Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's that?

Still muddling about with organization (setting things straight for impending company as well as organizing and weeding out files and e-mail on the computer), still pondering next steps in either art quilt idea waiting for me. But what's that I hear, that muffled voice emanating from a closet in the studio? Ah yes, it's the 1/2 square triangle quilt all layered and pinned for machine quilting, stuffed away when all that other quilting of the last few months took precedence. Well, I said I was going to heed the call of whatever was calling, and it's been on my mind to get it quilted during this summer lull, before I get swept up in deadlines and responsibilities again. Frankly, all I want to do today is sit at the machine and sew. No planning, no designing, no decision making, just sewing.

Well, I did have to make some decisions before putting this under the needle but only two: thread and how to quilt those seams that have no ditch since I ironed the seam allowances open on them all. I thought I'd be using invisible thread, at least on the top. Something urged me to find a sturdy thread for the bobbin (this quilt will be snuggled under and washed), and I liked how this peachy beige read across both fabrics in the backing. It's Connecting Threads "Essential" 50 weight cotton thread.

To my surprise, I liked it on the top too, so bye bye invisible thread. As to dealing with the ditchless seams, I'm just quilting a few threads away from them using a walking foot, figuring that once done and washed, the batting will be fluffing enough to mask the inconsistencies. And I do like the look of the thread showing. Now back to the machine...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One-time Obsession

My art group is interested in trying out the method of dyeing fabric that my friend Judi Kane and I used, so I will be leading a dye session at next month's meeting. I haven't actively dyed fabric for maybe 15 years so have been boning up this week, getting into the box holding my books and dye records. Gee, do you think I had an interesting in learning how to dye fabric? And this does not include the other books I own devoted to marbling, stamping and other surface design techniques. I read and research but frankly, haven't done much past the first few experiments. But every time I get the books out, I can feel the excitement building. By making me get back into my dyeing stuff, the girls may have started something. And if not them, then Judi, as she passed on all her dye powders, chemicals and pdf pfd fabric to me before she herself passed. Damnation, you sneaky friends!

For all the different methods of dyeing I looked into, what Judi and I ended up using was Adriene Buffington's book Hand Dyed Fabric Made Easy, and that led us to so much dyed fabric and more things we wanted to try that Judi decided we needed to start selling it. Thus K-B Obsessions was born (get it? Kane and Barnes and boy were we obsessed). I'd had my stint in retail and wasn't crazy about getting into it again, but I agreed to help Judi get a business off the ground, helping to develop recipes, set up a numbering system, designing our logo and packaging system. Judi handled the bookkeeping and provided the space for dyeing as well as the freer spirit to create the beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces that I was a little too uptight to do well. I was more comfortable dyeing up the gradation packs using the recipes that would assure we could duplicate a color on request. We both dyed and processed and packaged and sat at quilt shows hawking our wares. 

It was a pretty good match that balanced out our strengths and weaknesses, but oh, it was so time consuming. I found I had little time for the more meticulous "one of a kinds" I enjoyed experimenting with before becoming a business (see examples above) or to make quilts from the beautiful fabric we were creating.

Miniature Pineapple Quilt of K-B Obsessions Hand-dyed Fabric

So once the business was fairly established, I bowed out, occasionally helping Judi vend or making up a sample for her booth in exchange for more fabric and her continued friendship. Although the days were long, we really enjoyed traveling together to those quilt shows, spending an entire weekend together while getting a chance to show off our merchandise. And that is why we were pretty sure we could make a go of the extended time in Rochester last year, looked forward to spending some quality time alone again. It had been way too long since the co-conspirators had hung out together. Yes, we both wish it had been under better circumstances, but we couldn't help saying with a certain amount of glee..."ROAD TRIP!"

Judi & me on my birthday in 2000, shortly after she took over the business

Judi & me on my birthday in Rochester last year

Monday, July 22, 2013

Old and New

In what sometimes feels like another life, this was the sort of quilt I was focused on making - traditional designs using reproduction fabrics. I still love the look of these, love pulling one over me in the evenings, still have yards of reproduction fabric if I ever get the yen to make more. They are generally less stressful for me to work on so I keep the fabric and the design ideas in case I want a break...or need a gift...or even let my art quilting take a turn to include a bit of them. This is the one I mentioned needed broken quilting stitches mended and it is now all better.

