Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Honestly, I am having a hard time settling down, if you hadn't noticed. The bookbinding sirens are calling again, and I've brought books home from the library once more to pore over and set my mind to dreaming. I've looked through most of these before, was looking specifically for the one that talks about recycling food boxes as your cover, but found a new one that is more than just about technique. Real Life Journals by Gwen Diehn also gets into the actual types of journaling one might do which then drives the choices for the sort of book that would work best. It's got me thinking differently about what might go into one of my handmade books. At any rate, it also has me thinking about my many approaches to sketching lately, including a simple quick book I made from a piece of scrap paper and started filling with Zentangles (see this post). The one above is called Rixty and was added quite awhile ago.

Yesterday, I turned to another blank spread in it to try out another new Zentangle called Ing. As with any good Zentangle, I let my imagination fly with embellishments.

I found this one easy to go astray on but wanted to try it again using a different filler variation. I decided to go back to my stamped pages in the button booklet. Turned on its side, Ing seemed the perfect thing to add between the bands of Celtic knots.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Printing Large

Still ignoring the shibori piece, I continue the drafting of my design inspired by the fountain wall at the Eisenberg building in Rochester, MN. With a thumbs up from the art group, I tried printing it out full size today, both to confirm the final size and to get a better handle on the amount of various materials I'll need. I cut 13 inch wide lengths of newsprint packing paper to run through my wide carriage printer and needed to divvy the design into 6 sections. It worked, and the 6 sheets are now overlapped and taped together. The size looks good (about 50 inches wide) and I'll clean this version up more so it will render accurate templates.

Here's what I printed out - a greyed version of my photograph (see this post) overlayed with thick lines to square up the stonework and cropped to produce an uneven edge. Fabric auditioning is in process...

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Else One Can Do...

...when stuck and not interested in putting up the good fight: play in Paint Shop Pro. I took this tight shot of a nearby mountain ash a few weeks ago, intrigued by how close in color the berries were to the leaves, yet they popped off the busy background just a smidge. I cropped it to a square, played a bit with the color intensity and put it up on Facebook.

Then, on my "eat a worm" day, I found myself cleaning up some files on the computer. Before moving this one into my "design ideas" files, I pulled up Paint Shop Pro on a whim to see if anything fun might result from running it through filters. Usually you need more definition for good filter results, so most tries were not that exciting or different from what's already in my files. However, this one using a displacement map of puddles caught my fancy - probably because it was raining so hard that day.

And of course, you can't go wrong with the kaleidoscope filter. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Different Use of Time

Thanks so much for the feedback on my last post. You've given me lots to add to my ruminations about the shibori piece. Some of your thoughts mirror my own and give clarity and direction while others are sending me in additional directions. Bottom line, this piece needs more thought, more work, more diving in. But when I wrote the post, it was not the day for that. Instead, I went off and did something totally different, which is the nice thing about having so much hanging about waiting for my attention. I'd scanned my October reminder list (which to my surprise I have made pleasing progress on) and spotted midway down: "Finish processing Judi's fabrics - it's been a year!" Yes, that's just what I wrote. It was late last September that I traveled to her home to sort through and divvy up her stash with another quilting friend. It all had to be, at the minimum, washed because of my allergies to Judi's cats, and the majority of the dyed fabric needed setting with Retayne. I'd brought home yards and yards of fabric - at least three bags stuffed full - and have been pecking away at it off and on since earlier this year. I'd' gotten to the last few loads before summer kicked in and never got back to it. With deadlines gone and pressure off, it was definitely time to get the last of it washed, ironed and filed away.

So that's what I've been doing the last two days, and as usual, what I am running across is sparking ideas and providing solutions. It was a triumph to go from "meh" on the new art quilt to "hey" on another side project I was about to tackle. Back when Judi and I first experimented with dyeing, we also played a bit with marbling (with less than wonderful results). It was delightful to find these in her stash, to see she had as much trouble figuring out how to use hers as I did mine. While we tried the same techniques in joint sessions, our personal styles still managed to show through - I can tell these are Judi's and not mine, they just have her stamp on them. But the real fun was when I ironed this one and laid it on the table not far from that piece of art cloth I stamped. I want to turn it into some kind of handbag, had found a pattern to give me some guidance and had been searching for a lining. I think this might be the perfect fun lining to compliment it.

