Monday, June 28, 2010

Another Padfolio

I promised pictures of last week's endeavor, so here they are. I find myself amused by my recent fabric choices for these padfolios, considering that the original pattern was designed, not for commercial fabric, but for fabric printed with altered photos or in some other way showing the mark of the artist. Yet, I'm loving the way some of that commercial fabric in my stash works up. In this case, I followed motifs to cut an interesting curve into the flap - my first time deviating from a straight or angled shaping.

And here you can see why - how lucky was I that the flower fell so perfectly centered along the flap?

And when closed, the curve allows another lovely motif to be seen.

I did minimal stitching on this, just picking out some of the designs with a buttonhole twist silk thread in a most wonderful yellow gold. It has a shine to it that plays nicely with the bit of gilt in the fabric - neither of which really shows in the picture. Edges are satin stitched with Oliver Twist Hand-dyed cotton thread. Velcro dots serve as the closure. Click on any picture for a larger view.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's a Moebius!

With the addition of some fringe, this morning I finished my moebius scarf that is really more of a shawl. It came out a little bigger than I anticipated but overall, I am pleased with this pattern. - next time I'll try one size down. Yes, I see more of these in my future.

I also finished up another padfolio today, except for the closure. I bought another kind of magnet to try, but now that it's home, it seams a little thick. I may just go with velcro again on this one. Pictures to come...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

It occurred to me that I reference my mother quite often here, but not my father. Different sort of relationship that struggled a bit. Dad knew how to deal with his boys, but then this little girl came along, and he was at a bit of a loss. Well, if nothing else, he could teach me to fish, and we spent many weekends walking and driving along the rivers of Montana. This is one of my favorite pictures of him, taken in April 1977 long after I'd left home and no longer accompanied him on these fishing expeditions.

Didn't matter the weather, dad liked to go on these trips and practically refused to come home without at least one fish. He didn't like being outfoxed and he didn't like easy catches. He particularly like snagging cutthroat trout because they were such fighters. The fish in this picture, according to the back, is "Dad's prize catch - biggest ever Dolly Varden Trout, 23-1/2" nearly 5 lb, on fly pole with night crawler. Near Cascade camp, Clarksfork River, Montana, St Regis Cutoff." See, that reference to the fly pole is important. Others fished that river with spinning rods & lures set up to handle the larger catches. Using a regular pole and worms was much more challenging in Dad's estimation.

Dad was at his fishing best later in the season when he could use that fly pole as it was truly intended. He'd don waders, tie on a dry fly and feed out the line while rhythmically whipping the pole back and forth ala scenes out of "A River Runs Through It." And then he'd land that fly perfectly to float under overhanging branches shading a hole he just knew held a fish or two. And he was usually right.

So here's to you, Dad.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bonnie Griffith Pastels

As always, ArtWalk was well attended and I really enjoyed the energy as I visited the various venues. I also realized I need to get downtown more. I discovered two new galleries and wondered when another one I'd been in last summer had vacated its highly visible corner location. Here's my friend Bonnie in front of some of her beautiful pastels.

And here's a little 4 x 6 pastel she presented me as a gift. I'm a lucky girl.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dreary Day Progress

Yesterday was another cold, rainy, dreary day, so not only did more knitting get done, more machine quilting got done. In fact, here is the string quilt all quilted and ready for binding. I know, I know, you can't really see the quilting so here's the back::

When I first got my Viking Sapphire and saw the programmed curvy stitch represented as a quilting stitch, I admit I scoffed. But now I am unscoffing. I really like how it has worked on this particular quilt and the back looks really cool.

Today has been a much better day - not a lot warmer, but sans rain, and with the occasional sunbreak as you can see from the pictures above. Plus, my Walla Walla pastel artist friend Bonnie Griffith is in town for the opening of ArtWalk. I passed on ArtWalk this year, but Bonnie gamely applied and was accepted. See her work at the Panhandle Bank - the same venue I exhibited at last year. I met her for lunch today, we viewed the "Found Objects" exhibit at the Power House, and then I brought her home to see some of my art. Now I'm off to go see her exhibit and the rest of ArtWalk. Yes, a better day indeed!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moebius Knitting

I said I needed something to kind of tweak my imagination and this Moebius knitting is doing it. It boggles my mind even as I knit round and round and watch it happening. You are knitting from the center out instead of the usual one end to the other, knitting both outer edges at the same time. In the picture above, you can probably easily see that I would be knitting around the outside of the circle, but at the arrow where I indicate the cables cross, I suddenly am knitting along the inside of the circle, which now flips to become the outside circle. Technically, this scarf that I am making will have only one side - the method creates a continuous Moebius loop or band.