So with that out of the way, I ponder what to work on this week, as I do seem to want to start on something new - a beading project or another "Rochester" inspired design. But dang...last week this thing popped into my head during yoga class, a simple idea that could have so many variations to it. "Go away!" I want to tell it. "I have two good ideas already in the queue..." And the more I look at it, the more I recognize its links to my traditional quilting roots. Well, we'll see who wins. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Still Puttering

I've nearly wrapped up my documenting of my last projects and filed away fabric and scraps from them. After finishing the last one and getting the exhibit up at the bank, my only thought was that it's summer and I want to take a break. An antique reproduction quilt whose quilting had failed along many grid lines has made it to the studio for repair - that's the sort of thing I envisioned myself working on if I worked in the studio at all. I'm enjoying perhaps too much the lazy afternoons on the deck with my thick novel and walks along the lake. To my surprise, though, just being in the studio tending to paperwork and straightening up makes me aware that I may not want a vacation after all. Something's calling to be worked on, I'm not quite sure what, but the subconscious part of me apparently is ready to get back to work.

Also calling has been the Zentangles. I certainly have not been doing a Zentangle a day as I once was, in fact, have not done one since April, even though the sketchbook I've given over to the drawn-in properly-sized squares and my pen lay out in plain view. Today I finally succumbed, and was reminded how much I enjoy the movement of pen on paper. Filling in the spaces with rhythmic strokes soothed and relaxed. It's too bad that, rather than fit this act that gives me a feeling of well-being into my daily routine, it gets shunted aside. I so easily convince myself I cannot afford the time most days.

Now that I do not have books giving me prompts, I've experimented with some rather rigid divisions of space, varying the tangles while the divisions remain the same. Back in April I tried using the "tile" as a frame, one with a circular "window" in the center looking out on a little scene (see here). It gave me the framework I need to get going and ample opportunity for variations on a theme. I really liked working in sepia and will be doing more of that in my button booklet. The cat came from a catalog, reminding me that my central scene could spill over the edge of the circle. That's what I tried today with some success. Will be trying it again. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Today seemed a good day to spend some time putting things away in the studio and documenting the work I've finished in the last few months. It's hot outside, never really cooled off last night, and so the air conditioning has been kicking on and off most of the day. This tells me it's better to be inside working than dealing with the heat. So not much interesting to share today, or for the next few probably, as I catch-up and straighten up, but I did take a few minutes to add some color to this stamped page in my button booklet. I'm using colored pencil and working right over the black ink. Haven't decided yet if I'll add some doodles or Zentangles, but I'm pretty sure I want to. I am finding this one of the nice things about working in a small format where something is set out on the pages beforehand: I can do a little to whatever page strikes my fancy (this happens to be the last page), and come back to it time and again to add more if I'd like. And it takes very little time out of my day, a relaxing little break.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mountain West Bank Exhibit

As part of its visual arts program, POAC maintains several ancillary galleries in businesses around the immediate area. This is a chance for an artist to have a solo or duo show, like my solo show at STCU last year. There are no opening receptions and the exhibits don't see as much traffic as those at the main gallery or Panhandle State Bank, but it is an opportunity to get work out of the closet and into the offices and hallways of a public building. This time, I was invited to exhibit at Mountain West Bank in Ponderay, ID with none other than fellow fiber artist and co-founder of my Third Mondays art group, Meg Marchiando of Blue Turtles Art.

No real planning for how our work might mesh in this space. We just trusted that there were enough common threads for our pieces to work together and enough differences to keep it interesting. I pulled a lot of older work that hasn't been on exhibit for awhile and added the one new piece - Supplications - to the mix. That's it at the end of the hall and Meg's dragonfly on the right.

Here's a better shot of her dragonfly.

