that the basting spray would not hold everything in place (that slick tricot interfacing doesn't stick as firmly as cotton does). So instead I found myself playing with these "off-cuts" left over from the fun tropical project here. They were what was left after cutting a design element and had fusible webbing on them. Couldn't let THAT go to waste. I got as far as determining they really might make a decent design, and picked out the black fabric for the background.

Today it just felt right to finalize the positioning of them and get them fused down. This all plays into my current strategy for clearing my work table - whatever project is on top gets worked on. It was pretty close to next (I really didn't want to start that quilting although I'm not intimidated by it anymore) and in my mind is a good fit for the Take It Further Challenge concept for August: balance. (Read more about it here.)

Attaining balance is an ongoing theme in my life, and in my designing in particular. I often have a very difficult time achieving a good balance when positioning three similar shapes. I'm fairly pleased with how this worked out, even though there was a frustrating few moments when no matter what I did, it didn't looked right let alone balanced. Intertwining some of the elements, and the narrow stem-like strips helped create a flow for the eye to follow. Isn't that just like life? We'd like to keep everything separate, but it is always a balancing act with many facets working to keep it all together. Maybe it's all those Olympic gymnastics I just watched, but I found myself thinking of this piece as "Balance Check."

Once it was fused, I suddenly saw how well running beads along those negative spaces could work. It should be a nice link to the vivid quilting I plan to do in the background, something different, interesting ala Dijanne Cevaal, author of Seventy-Two Ways Not to Stipple or Meander. In fact, I realized that my shapes reminded me somewhat of her pomegranate series, a sample of which you can see here. I really admire her stitching and the way she can take a simple shape and keep it fresh and interesting with so many variations.

Will I finish this by the end of August? I doubt it, especially if I add the beads. But considering I haven't worked on May through July challenges, I'm just pleased it's on its way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Thanks everyone for your positive response to my block arrangement in yesterday's post. Wanda (Exuberant Color) advised: "You finally just have to say "enough" and sew them together." So true and so hard to do, but I knew that was the plan for today. However, I wasn't comfortable with the lower right corner, so I took about 10 minutes this morning to turn a few blocks and am much happier now with the total balance. I didn't want too much symmetry, but I also didn't want any one section to stop the eye with a question of, is that off? I was avoiding making any full circles, I'm not sure why, but as you can see, I added one in that troublesome corner. I turned one other block too. Can you spot it?

Once I said, "Enough!" the blocks went together rather quickly. I decided to press the block join seams open even though some would have been less bulky if pressed to one side. Since there was no consistency in which way the seem might naturally fall, I knew it would only create more problems when I started sewing rows together. Not every seam needed pinning, just those where there were seams intersecting, which accounts for how fast I could sew this all together.

I cut apart one of my late husband's shirts to use as backing. He was quite tall so by sewing the fronts on either end of the back (after squaring things up), The one shirt was just enough. I'll layer it tomorrow, probably spray basting since safety pins will leave visible holes in both the silk and the hand-dyes. I'm thinking quite simple quilting, perhaps even with silk thread: some stitching in the ditch around those points, and widely spaced echo stitching in the frames and centers. No border necessary, and if you look closely at the picture above, you can see I'm already contemplating binding color. I'm very tempted to go with that orange on the left, although there's not enough left. I do have quite a bit of the slightly less intense orange that I can substitute. Or should I go with a dark navy like you see on the right side? Click on the picture for a larger view.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How many ways...

...can you rearrange New York Beauty blocks? A zillion, apparently. I did decide to add another row so pieced 4 more arcs on Saturday, then cut the rest of the frames and centers and got all the blocks sewn together by the end of yesterday. I really thought I'd get this sewn together today, but I couldn't settle on an arrangement. I started moving blocks around before getting dressed this morning, continued rearranging while chatting on the phone with a friend, picked it up again for about an hour between the vet appointment and lunch, then went back to it after lunch. I'm embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent doing that today and I'm still not sure this is my final arrangement. But it definitely is the best distribution in terms of spreading the different fabrics across the top and making sure I didn't end up with two blocks next to each other with the same fabric in them. These things are important to me, although maybe it's not as big a deal as I think right now.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remembering to Enjoy

ARTiculations blog has a great post here about viewing Vincent an Gogh's The Starry Night and being reminded that we sometimes let the seriousness of making art overshadow the sensory pleasure that can be derived from it. A thought from the post:

"We never really talk or ask about the enjoyable side of it. Probably because it makes a serious work seem not-so-serious..."

I know that I often downgrade the value of things I've created if I felt it was more play than concentrated work. I hesitate to share that a piece has come together almost on its own. Hobbyists do things for fun. Artist work and suffer. Right?

What's your perception? How to you handle the fun side of making art?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Coming together

The local radio station as background wasn't going to cut it today. Motivational music of the day? Weather Report, Traveling Wilburys, Stevie Winwood, McCartney. I'm nothing if not eclectic in my musical tastes.

