Friday, July 25, 2014

Try Me Thread

Donna from my art group is a big fan of Superior Threads. While I am partial to Superior's King Tut thread, I'd not bothered trying any of the others, happy with the brands I had on hand. She mentioned I could join their thread club, but the last thing I feel I need at the moment is packages of thread arriving on a regular basis. I did that for years with Keepsake Quilting's fabric medley of the month. I built up quite the stash of reproduction fabrics, more than I'll ever use, and I found it hard to finally stop the automatic shipments. Ok then, she countered, you can just try a few you're curious about without having to pay full price (try me specials). No, I'm just fine with what I've got, I decided. That was until 1) I saw an ad that led me to believe Superior is now producing my beloved but discontinued Sulky Ultra Twist rayon thread, and 2) I got an e-mail offer from Superior announcing a July special of additional discounts off their "try me" page of threads (scroll down to the bottom of the newsletter for details and promotional code). Ok fine - count me in!

Give me a good deal and I go a little crazy. I ordered a few more than I really needed to, but the pricing was so good! Of course, you have to take whatever color they send - potluck there - but it was as if they already knew my preference. TWO teal threads, a King Tut not in  my stash and perhaps just what I need for one of the upcoming baby quilts, an orange that I know from past experience I wouldn't buy but has turned out to be just what I needed, and a couple of other strong colors I normally shy away from. There's trilobal and their extra-long staple cotton as well as a 100 wt silk that I'm anxious to compare with YLI's that I'm so attached to. Oh, and the Twist that started this all off is the purple one, I don't currently have a Sulky ultra twist in purple and it's a color I can really use. It looks to be just like the old Sulky product except instead of rayon, it's a trilobal which should be even better. I'm actually glad I didn't have to choose the colors on this try me! I'd probably still be sitting at the computer trying to decide what to put in my cart. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Padfolio Progress

Geez, I took the pictures, then got sidetracked, forgetting I hadn't shared what I did about closures on these latest padfolios. Just couldn't bring myself to add a button to the flap as it would interfere with that nicely placed leaf on the band. While velcro is one solution, I personally tire of the ripping sound. Sometimes you have to give quite a tug to release the flap and then you have the grabby side exposed to catch on clothing or whatever. I have a journal that I purchased for a guest book that uses the magic of embedded magnets to keep the flap closed. I've experimented with this in the past, but it is tricky getting the magnet placed properly under the fabric, and the magnet must be thin, which means it often isn't strong enough to work well through the fabric. This time I decided to try it without embedding. After all, what's the problem with it showing, since the velcro shows too?

These are self-adhesive strips which appear to stay stuck to the fabric pretty well after weighting them down overnight. I didn't do that weighting thing with the first one, and when I sprayed it with my favorite uv/repellent spray, the moisture seeped under and the magnets fell right off. Hmmm. Those were reattached with the help of a little Gem-Tac glue. The second one seemed to do alright with the weight and wait. I still would prefer for this type of closure to be invisible, but I very much like how the magnets work to keep the flap in place.

I gave June her choice of these two padfolios, secretly feeling this one should be hers but not wanting to second guess her preference. Have you received a gift from someone who obviously thinks you will love it, but you can't imagine why they would think that? Well, in this case, I was right - June did want this one, and for the moment, I've set the other one aside for myself. Remember I said I'd never made one to keep? I grew very fond of this one and especially the lining and pockets I chose for it. I like the clean look both have by using the magnet closure - impressed that the part of the design that overlaps when the flap is closed nearly lines up with the part underneath.

So these two are spoken for, but I've fused the remaining three bands to that commercial fabric I mentioned. It's a Fossil Fern that works so well with my skeletal leaves (which in this picture look a bit washed out). These with the mirror image design will be for sale, and I'll post them here when done.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Printing and Padfolios

I've been working on padfolios this week. Tuesday started off with a bang - literally. I'd changed thread in preparation for stitching the closure on a second Autumn Trees padfolio, holding the top thread to pull up the bottom thread. I had the stitch on a setting that had the needle swung to one side, and I pulled just a little too firmly on that top thread - enough that the needle no longer angled into the hole but right into the throat plate - bam! Not the first time I've done this and usually the needle snaps, but this is a titanium one so I guess it only needed to bend itself into a bit of contortion. Never bodes well when this is how your studio day begins.

