Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Back when I was working on the Little Rogue piece, I'd gone down to the City Beach for a walk.  When I returned to the car, this feather was resting on the windshield.  I've never seen anything  like it, was really intrigued by that bright red shaft.  Anyone know what kind of bird it may have come off of?  It felt a bit prophetic, as if it was presenting itself for me to "float" on my fabric river, so I took it home with me.  Totally unsuitable for the art quilt that emerged, but I still wanted it around for inspiration.

Weeks later when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it.  I remembered placing it in one of the shopping bags in the car, so naturally, I now feared it had not made it out and was now long gone.  But today, while searching under a stack on a side table, it magically reappeared! It seemed a sign that this would be a good day...and it has been.

I now have it up on one of my boards in the studio, where it should have gone immediately in the first place.  I'm working on padfolios - trying an assembly line approach to making multiples rather than completing one at a time.  I do think it is speeding up the process.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"What If" Exhibit


"Lights of Las Vegas"

"Dance" and "Lights of Las Vegas" make their public debut tomorrow at the opening of Pend Orielle Arts Council's exhibit, "What If."  From POAC's press release:

The opening reception for the Pend Oreille Arts Council's newest art exhibit will be held Friday, Sept. 24, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the POAC Gallery at the Power House, 120 Lake Street in Sandpoint. The 8th annual show of its kind, "What if…" exhibits artwork created by over 40 artists in this area who are all members of the Pend Oreille Arts Council (POAC).
"This show is always a community favorite because it truly showcases the talent and creativity of our local member artists," says Joanie Renkert, show coordinator and POAC board member. "With 'What if…' as the theme, we encouraged the artists to finish that sentence - with their artwork. The work is so varied and imaginative, there is something for everyone and every taste."

This is an excellent opportunity to view the breadth of artwork made by artists in our community. An array of works including paintings, sculpture, photography, mosaic and pottery will be exhibited. Artists from Sandpoint, Sagle, Clark Fork, Bonners Ferry, Priest River and other neighboring communities will participate.

The opening reception is free and the public is encouraged to attend. "What if…" will remain on display through November 26. For more information, contact POAC at 208-263-6139 or visit ArtinSandpoint.org.

I dropped off my entries yesterday and they immediately hung them, pretty much the same spot as my work was hung in the last exhibit - a very good spot.  Because these two have similar colorings and use some of the same fabrics, they look quite good together, and the natural lighting really sets them off in a way I don't see in my studio.  One of the helpers commented on how the light zigzags in Las Vegas just jump out, and indeed they do.  I'm happy and looking forward to the reception tomorrow night.  If you manage to make it, please look for me and say hello!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Custom Design Fabric

I'm ramping up to make more padfolios so have been printing out some of my photo-manipulation designs for the outside. This proved to be a slow process, partly because I disabled the fast printing mode. With the fabric ironed to freezer paper, a slower speed causes fewer problems. Even so, there were a few spots where fabric separated from freezer paper and turned back on itself as the print head passed over. No jams, but I needed to stand by in case of a problem. Some printed exactly as I expected but a few did not, and I'm not sure why. No matter, I think they are all usable in some form or another.

Look at that sun! It was a gorgeous day, starting cool but warming up enough to enjoy lunch out on the porch. I even opened some windows, a treat after the cool rainy weather we've been having. Seize these days, because they are sure to be few.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Dance is done. Not my best work, and in hindsight, I can see what I should have done to achieve my vision. But I am happy enough with the conclusion to wrap this up and move one, lessons learned. Finished size 15" x 17".

In my last post about this, I said I'd be looking for a border fabric that would help pull the dancers off the background. I kept thinking something strong and dark, like a navy, would do that. I was quite surprised that it did not, and so moved on to greens and purples. Again, mostly strong colors that just weren't doing it. What I should have realized was that in order for the dancers to pop a bit more, the border needed to be muted, and this rather odd batik definitely plays the background role that was needed. It is very muted, with some of the same coloring as in the dark dancer fabric, yet there are tinges of the plum as well.

I used Thermore polyester batting in this, a thin drapey batting that extended far enough beyond the quilt top to accommodate the border I wanted to add. But because of its lack of body and quilting stitches out in that area, I was worried about stability and rippling edges in the finished piece. I'd decided to add the border with a modification of the "magic miters" method used here. This approach constructs the border separately, place it right sides together on the back of the quilt, seaming all around, then turning it to the front and top-stitching the inside edge through all layers. In this case, I didn't want to do the outside seaming because of the exposed batting. I also wanted to add stiffening for that stability I felt I needed around the outside. So I made the frame, cut Strips of Decor Bond 1/4 inch narrower than the frame, mitered the ends and fused them to the wrong side of the frame. Now I had both a smooth firm edge to turn the inner seam allowance over as well as the binding that would finish the outside edge.

The top was squared up to the same outer dimensions as the frame, the frame arranged on top with edges matching, pins held it all in place while I ran a line of stay stitching around the outside. It was at this point that I was sure my frame fabric choice was working as I hoped it would.

Now that the edge was secured, I pinned the inner edge in place and topstitched with Oliver Twist cotton hand dyed thread - a very subtle variegated muted plum that went so perfectly with that odd batik.