So I wouldn't exactly say I turned a lemon day into lemonade, but some good came out of walking away from my momentary frustration with the new idea, and doing something supposedly uncreative.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Second Guessing

I hate this part of the creative process, where dreams fade and second guessing of choices takes over. I ran both the copper Sulky sliver thread and a King Tut variegated cotton through the needle to quilt along the shibori lines. I've done this before with it effectively knocking back the hard line of metallic sheen to an occasional glitter. But it doesn't seem to have worked here and I'm already sensing I'm losing the impact of the shibori, even though I am following its pattern. How much more quilting do I want to do over it - I was thinking to quilt along most of the lines - and with what thread? Perhaps I should stop here and leave well enough alone. I'm also second guessing my decision to use the wool batting. I was expecting it to give more stability than it is, but it is proving to be as flimsy as the Thermore I often use, not at all like the batting sample of it I have in my files. As for the top part of the quilt, the trees and shrubs along the waterline - I have no idea what to do in there, never had a clear idea of what kind of patterning would work beyond the perhaps too obvious lines mimicking branches. I feel stuck...and disheartened. And the camera is still skewing the colors.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paisley Quilting

You know how I said I wanted to develop a quilting design based on the paisley in the border/sashing fabric of the fat-quarter quilt? Well, look at what I ran across compliments of Angela Walters of She has developed a paisley feather design that while more dense and elaborate than I'd envisioned, is giving me a starting point for developing my own paisley design.

I've watched several of her videos now and am impressed with both her technique advice and quilting philosophy which reminds me more of my long-time machine quilting mentor Diane Gaudynski than anyone else I can think of. As the standard teachers of my formative quilting years begin to retire, it is reassuring to see their valuable lessons being carried forward by a new crop of enthusiastic teachers.

I still need to spend some time with pencil and paper, seeing if what's in my head will work. I want to use a method learned in a class by Jan Wildman many years ago that is essentially an edge to edge approach that gives all-over coverage without looking like a pentagram or just mindless meander. So the trick will be to meld these two ideas together - Angela's paisley feather which swoops and fills with Jan's idea of rows of repeat designs.

Many suggest this drawing out of the quilting design or at bare minimum using your finger to trace over a pattern to familiarize your mind with it before actually starting to quilt. This makes sense - there's a lot to be said for muscle memory. As I reviewed my handout from Jan's class, I ran across another helpful hint I'd forgotten about, one that actually might be more helpful to those of us using our domestic machines. She suggests rather than practicing on a quilt sandwich, just practice on a piece of paper. No thread, no cloth, but the action will be the same as when you sit down with the actual quilt. Because drawing with a pencil is a totally different coordination of hand and eye than what happens at the machine where the "pencil" suddenly becomes the stationary object (your needle) and the "paper" moves under it to create the design. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Floor Show

I got some helpful feedback from my art group yesterday on the shibori piece (yes, I need to trim a bit off the top and we mulled possible additions) and what I hoped would be my final draft of the fountain wall design (it is, it is!) which was supposed to be the first in my water series. So I can start moving ahead on two new art quilts but I didn't quit feel up to it today. Instead, I put the finishing touches on the sketch I started at the beginning of the month (see this post). I went back to the site several times to edit and start adding color and finally to take a picture so I could finish up the coloring at home. I've come to the conclusion that this toned tanned paper is not good for pencil sketches, but works ok with pen. Today I went over all the pencil lines with pen, then filled in with Prismacolor pencils. I think I've spent more than enough time on this one, but it was an interesting challenge what with the angles of the facade roofline and the metal siding of varying greys. And I found those green pots irresistible!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Progress and the Question of Thread

I finished pin basting the fat-quarter quilt today, but rolled it up and set it aside for now (and can already see how much easier this will be to deal with thanks to the light and fairly thin wool batting). I still need to work out the quilting design and am not sure I want to start quilting it right away anyway. That didn't stop my curiosity about what thread I might use. I'm leaning toward the one on the right as it most closely matches the metallic gold tracings in some of the fabrics. But I'll make up a batting sample and try several out before making a final decision.

I went looking for some leaves I'd stitched on a sheer fabric back when I was testing things for the Willow quilt and decided to take one last peak in adjacent bins already searched through for the piping strips my notes in the fat-quarter book (and hazy memory) said I'd planned to use. Hah! I DID find them and indeed, there appear to be the right amount already cut to width but not sewn together yet. Guess I'm going to have to do the piping in the binding after all.