Meg's recent emphasis has been on stand alone pieces that others might use as applique on a regular quilt. Her fish couldn't wait to leap out of my quilt "Flow".

We had some help - Meg's daughter Adele and Adele's friend Lea. They were given free rein to organize which fish went where as well as some houses I'll show in a bit.

Here's the final arrangement along with a close-up of one of the fish. Meg has put a lot of time and thought into each fish and its thread painting.

This back hallway was pretty dark so difficult to get a good shot of Meg's houses surrounding my Twisted Tree piece. On the left is my "Wisconsin Memories."

Again, such attention to fabric and thread choice to make each house unique.

These are the last of Meg's stand alone pieces that we have been referring to as "the kids." Each has a name, and there are more to come. Again, each has carefully chosen fabrics and tons of thread painting to bring them alive. You can also see some of them on her website.

This was one of the few places where we hung our "regular" art quilts together. My "Poppies and Peonies" and "Pathways", Meg's "Cornflower" and "Turtles". (Meg- I think that is not the full title of that one, let me know so I can edit.)

Here's another grouping - my "Voices" on the left with two of Meg's running man pieces.

I decided to bring along my two Bishop's Close pieces. Nice to have a place to hang them together.

We let a couple of the employees choose what quilt they'd like in their office. This heron of Meg's was the first to go.

And then my "Willows II" which you can see through the window, and "Fracture" (which is not shown). In the hallway next to the office window is my "Brilliance of the Night Sky."

I also got out "Culvert at Chuck's Slough." You can see Meg's Heron through the window.

We were running out of quilts for the conference room - we'd decided not to put important pieces there when told it is little used - but we each had one quilt left so the room would not go bare: Meg's "Madame Zalina" and my "Off the Grid".
I didn't get a picture of Meg's fantastic Cypress Swamp quilt since it got hung in a small back office, but otherwise, this is pretty much what we put up - some old, some new, some quilts that surprised and some that delighted. Take a gander if you are in the area - the exhibit will be up through September. Oh, and I always forget to mention...most of the quilts are for sale - contact me if interested. A portion of each sale goes to support POAC and the rest supports us artists!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Little Stamping

I've been pondering how to use my new button booklet; one of the first things to come to mind was to use it for Zentangling in something akin to ATC size as the example in this post. And then the thought went a step further. One of the Zentangle books from the library showed Zentangle-inspired art created around rubber stamp images. I have quite a collection of commercial rubber stamps that I have used very little; perhaps this would be a good place to put them to work, and give me a starting point for my Zentangles. But where exactly might my stamps be? Still in a box in the garage, not unpacked since the move last fall. Fortunately, I found them in the top of the box marked "Art Cart" and yes, the box was even sitting on said art cart. Isn't it grand when things work out?

I knew I had a stamp pad I'd never opened, and was hoping it was still good. Oh yes, this is marvelous ink in a sepia tone.

It gives such good coverage that it shadows through on the back side, so there will be only one Zentangle per sheet of drawing paper. That's ok, perhaps even for the best. Does this stamp not have a tranquil feel about it?

I've stamped all the pages with the commercial stamps except for the last one. You may remember these from my lino class. I used the Versatex stamp pad with black ink here and on some of the other pages - it did not shadow through like the other and seems to be a different consistency, a little stickier. As you can see, I had the same problem with coverage with the lino block as I did with the paints in the class, but the stamp pad ink picked up fine on the stamps made from erasers.

Now to slowly and leisurely Zentangle and/or embellish with colored pencil each unique page...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


"Supplication" by Sheila Mahanke Barnes 2013 - Art Quilt 22" x 13"
Thanks to everyone who suggested a title for my latest hands quilt. Some of the not-quite-right words I'd considered were "release" (already used), "redemption" (but I'm really not looking for that) and "plea" or "penitence" or "petition" (close but not feeling right). Then in a flash while I was working and not thinking, "supplication" came to mind. It felt like what I was going for but I still hesitated. It was quite gratifying to have the very first suggestion from my readers be "supplication" and one other reader also suggested it. As I final check, I looked up the definition of supplication: a humble prayer, entreaty or petition; from supplicare "plead humbly". Well, that cinched it - everything I was thinking wrapped up in one word.