I'm using directions and pattern from Cat Bordhi's book Treasury of Magical Knitting. The picture above is from the book and shows a little better the way the circular knitting needles are set up. The point where the cables cross is where the magic happens.

This illustration from the book shows how to take a strip of paper and turn it into a Moebius band by twisting, then joining the ends. One could knit a rectangle, make the twist and whip stitch the ends together to form such a scarf, but where's the fun in that? This method is absolutely seamless and I rather like the way it is working. Love the bamboo tipped needles as well.

The dreary wet day has lent itself well to a bit of this knitting, and it also encouraged me to put in some time at the machine continuing the quilting on the string quilt. But seriously, I'd rather have the sun back. If I promise to keep working, will you come back please?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Poppies & Peonies

We may at last be breaking out of our gloomy cold rainy cycle into something akin to spring, if not summer. Such a gorgeous warm day today that I spent quite a bit of it sitting on the porch reading, walking the bike trail, pulling a few weeds and sketching. Yes, still suffering from a bit of attention deficit. Should not be entertaining ideas for more quilts, but this one has been knocking around in my head for 2 years and knocking particularly loudly the last few weeks as the poppies and peonies inspiring the color scheme have come into bloom once again. The fabrics were set aside long ago, and the orange in particular is in short supply, so some experimenting with colored pencils rather than fabric seemed in order.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sussing out the problem

I think a year is long enough for a top which is pinned and ready for machine quilting to sit, don't you? It's been another one of those lingering projects on the work table I keep thinking to work on and irritating me when I find reasons not to. Since I'm having a tough time anyway with the next steps on the small pieces, I knew this was something I could dive into and see results and progress. The only decision to make was thread, and it didn't take me long to zero in on a multi-color Aurofil that came compliments of my mother-in-law when she gifted her quilting stash to me. Just by chance, the setting of the blocks allowed me to start my diagonal stitching through the center of them in one corner and continuously quilt all the diagonals that read as sashing until I came out in the opposite corner. Each time I crossed a line of quilting, I had the satisfying proof positive of progress. The stitch is a modified pre-programmed "quilting" stitch that I've elongated. The backing is also from the MIL and is a chambray that nearly went to Goodwill - at the last moment I realized it'd be perfect for this quilt. You can see that the subsequent rows of quilting will parallel the first laid down, spaced about 1-1/2" apart. I completed about a third of it today I think, making my way around the outer triangles and completing 2 full blocks at one end.

This may be a diversion from what I should be doing, but I think part of the cure for what ails me is getting used to sitting at the machine again for extended periods of time, finding the rhythm to turning and shifting the bulk through the machine, forcing myself to focus and keep working beyond an hour or two. I didn't used to have this short of an attention span, and know from past experience that one has to work up the stamina for longer productive stints just like an athlete builds stamina by going a little farther each workout. I can also tell that the right side of my brain likes this kind of activity so that it can work on the solutions eluding me on those other more creative pieces.

I think I know what else is ailing me, dampening my artistic enthusiasm. I see so much bad art, or at least questionable art, being touted as good art, and sense that much of what I make may fall into that category as well. It's difficult to muster the enthusiasm to do the work when the outcome of the work doesn't seem to warrant the effort - more bad art in an already crowded market of bad art. It's nice to have people enthusiastic about my work, but I am well aware of the weaknesses in much of it and don't care to be praised for what is not praiseworthy, or at least has lots of room for improvement. I have those moments when I think/know I've created a really good piece, but get frustrated when these feel the exception and not the rule. It was in this mind set that I ran across an interview with Regina Benson (Quilters Newsletter - April/May 2010) and this section which seemed to speak directly to me:

"She is quick to point out, however, that mastery of a technique is not immediate, and that within every perceived failure are the seeds of future success. Regina believes that personal commitment and persistence will overcome the initial setbacks encountered as part of the learning process. 'Too many of us dabble in a variety of techniques just enough to make some interesting marks and then rush to sew pieces together in some random fashion or in a way we just learned in the last workshop. We need to have greater control over our techniques and design skills so that when we choose to make work, it is the product of intentional creativity and sparkles with mastery.'"