My first stitching through the elastic closure resulted in a bird's nest of thread on the underside. Taking a closer look, I'd managed to wrap the top thread around the needle. Or maybe it was the stitch I tried. I rethreaded, changed the stitch and had better success. This padfolio is pretty much identical to Michele's except for the button covering the elastic join and the stamp used in the first printing. On Michele's I used one that mimicked straight tree trunks; on this one I used one with more flowing lines - most visible on the lower part of the flap. Both were overstamped with a fan-like design in gold paint. This one is going off to June as part of our padfolio-for-painting exchange.

Top band from original jpg, bottom band from upped contrast jpg

However, I didn't think just ONE padfolio was a very fair exchange for the painting I received (Echoes From The Mongolian Rim), and I had another thought for a band that I wanted to experiment with, using a photo of a leaf I'd already played with back in 2011 (see this post). I took the tiled version and repeated it across the length of the band - a good start. Then not willing to let well enough alone, I tried a couple of mirror image repeats which gave a totally different effect. I printed these variations onto cotton sateen with my pigment ink Epson Workforce printer. Generally these things print exactly as I see them on my screen, so I ignore all suggestions about upping the contrast before printing. This time, I should have listened. The first set looked decidedly faded. I increased the contrast and printed again, getting a much more dynamic look.

I chose this image because I thought it might work well with the stamped fabric rejected for the Autumn Trees padfolios. And I was right. The faded one looked just right on one that had less bold impressions, and the upped contrast one held its own on the one where I had the stamp well-inked. The bands are attached with fusible web.

But both had lost some clarity to the outline of the leaf so some stitching was in order. I was so sure this grey and orangish/yellow King Tut variegated thread would be perfect for the faded one. Not only did it not define the leaves properly as the colors went from dark to light values and the stitch length I chose was actually too long, when I used it to satin stitch along the edge of the band, I discovered there was also GREEN in the variegation. Where did THAT come from? I tried convincing myself that it would look fine if I just stepped away from it for a bit. So I moved on to the other band.

The other thread I had out for consideration (but thought too dark for the first band) was a golden tan polyester - one of the first tri-lobals, or not your mother's polyester thread. I really do love it and it perfectly picked out the leaves and accented either side of the band. Success!

I'm not big on ripping out stitching but I knew I wouldn't be happy with this first one if I didn't. The satin stitching was easy (run a seam ripper under the wide stitches on the back and pull from the front - zip!), the other a little more tedious but worth it. The gold poly thread was not too dark to outline the leaves. It wasn't quite right for the satin stitching though, and I tried short runs of three other colors before settling on this Connecting Threads grey cotton. Actually, I'd ripped it out once, wishing for a grey slightly darker, but I had none. Black was just not right, the variegated grey/black too jarring with a striped effect. Once I got this on both sides, it looked perfect to my eye. So with fits and starts, Tuesday ended on a better note than it began.

Yesterday went much better as I moved on to choosing linings for the two. You would think a dark grey would work for both, but it didn't look right for my faded one. I found this fun batik instead that somewhat mimics the print of my stamp and whose brown is more similar to the color in the leaves than the picture would lead you to believe.

I also considered a black hand-dye for the lining - one that is the same tone as the grey of the cover and in the batik - but decided to use it just for the pockets. This one is done now, save for the closure, and tomorrow I should be able to finish the other. There are 4 more bands to work with but no more stamped fabric. Instead, I noted how good both the faded and stronger ones look on a commercial print I'd left out as a possible lining. Now I think I'll use it for covers instead.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer in Sandpoint

We are in the midst of a heatwave - get into the 90's in Northern Idaho and while not unheard of, it is deemed a tad outside the range of normal. And so the tendency is to get out and take advantage of it while it lasts! So much going on this weekend in town and I decided to take some of it in. I started with the first annual Beerfest sponsored by one of our local breweries.

MickDuffs has moved their brewing facilities out of the space where they also run a brewpub and into the space recently vacated by Pend Oreille Winery. This is a favorite pastime of businesses in Sandpoint - a sort of musical chairs of available locations. The winery has moved across the street into an historic building they have been restoring. Anyway, this open lot next to the building is where specialty events are held, weather permitting. And boy, was the weather permitting this day - note people crowded into the only bit of shade save some canopies set up over some tables. Gotta love the mural on the side of the otherwise nondescript building.