Not that there weren't some really good and tempting suggestions, verifying that my hands were indeed conveying a message. Check the comments on this post. I also got some good suggestions over on Facebook: "behold", "beseech", and "surrender" to name a few. But "Supplication" it is and it is now hanging in an exhibit (report to come). I'm glad I added the beading, although perhaps I should have chosen beads that showed up a bit better. The star shapes make those tic-tac-toe grids in the background fabric look more like they belong now plus give the piece a bit more interest, tying in nicely the supplication theme. Still, I found myself thinking something was missing to make it a bit better.

Thread painting on hand

And I didn't figure out what that was until it was too late to add it for this exhibit. In getting out older pieces for this display, I was reminded how often I used to add a bit of contrasting piping or couched decorative thread where border or binding meets the main body of the quilt. Often it is the one thing that brings the whole quilt together and makes it pop. I have been away from this too long! Head smacking at my tunnel vision, I quickly checked my stash and found something close but not right, yet close enough to show me my thinking was on track. So when this returns in September, I will be adding that bit of pop along the border...and then I hope this will feel complete.

Friday, July 05, 2013


No one escapes this life without losing someone, many someones, dear to them. Anniversaries of deaths give us opportunity to pause and remember those people, more so than usual. For me, the hardest, most lasting loss has been that of my husband, now 13 years ago today. Not as painful as it once was, but I still stumble upon the occasional "landmine" that can suddenly bring tears at his loss and memory. Here I was just last week, viewing the latest Star Trek movie as per our tradition going back to the very first one. Oh, how he would have loved this, I gleefully thought as the Enterprise hit warp drive, when the mine blew up. Yikes - instant tears! I do miss him still, all those personal things we shared, if nothing else. That's him about the time we met at college back in the mid 70's - gotta love the hair. And the shirt - boy, do I remember that shirt. Those were the days of slinky polyester and that was one of the slinkiest!

Love ya, sweetie. Thanks for all the great memories and for taking care of me all those years. You taught me so much, opened up the world to me, and I am learning and exploring still.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Small indulgences

My internet friend and fellow artist, Connie Rose, recently put a group of "button booklets" for sale here. The covers are some of Connie's hand painted and stamped papers, the inside good quality paper for sketching or other uses. She didn't want much for these, and since I'm always on the lookout for small sketchbooks or journals to inspire me to draw, I decided to treat myself. I have long admired Connie for her talent at collage, and she's always experimenting with surface design on fabric as well as paper. This was a small way to own a bit of her work, something that would remind me of her whenever I picked it up to add something to the pages. Not only did it come in this custom-made envelop, she also included the bookmark of collaged paper and fabric.

It's Independence Day here in America, and I decided to forgo the parking problems, crowds and noise of the celebrations downtown for a quieter day at home. I've been meaning to make these mostly healthy no-bake cookies for weeks - enough for an army!

But mostly I've been sitting out on my back deck, enjoying some cool watermelon and a novel that suddenly got to the "I can't put it down" stage. Ah yes, I sense summer is finally here!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Simple? Only in name...

Oh yes, I always give a quilt the kiss of death when I think it will be quick, simple, done. With quilting complete, hands stitched in place and a line of navy stitching in the background to define them a bit more, all that should be left is the edge finish. Although I have kept the dithering to a minimum on this one, I couldn't get past wondering if it was too simple, if it didn't need something else. I don't want to do this (my head speaking) but my mind started wandering towards beads (my heart speaking). I'm going ahead with the edge finish and then will see how I feel about trying some star-like designs with these beads (click on pic for a larger view).

One thing that remains simple is the feeling this has a one word title. Usually, quilt titles come to me quite easily but not on this one. I look at the hands and they say something to me, but I'm struggling to hit upon just the right word. I think I'm close, but I thought it would be fun to turn to my on-line "thesaurus" and see if anything comes to your minds. If this was your quilt, what one word would you use to name it. In other words, what are those hands saying to you?

Celtic bubbles from the back