So now that the fat quarter quilt is basted, I feel an antsiness to do something with this that I've been staring at for months and even said would be next up before I succumbed to the fat quarter quilt. I had thought to use both shibori pieces - at one point they looked like they'd work together, but once I'd squared things up and sewn these two piece together, I couldn't figure out a way to make them work together. Being a little less stubborn than normal, I quit fiddling with combinations and set the vertical one aside with a couple of fabrics that may work with it as a separate piece. Then I stepped back to consider what's next and decided maybe it's fine as is. I did try several things along the bottom and side but the balance wasn't right. In fact, I'm thinking I may need to trim just a bit off the top, but I will wait and see what my art group thinks on Monday. As it is, it feels to me like I'm standing on the edge of the water, it sweeping away to the trees on the far bank. The color's a little off here - the hand-dye is more red than it seems in this photo.

I thought the leaves would add something special to the view, attached as if they are floating on the water, but I'm not sure they are the right size. They would be added after the quilting so there's time to decide if I can use them or need to make more.

And yes, I just can't help pulling thread for this one too. I'd been thinking the copper metallic would set the mood I wanted in the water, but gold metallic might be better. The yellow rayon in the center might work too but really, all I want is a hint of sparkle. I may just layer this up and get to quilting the water section before I get feedback on the proper width of the upper section. Really should capitalize on this sudden burst of motivation! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Beautiful Backing

I've been unsettled, finding it hard to focus for long on much of anything - reading, tv shows, decision-making. That's how I ended up showing my backing choices on the blog, close to begging someone else to choose for me. In one of my great avoidance ploys, I took a walk and carried my sketchbook along with the idea that I'd pause at that carpet store and see if I could resolve some of the issues with my first attempt to draw it. In the few blocks it took to get there, I went from confident to not - you should have heard the conversation going on in my head! But I made myself sit once I got there, and was soon absorbed in lengthening a line here, moving another up or down, filling in a few more details, until I was satisfied the proportions were closer to real life. The act of study and sketching settled my mind such that when I returned, the answer to my backing dilemma seemed obvious - simplicity was truly best. And I love it.

Of course. that wasn't the end of the decision-making. I centered the backing on my table, clipping it in place, and pondered batting. I actually have a pretty diverse batting stash at the moment and could choose from an heirloom cotton, an 80/20 blend, or a wool. I decided to think about it overnight, how I plan to use this quilt, what kind of batting the quilts already made might have in them. Leaning toward the wool, but maybe the cotton would be better suited as I'm thinking of this as a summer quilt. As I checked out my quilts, I was reminded of how heavy that last big quilt with cotton batting was as I wrestled it through the machine - and that was just rows of straight stitching with a walking foot. I'm planning a free-motion design on this one, thinking how I can incorporate the paisleys in the border/sashing fabric. Wool is so much lighter than cotton - wool it is! I'm about 3/4 done with the pin basting and will start doodling a quilting design soon.

Friday, October 10, 2014

An Answer In An Unexpected Place

My attention to detail drives me crazy sometimes. It's just a backing, for goodness sake, but I'm spending far too much time trying to find the perfect fabrics to coordinate with the top. It actually took no time eliminating that muslin from my options. I would have been happy with either one of these two prints on their own had their been enough yardage, but there is not. So what is it about combining them in alternating panels that does not work for me? I've tried to talk myself into it over several days, but I sense it would bug me every time I use the quilt. Because with a "utilitarian" quilt, you really do see the back quite often. But who am I kidding? I go through this same angst choosing a backing for quilts for the wall.

I decided it was the big contrast in value that was bothering me. The off-white needed to be darker and richer in tone, but no - nothing like that in the stash. What I really wanted was a blue, felt I had just the right thing in the stash but couldn't put my finger on it. Dug into the bottom of a big bin that these two came out of and where this elusive blue should have been. Was about to make do with the uncomfortable pairing when I finally found it - yes, an alternate colorway to the off-white. (I also bought yards of it in a muted pink which ended up on the back of the half-square triangle quilt - Mary, stop laughing!). It really is the prefect blue and I'd love it with the leaf print but I've used it too many other places. There's not enough to avoid having to add a third fabric. Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a configuration of these three that did not bug me.