Yes, this would have looked very nice with a knife edge finish, but as I said, I couldn't manage easily with that exposed batting along the edge - this is what happens when you don't plan far enough ahead in the design process. I'm not adverse to bindings though, and I decided that a very narrow one in a slightly darker fabric would make a neat and tidy finish. I was shooting for 1/8" but as you can see, it fell somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4. The fabric is the same as that used for the dark dancers. I thought that was a nice tie-in.

So what is some of my hindsight? I can see now that if I wanted to give the look of woods and a bonfire in the background, I should have dealt with that before fusing on the dancers. I could have achieved the glow of flames either with paint or with thread and foresty things with applique shapes or possibly thread, but once the dancers were in place, I simply couldn't work in those small spaces to get the effect. Someone else might have been able to, but I could not. I also think I should have fused the dancers to a dark, possibly black fabric first, trimming it back to 1/8 inch or so before fusing the whole thing to the background. That would have given each dancer the definition they lacked, that the black thread outline stitching just couldn't provide.

I must remember too that I didn't really like working with the Misty Fuse and other fusible as an exposed layer. It made everything so much more difficult, always having to remember it had to be covered with parchment whenever the iron was nearby. It was worth experimenting with but I think I won't be using it much that way again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Nephew's Block

Time to make another block for nephew Ben's Freedom Quilt (#14), and I confess: I took the lazy way out. I know not all of you would consider this cheating, but I do, just a little. Still, I am so pleased with the results that it doesn't matter.

Ben had been on a very restricted diet once it was determined he had many food allergies that were effecting his ability to focus and calm down. This year he was retested, and it was determined he'd grown out of these allergies. So, many favorite kid foods once denied, he now can enjoy with abandon. I was told two of his favorite forbidden foods that he can now eat are chocolate milkshakes from Arby's and pizza. I had my theme for this year's block! I found some images on the internet, thinking I would print them on transfer paper or directly on fabric, then cut and fuse them to a background fabric. I wanted to add a caption to clarify the theme so was also thinking what font I could use that would make cutting out the individual letters easy. As I was cutting and pasting in my Corel Paint Shop Pro program, it occurred to me I could compose my design right there and print it out as wholecloth. While I was toying with what color fabric I could print directly on, I realized I could add a color background right there in Paint Shop Pro. Too bad I couldn't do something that might look like a tablecloth, you know, checkered or something. Oh look! Paint Shop Pro has textures you can choose from. This one is some kind of mosaic and just what I wanted. So yes, even the background fabric for my "appliques" is composed on the computer . I printed out the finished design on the Epson Workforce 1100 pigment ink printer.

I composed the center at 8-1/2" and added strips around the outside cut at 2-1/2". The half-square triangle units in the corners were some stored away in one of my infamous shoeboxes. Not sure what project they were left over from, but it is always nice to make use of leftovers this way. And so another 12" block is on its way to the birthday boy. Go here to see the block I made for Ben last year.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Plums ripening, leaves turning

Technically, it's still summer...

...but signs of autumn are already upon us.

I'm not ready...

Monday, September 06, 2010

What do you bring?

This is from an interview with Laurie Anderson in the July/August 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine (read full interview here.) I think she is spot on, if only because I think what she describes is what I aspire to:

What qualities must an artist bring to her work regardless of the era, medium or technology?

I would just say one word—openness. And you could also say awareness. That’s what I treasure in other people’s work—when they create something that makes you go, “Whoa, I never saw that.” In a way, what artists really do is extend your senses and your awareness of things. For me, the making of stuff—the creation of artworks—is not really to the point. The point is to experience things more intensely. I hear people commenting that culture is dying, but it’s not true. People are making lots of fantastic things. You don’t know about it, that’s all. It’s really hard to squash artists. They keep appearing and making things.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Choosing Threads for Dance

I've been quilting along on Dance, rather enjoying the process which is not always the case with me and machine quilting. Yet the results have been frustrating. I chose a red/yellow variegated cotton thread to outline my dancers, thinking, yes! That is making them stand out and dance. Then I used a multicolored rayon thread in the background, thinking it too was doing its job without overpowering the dancers. Pretty pleased...until I put it up on the design wall and stepped back. I can't believe it - I am dealing again with a design that looks dull and flat and what I am doing to bring it alive isn't working. The dancers still just sit there and you can't see the background stitching at all. I went back in with black thread around the outside of the dancers, thought, yes! That really helped. But guess what? It didn't. (Click on picture to see detail.)

So I mulled this over for a day, despairing that I didn't have the right thread color to fit the bill, considering if paint could solve my lack of definition problem, even working up a sample using different paints. Nothing seemed right. I was about to add some strong yellow rayon thread, and wishing the red rayon was stronger and more orange when I remembered my experiment with thread blending. That is the technique of stitching with two different threads through the eye of the needle so that they create a new color. I tried a sample of the red and orange together, and now I had the stronger (and heavier) color I was looking for.

I didn't bother to remove the background quilting I'd already done - there were places where the red actually showed up - just stitched additional waving lines that intertwined what was already there. If you click on the picture, you should be able to see the difference between the area around the dancer on the left and the added stitches between the other dancers.

But those dancers were still fading a bit into the background, so I added another line of stitching next to the black, this time with the yellow rayon thread. It's still a very muted piece (and the background color in these photos isn't reading quite true), but I think this additional stitching has improved it a lot. This experience reminds me once again how very timid I am when it comes to choosing thread colors for my quilting although they seldom strike me as timid until after the fact. I've begun auditioning fabric for a narrow border/wide binding, and I think the right choice here will do the final job of pulling those dancers off the background.