Oh, yes. I am always grateful when a successful quilt artist boldly demands technical mastery and design skills, commitment and intent. And I know that is part of my problem. I can fairly confidently sit down and work on traditional quilts, confident in my mastery of the skills needed for that type of work, but I have not been at this art quilting stuff long enough and persistently enough to gain the same kind of control. It's what causes me to stare blankly with no idea of how to proceed. It's what leads me to make the same disappointing decisions time and again. When it works and magically comes together, it is the best feeling in the world. But I often don't really understand how I got there, and I'm the type of personality that needs to know. Benson had reminded me that I have only been dabbling, not focusing on the learning process very seriously. She reminds me that growth is dependent on perceived failures and that every experience can be a stepping stone to better understanding. There must be trial and error to discover what works and what doesn't but then there must be that persistence to hone the discovery into mastery, to complete the learning process. Ok, I see I need to focus less on the outcome, and be more bold in the trial and error part. Then I need to learn from the experience, repeat it until what I learn is near second nature, and build upon it. I knew that. I just needed to be reminded.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Glacial progress

I'm making some headway, slow forward movement, incremental progress, getting a handle on one design while being flummoxed by the other. But at least I'm in there. This is my final arrangement of the pieces over the painted Misty Fuse ironed to the background. And here is where I'm flummoxed. I have a vague notion of a quilting strategy, got out a bunch of threads to audition.

I feel it needs punching up and thought to get out my Joen Wolfrom 3-in-1 Color Tool to see what the color wheel thought I should do. I'm liking the idea of adding some green, and a brighter, almost red fuchsia. And now that I'm not focusing on the Little Rogue challenge piece, I keep gravitating back to it. I've been testing fusibles, sealants and glues on the organza and a poly sheer of some kind...

...because I'm ditching the idea of manipulating a fabric into folds and leaning towards undulating strips of organza. The problem now is how to attach them. That poly sheer (which I like so much better than the tulle) frays like crazy, and the organza will too if the cut gets too close to true. How much stitching do I want to show, to create a hard line, to mash things down? How can I allow the organza to float, and not float away? If I can seal the edges, I think a few well placed beads might be the answer.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Smiling at my horoscopes again

I've gone quite awhile with the horoscopes not making any sense. Then in the last week I've had two that are pretty right on. First from Freewill Astrology:

How skilled are you at getting things done and making things happen? This is different from just being busy; It's not the same as scrambling around attending to whatever tasks are at the forefront of your attention. I'm talking about actually cranking out excellent results that manifest a comprehensive vision of your intentions. I'm talking about working hard and smart to serve the big picture, not working frenetically and mechanically to rid yourself of nervous mental energy. You're in a phase when these themes are especially important, Virgo. Be a master of the details, don't let the details master you.

I'm trying, I'm TRYING! I love that part about "comprehensive vision of your intentions." I also think of "intentions" as "plans" and often say to myself, no wonder you're so lost- you don't know where you're going, you have no master plan.

And now yesterday's horoscope out of the local newspaper:

Mars, the planet of energy, moves into your sign. Focused, you could change a lot in the next few months.

Yeah! Boy, one thing I have lacked the last few weeks has been energy - just sapped right out of me. But this week I feel the energy returning, and now I know why, if one believes in these things. Mars, it's about time you showed up. And isn't "focus" my resolution word for the year? I'd let that slip my mind, and it is so obvious I lost most of my focus when I was sick in March, and I really haven't gotten it back. I feel more capable of focus now too. Time to Focus!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Breaking the break

It doesn't look like much, but this is the beginning of a creative battery jump. While I took a break from my quilting, I'd filled some of the time with a major slide scanning and uploading project. I've had that big metal box of slides sitting out for months, waiting for me to say it finally had some priority. What better time to deal with it than when feeling lukewarm about my quilting? I hadn't realized how heavily it had been weighing on me; now that it is done, my energy for a quilting project surged back and I opened the studio door for the first time in over a week. I was headed for the misty fuse which got some paint.

