Sunday, October 31, 2010

A break in a dark & stormy day

It was still pouring rain but I realized the sun was out. And then I spotted the big rainbow. about brightening up the day!

Friday, October 29, 2010


I hate it when I get stuck. Nothing looks right, I find fault with everything I do, feel my efforts amateurish, solutions elude me. Makes me wonder why I keep trying. I love it when the creative juices start flowing again. What I questioned looks just fine now, a feeling of competence returns, solutions that have been in front of me all along make themselves known and come together. The difference between the last few days and today as I work through the finishing touches on my Willow quilt.

When I'm in the midst of doubt, I can't always see what is causing it. When I come out of it, it seems crystal clear. I've been struggling with a medical problem that while not serious has given me constant pain to deal with. I do not do well working through pain. It clogs up my good sense, saps my energy, makes me want to give up. I finally got some relief yesterday, and today my approach in the studio has been like night and day, my old confident and interested self returning. Oh please stay for awhile...

It's been a cold, dreary, rainy week. I still get my walk in towards late afternoon, but today I decided on a morning walk before heading to the studio, taking along my camera. Even in cold dank conditions, one can find beauty and inspiration. Look at these raindrops hanging from the ends of pine needles:

At one point I looked up from the needles and spotted these two curling branches through a break in the foliage. Oh, and all the lichen on the branch running through the foreground is pretty spectacular too.

The tamaracks (larches) are what brought me out, though. These pine trees' needles actually turn yellow and drop in the fall, just like deciduous trees. They have just started turning, bringing such a splash and glow to an otherwise ho-hum landscape.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stitch stitch stitching

Enough dragging of the feet, I have begun stitching the willow branches/leaves. It is pretty dense stuff so one thought was to create at least some of them as separate units that could be overlapped and attached with minimal stitching to the quilt top. Here is one sample, testing thread color and technique. I used the Super Solvy stabilizer over tulle, which worked pretty well - no hooping.

Still hesitant to stitch directly on the quilt, I couched some perle cotton as extensions to the appliqued branches.

But ultimately I had to push down my fears and start quilting those wispy branches. The rayon twist thread I chose didn't have enough oomph and while I was wishing I had a heavier one, I remembered the trick of blending two threads through the needle. A dark green rayon was just what I needed to make the lighter green/yellow rayon stand out better. Click on the picture for a larger view to see the quilting in the water.

Here you can see how I laid down the branch, then added the leaves over it. The first batch of leaves are a bit in shadow.

Here I've added leaves that are catching the sunlight. This is a King Tut variegated cotton thread.

Much much much more stitching to do, and I do think I'll be doing more of the stand alone branches/leaves to layer over the quilted ones. I'm definitely going to have some distortion issues here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making use of stolen time

The quilting on Willow is coming along with today being the push day to complete it. However, I got tied up unexpectedly on the phone this morning. And while I enjoyed chatting with the brother I don't hear from often, I couldn't help but think about my deadline. I'm still working out in my head how I'll do the branches and leaves, using the visualizing technique to give me confidence. But doodling works too. So I grabbed the nearest thing with blank space and a lovely aqua pen and doodled away my branches and leaves while catching up on family affairs. Just hoping I can stitch as effectively as I doodle!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Playing to your strengths

This may not have been my smartest move, considering the time constraints, but I decided to hand applique the mountains and tree branches on my piece for the upcoming exhibit. I knew I didn't want to fuse them on, but it was a toss-up whether to applique by hand or machine. Machine no doubt a little faster, but it was those three smaller branches that made up my mind - it would not be worth it to fuss with getting that seam allowance in those sharp v areas securely turned under in preparation for machine applique. Easier for me to needleturn it under by hand. Besides, hand applique is one of my fortes, and I find it most relaxing and enjoyable.

How did I get to this point? I placed some Golden Needles quilting paper over the batik (it's a bit like tracing paper) and started sketching in the mountains, using my photo as reference. Then I added the tree branches. When I was happy with the arrangement, I free cut the mountain sections, using the iron to turn under the seam allowance along the top. Since the fabrics are batiks, the allowance stays under without having to apply starch. I could then slip each piece under the quilting paper to line them up, securing them with pins.

For the branches, I reverted to my old favorite, freezer paper. I traced the branches onto the freezer paper and cut them out on the line to use as templates. Because I had not reversed the image, the freezer paper got ironed onto the right side of the fabric. I cut them out eyeballing a seam allowance, flipped them over and ironed the allowance to the wrong side, using the edge of the freezer paper as a guide. As with the mountains, I slipped the shapes under the quilting paper to position them correctly, carefully removed the freezer paper and pinned into place. As for that three-branch tangle, you can see I just rough cut around the trio and left the freezer paper on top to act as a stabilizer and turn-under guide. I'm using the YLI heirloom 100 silk thread for my appliqueing.