All arcs for the tie quilt are pieced (provided I don't decide to make it bigger than 16 blocks) so today was playing some with pairings and starting to sew units into blocks. These 4 on the right are my very favorites so I started with them while I tweaked the others.
These of course will not show up in the quilt like this - they will be scatter among the less exciting ones. Conventional wisdom advises that not all blocks need by stars, and some of my combinations are definitely a little plain Jane. The orange hand-dye in these give wonderful spark to what would otherwise be a very dull quilt. That's one of the hazards of working with tie fabric - it often is on the dark side.

I may have shown you before how I sew curved seams, but I thought I'd give a brief explanation in case I haven't. First I needed to remove the freezer paper pattern from the back of the arc. Note that I ran a line of stitching along both curved seam lines.

For no particular reason, I pieced the shorter, tighter curve first. Some people can do this with a few or no pins but I'm not one of them. I use lots which improves my chances of coming out with a pucker-free unit with little distortion. I don't usually insert my pins from the outside in but for some reason it seems to work better on the curved seams. Normally I would sew from this side, but my seam line guide is on the other side, so I flipped it over and followed the stitching.

Voila! A pucker-free join!

Now to sew the "frame" to the arc. I used a freezer paper template to cut out the frame, marking the seam line with a pigma micron pen. I poke the pin through matching up my seam lines, starting in the center, then pinning the ends, and finally working my way along the seam. Again, I use lots of pins. The first one I pieced I skimped and ended up having to take out a 3 inch section to fix a pucker and misalignment. The tricot interfacing makes that particularly tedious.

Last step is to press the seams (they naturally press away from the arc) and square up the block to 6-1/2 inches. I completed 6 blocks today, plus cut the remaining frames. I'm pleased with the progress.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Working with Silk

Last week got crazy with a bit of a pet emergency. Things are back to what passes as normal in this household as of today - or at least I hope - but my studio time really suffered. To salvage some of it and distract me with something that wouldn't take much concentration, I went back to working on my tie project, fusing interfacing to the silk and cutting frames and centers. Today I finished fusing the last of the silk. I use a knit tricot fusible that gives stability and prevents fraying without changing the hand of the silk or adding too much weight or bulk. It makes the thin silk handle like the heavier silk and allows me to cut my units any direction, not having to adhere to grain lines. It's a challenge to cut the interfacing to size, having no pattern pieces as a guide. There's probably an easier way, but I just lay the interfacing over the silk (it's sheer enough to make out the edges of the silk) and rough cut the interfacing slightly smaller. I don't worry about the interfacing going all the way to the edge of the silk as I'll be trimming that part off anyway, and it eliminates any worry about fusing overhanging interfacing to my ironing board cover.

I cut more "chunks" for arc points to match up with the ones already cut for the arc background. I still need more parts cut to have everything I need for the remaining blocks, but I felt it was time to start sewing arcs again. It will help me decide what colors to add. So here are the two arcs I pieced today. It took about an hour, but maybe I'll get faster if I make some every day.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


"Bluebird of Unhappiness"
June 2006 Journal Quilt
Sheila Mahanke Barnes

The previous post dealt with whether or not blogs should be used for sales. If you haven't already, be sure to read Lyn Mettler's clarification of her statement in the article referenced. The issue is not as black and white as that article suggested.

Lyn also maintains her New World PR blog here. I found lots of good information about Twitter on it. If you currently Twitter, or are on the fence about Twitter, she may have answers to some of your questions.

Do I Twitter? Only on a personal basis to keep up with a relative I'd otherwise correspond with or talk to much less frequently. Do I want to open my creative self up on Twitter for the hoards to devour? Well, I guess my tone here answers that question! I just can't be "on" 24/7. Somewhere must be a private life to escape to.

The journal quilt pictured above, by the way, was started in a class by Charlotte Warr Anderson. The name partly came from my own unhappiness with both her method and her design - birds like this are not my thing!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Selling through blogs

I spotted an article in Sunday's paper by Kelly K. Spors about using social media to bond with customers, read here:

This was geared toward small businesses in general, and covered the importance of internet phenomena like Twitter, Facebook and blogs to create a presence, interact with customers and the like.

The thing that struck me was, after mentioning the various networking options, it relayed advice from Lyn Mettler of Step Ahead Web Strategies: "'s important that businesses don't use social media to directly try to sell their products." And then quotes her directly: "Clearly, these tools are about being authentic and not selling."

This advice came as a surprise since I am aware of artists who successfully sell art on their blogs and I was considering doing the same. It's not that they don't have separate websites for displaying art for sale - they do. It's not that they are hobbyist - they are fully engaged in trying to make at least part of their living from selling art.

So what do you think? Is it inappropriate or bad business sense to be selling art on a blog? Does it turn you off when a blogger you follow suddenly posts something for sale?

And yes, today's picture is totally unrelated to the topic. It's just that my geraniums are doing so well this year and I know you all like pictures with your posts.