I had a bit of an urge to tackle the Rogue River piece too, but sometimes a good way out of a slump is with something totally new. This idea has only been playing in the back of my mind a few weeks. Perhaps you recognize these shapes and fabrics - the background is the same as for the Rogue River challenge and the rest are some cutouts that did not get used in Lights of Las Vegas. I love the squiggles and had set them aside for future use - I just knew something would come to mind. Once laid out, they reminded me of primitive dancing figures - already this is going in a slightly different direction than I'd originally thought.

There'd been some issues with fraying with the non-batik fabrics, so the back-of-the-mind thinking had pondered how to secure them to fabric. It's a pain to add fusible web to a pre-cut shape (although I have done it in a pinch). My mind wandered over to the idea of laying down fusible web over the entire background., letting the part not covered by fabric become part of the design. I'd played with painted fusible web a long time ago, noting what I did and did not like about it, and always meant to revisit the technique to try a possible solution to one of my dislikes. Here was my chance. I wanted to see if I'd get a less shiny, less plasticky look once fused if I used a different paint. This time I tried the ink-like Dye-Na-Flow in Midnight blue. I'm not that thrilled with the color - it reads a bit greyed and a bit brown - but I'm not adverse to the way the web of the fusible looks.

My piece of Misty Fuse wasn't big enough to span the width of the background, so another piece has been cut and painted. We'll see where this goes - I think it is heading in a good direction. And I think getting moving on this might be partly due to this recent post of Olga's. As I said in my comment, it reminded me how many steps there are from the initial spark of an idea to the culmination of the completed piece. Often where we end up bears no resemblance to where we began, or just faintly so. When I stall out, I realize later that it is because I've expected it all to be clear from the beginning and track perfectly to my original vision. I fail to acknowledge the many steps that need to lead me along different tracks to a more inspired ending.

I loved the response I got from Olga today - it is so true as what I'm working on right now shows: "What I find constantly amazes me is how we keep all those stashes of things taken into the the brain in disparate fragments, and are able to slot them together when the right bit of input comes along to make something quite other. Magic - and great fun." Yes, indeed - fun! If it isn't fun on some level, it's a real shame.

A side note about Misty Fuse - the more I work with it the more I dislike it. I have certain expectations based on the ravings of others, and it never lives up to them. So I was happy to sacrifice it to this experiment. However, I have discovered one thing to like. I had a small painted piece of it I'd set on top of the background fabric just to see how it would read. Somehow in the process of shifting fabrics around, it ended up between my ironing surface and the background fabric when I fused the larger piece to the top. As I pulled up the fabric, I discovered that small piece fused to my cloth ironing surface. At least the background fabric pulled away from it leaving just a few specs of the fusible. I wondered if I could remove any of it if it was still warm, and this is the part I suddenly liked. Since Misty Fuse doesn't adhere by virtue of adhesives, I was able to "roll" it off with a plastic scrubber and my fingernail. No sticky gunk remained. I really didn't want to have to replace that June Tailor Cut & Press.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Fork in the road...

My creative journey has stalled as of late (as if you hadn't noticed), and I've found myself retreating to a slightly more secure world of knitting and crocheting. Prayer shawls have been my mindless focus, mindless only in the designing, problem solving aspect, not in the purpose that goes into them. Knitting & crocheting were two of the first handcrafts I learned (self-taught of course), and I get the same peace from the rhythm of the stitching as I do from hand quilting. And I know plenty of quilters that avidly knit, so I know I am in good company.

I've long since quit watching quilting shows on PBS and HGTV - not that they aren't good, but just that they hold few new ideas or techniques or inspiration for me at this stage of my development. However, I have noticed some knitting and crocheting programs airing on Saturday morning, and because of my self-taught background, I find myself fascinated by them. The fascination ranges from, oh good, I've been doing that right, to, wow- that is really amazing. I have the urge to do something more interesting than the basic stitches suggested for the shawls, but am not committed to trying something really complicated. And yet...

When I stopped at the library to pick up the Lee Child book I'd requested, I wandered not to the quilting or surface design section as I normally would, but to the knitting section. Each of these books had at least one pattern that intrigued me and demanded more contemplation. There are so many beautiful yarns out there, a few skeins of which I already have. I guess I need something quite different to stimulate me, like the time I took the basket weaving class. Perhaps this is the jump start my journey needs.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

If only I could...

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."
-Lao Tzu, Chinese philospher