The best part of deciding to do hand applique became clear today when I poked my nose out the door to see how warm it was. Cool crisp fall days are upon us and the sun is very weak, it's warmth even weaker against the breeze, so it really hasn't been warm enough to sit outside. But today, today it was, and I was able to stay out in it for several extra hours after my lunch break on the porch because the work I needed to do on my quilt was handwork. Isn't that what they call a win win?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Can you blame me for being distracted lately when views like these are beckoning just steps away?  The draw-down of the lake has begun, some trees have already lost their leaves, no better example of seize the moment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It Begins...

...with an idea and the inevitable auditioning of fabrics. "Willow" is underway, its size no doubt dictated by how much of the winning fabrics I have.

I've been worrying over those dangling branches, wondering if I have the wherewithal to render them.  Remember my simple little booklets that I tried as a creative warm-up to actual work in the studio?  I played with one before starting the search through fabric, just keying off random words printed on each page, no particular idea or intent in mind.  On the front I found myself mimicking the lines those branches make.  Further on I realized I was developing the motion stitching would take to add each leaf along the whip-like branches.  Thank you, right brain!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Padfolios Galore!

I've just finished the 10 padfolios which are for a commission where I was pretty much given carte blanche to use whatever  fabric I wanted.   This sort of thing always makes me nervous - what if the customer says she doesn't care, but when she sees what I've come up with changes her mind?  This has been made easier for me since the customer is a cousin and anything she doesn't like, I can either sell elsewhere or use as gifts. It has given me the opportunity to print out those photo-manipulated designs and see how well they work in this format.  The top two on the left are just that, while the bottom two use commercial fabric.

All have "quilting" which mainly consists of stitching around motifs in the designs.  I was surprised that most of them could be satin stitched with black thread.  This really saved time.  Some of the flaps were left as is, but some were trimmed to accommodate the design of the cover fabric.  I really like the way the kaleidoscope designs off-center and allow for a curved flap.  The bottom one was fussy cut so the cricket would fall on the flap.  I really like that one.

While inquiring about what types or colors of designs were preferred, I was told half of these are going to men. I'd been wondering if, given the proper fabric, a man might find a padfolio something he would use.  I asked about hobbies or any other info about them that would help me choose a suitable design.  Several are into motorcycles, one's an architect, one loves anything Asian - this sort of information was very helpful. Here are the ones for the cycle enthusiasts.  I'm hoping they see in the cover fabric the curving roads that are a motorcycle rider's joy.

These two are my very favorites.  Can't tell you how long I've had that crane fabric hanging around - enough for a Japanese style jacket that probably won't get made.  The other is one of my designs, I'm hoping one that an architect would appreciate.  It has a black wood-grain fabric for pockets and lining while the crane one has an oriental chrysanthemum print.

I was a bit nervous about the stitching on this one, but really like my thread choice and the waving lines I came up with.  Clicking on any of the photos should bring up a larger version to see detail.

Here are some of the lining/pocket choices.  Each padfolio a little different depending on its outer fabric.

And below is one last shot showing how the collaged kaleidoscope falls on the back of the padfolio.  All padfolios have velcro closures and have been treated with a UV protectant/water repellent product.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Oh, blogger, how I've neglected you these past few weeks - are my readers still there? Do I have a good excuse? Depends on your definition, I suppose.  I've been working away on the padfolios, nothing much to share yet.  They are done except for closures, then I'll share. They have come out well.  But they are only part of the story.  I've discovered I had an ear infection so have been trying to get that cleared up.  And we have had some of our nicest weather, with leaves turning, and it has pulled me back outside.

The landlord has packed up and gone back to the city so I am back on my daily rounds of the grounds, back to having access to the lakeshore.  I've been spending time sitting or standing on the breakwater in meditation, pulling strength from the sun, the wind, the water, and I sense the vision that has been absent most of the year returning.  This is the surface of the breakwater, not new to me, but really seen perhaps for the first time.

October 2010
I've committed to an invitation only exhibit themed Flora and Fauna of Northern Idaho - right up my alley and me without a real idea in my head.  I know I can work with birch trees and willow leaves, but how?  I think I have an idea at last - the huge willow tree down by the breakwater, the one damaged in a windstorm a few years ago, finally speaking to me, and me finally listening.  The only question is whether I can master the technical part of my idea in the three weeks I have to execute it.  Wish me luck!

February 2009