So I went back to the stash, looking through my browns, finding long strips of a reproduction fabric used as backing and borders in this quilt, the pink and brown perhaps working in if only narrow strips were used. That sparked a hazy memory, that maybe there was something tucked away in the drawers holding my ridiculously large stash of reproduction fat quarters. The memory wasn't right but instead, those drawers held something I'd totally forgotten about and which I think is the answer. These are Dutch reproduction border strips - for some reason cut from the original yardage and sold separately. One of the first "shop in your pajamas" internet quilt shops also had a warehouse retail shop within a few hours of where I lived, so I had to check it out. No one else was carrying these Dutch repros and I fell in love with them. I bought fat quarter packs and some separate fat quarters (some of which went into this quilt), yardage that went into a signature quilt similar to this mini-one, and these border strips. I remember thinking at the time how crazy this was buying only one 90" strip of the one color and 3 of the other but that was what they had left. This was probably in 1999. All these years later, I have a use for one/some of them! Suddenly, the off-white print has become the backing of choice and the leaf print set aside.

Yes, there's more dithering to do. Do I use the three red ones as is, spaced between panels of the off-white? That would not give me quite enough width so the blue print could be used at the outside, but it would be such a narrow bit. Or, I could trim the narrow bands off the blue border strip, placing the wide part in the center, the narrow ones on either side of the off-white panels (as I am auditioning with the red in the picture above) and use a wider segment of the blue along the outside. Then again, maybe I should leave the blue border strip intact and run it down the center. All of these are enticing and even exciting, but I feel myself leaning towards using the blue border split up. Then again, the red picks up on the red in some of the prints in the top. Whatever I decide, I can feel I'll be a whole lot happier than if I'd settled with my original two fabrics. Definitely worth the time my stubborn nature is spending.

Any suggestions?   

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Calm Between The Storms

I've been in that in between place, where a goal has been met and the next goal not quite set. I updated my to do list for October and have worked a bit on catching up my documentation files, but really...that totally clear work table coupled with the completion of a couple of non-art quilts has enticed me layer up a quilt top that has been languishing in the closet since probably 2005 instead of start the next art quilt. It was my sample for a class I taught from the book Shape Up Your Fat Quarters by Debbie Caffrey. The shop had gotten in a new line of fabric that I liked (too often I ended up making samples with fabric I wasn't keen on), and I could dip into my stash of reproduction fat quarters to augment it. I was so pleased with how it came out that I knew I'd be quilting this one up for my own use.

But it has stayed on the sidelines while other lap quilts got finished up instead. I've been thinking about it a lot this year, thinking I might want to use it on my bed. But it is a big quilt top, and I kept putting it off. It was calling pretty loudly from the closet last week, and since that is part of what I insisted would drive my project choices this year, I'm at least going to get it layered up and pin-basted this week.

So out of the UFO bin it came yesterday, along with the binding fabric and other leftovers. Inside the book are photos I took of the top (yes, I remembered correctly how much I like), extra block units and a small drunkard's path sample from some of the same fabrics (so THAT'S where it went). The book has quite a few notes jotted throughout the pattern directions - things to point out to students - as well as some dimensions and instructions on piping. Piping? This is the problem with setting aside a project for so long - you literally forget some of the things you meant to do. Been thinking hard about this and vaguely remember something about using up some of the yellow scraps in piping - you know, that bit of pop at the binding? But of the fabric stored with the top, I'm not seeing much yellow. And I'm not sure I'm up for piping, although it's not that hard to add. I'm not even sure I'm up for piecing a backing. Rifling through my store of longer yardages, I came up with two coordinating prints (neither enough yardage on their own) and some 108" wide muslin. The muslin, obviously, is ready to go, the other choice in need of seaming. I'm a bit torn about this decision, so am giving it a rest today.

Something else calling out to me last week was this building. It's on my walking route and I particularly like that angling at the top of the facade. There's also some big pots of plants on either side of the door and the siding is corrugated aluminum - lots to work with. I'm not sure how long I worked on this, but I didn't have the patience to get beyond lightly sketching out some main details - I'll go back on another day and work on it some more. Again, I had the sense I was being held back by the size and even the shape of this sketchbook. I did some blocking in first but still managed to get off. Perhaps what I need to do is start carrying a grid like this dual purpose one (also can be used as a value finder). I learned that trick in a drawing class. I definitely want to add color once done, greys for the siding and those extensions over the doors and windows are about the same red as the grid tool.

In the meantime, fall is edging its way in, the birch outside my studio window starting to succumb. But the geraniums on my back deck are going gangbusters, still afternoons warm enough to sit outside and enjoy them.

By the way, Margaret Cooter has made good on her promise to answer the Around the World Blog Hop questions sans tagging people. Go check out her post here. I think it's pretty interesting stuff!