Perhaps trying out various beers on one of the hottest days of the summer isn't the greatest idea, especially without a designated driver to get you home. Not to worry - it's been awhile since I'd wandered the downtown streets where there is plenty to look at. I'd crossed the street to check out the sign of a business I'd not heard of (another Sandpoint pastime - businesses opening and closing before you knew they were there) and found myself looking down at the foundations of the historic Farmin Building. Was I still a little tipsy or is this actually an interesting pattern of stone and mortar?

And was I seeing things as I passed by this alley? I thought I had caught a kid "tagging" - we've not had a lot of that here but some - but he seemed not a bit in a hurry or worried about getting caught. I'm pretty sure this is part of a project as I recognized the name of a local art teacher making claim to the astronaut scene.

Still feeling a bit of the effect of the beer, I made the dangerous decision to wander through Coldwater Creek - our local retail claim to fame that is in the last of its bankruptcy deep discount sales. I found a silk/cotton cardigan at 80% off - a real steal. Across the street, I snagged a flowing skirt off a sidewalk sale rack at not nearly as good a price, but on sale all the same. Not sure why I thought I needed retail therapy this day but I guess I was partly influenced by the fact I so seldom find things I like that fit and look good. Or maybe it was the heat...justify justify!

Coldwater Creek has a wine bar above its retail space and I've not heard what its fate is but a quick check showed it is still open and serving. Now here's something odd I could not resist capturing. First, one doesn't see a lot of men in suits around Sandpoint, especially on a Saturday, and especially on a super hot summer Saturday. Add the hat and I really have to wonder who this guy is and what's his story.

My story is to get back on the street and continue my wander, which led me to The Chocolate Bear and its sign advertising huckleberry icecream. Oh yes, must get one of those - so perfect on a summer's day.

Most of the stores were closing up by now so time to head back to the car. Still noting things to capture like this grouping of rocks gracing the facade of an otherwise plain bank building.

And by chance, I'd parked in front of the building I sketched not long ago - the one my guidebook indicated had gargoyles. I scanned the eaves to no avail, then realized this is what it was referring to. I guess technically it is right, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

Finally, what quilter could resisting snapping a pic of this cement planter at the stop of the stairs?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More Scraps Off the Table

Another coiled fabric basket is done and so, a few more leftovers are off the work table. Still working in a bit of chaos but the padfolios I'm completing have been contributing to that. Bit by bit, the things left out for months because I knew I'd be getting back to them are getting tended to.

This time I chose the basic round bowl pattern with sloping sides. I was hoping the dark purple strips would go a bit farther but they end on the first round that starts up the sides. I searched through my batiks for something that would compliment that sort of odd hand-dye and came up with a muted plum I've had forever. It's an odd color too and I've found it difficult to work into my designs. Thus, I don't feel too badly about stripping some of it for this. I was careful to cut as I went so there'd be no leftover strips to start me down the road to yet another purple basket.

And then when it was done, I felt iffy about that combination, especially with the slightly different purple in the center. I still had some of that fabric and perhaps should have done a row or two of it before ending. But the bowl was done and what to do about the oddness and off-balance I sensed? More handles? Couched decorative yarn along the rim? No, I decided to try the book's suggestion of adding a binding - with that same fabric as the bowl was started with.

This was easier than I thought it might be. It is added just like any binding - starting with a 2 inch strip folded the long way, raw edge lined up with the rim, stitched with 1/4" seam and turned to the inside. I balked once again at the suggestion that it must be hand-stitched into place - any hand-stitching on these strikes me as awkward and testing my patience. Couldn't see any reason why I couldn't machine stitch it down. Using a 2 x 2 zig zag stitch seemed logical, what with all the zig zag stitching to hold the rows together. It worked quite nicely.

I'm still iffy about the whole color scheme, but I guess this is part of what I hope to practice and improve upon as I make more of these (oh yes, there will be more) - good exercise that should carry over to my other work. This is about 2-1/4 inches high and 7 inch across at the top. I've been treating these with Scotchguard - something I have on hand and want to use up.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tying Up Loose Ends

It's hot out there so the air-conditioned studio has become a bit of a haven. A good time to pick up the pieces set aside for the "ArtWalk Push" and get some pleasant work done.

Overstamping the cover for June's padfolio - she already sent me the painting she wanted to exchange for it.

Adding a floral motif to the ugly art cloth now transforming into fabric for a bag of some kind. I'm trying out a little wooden stamp Robin (from my art group) watched being carved during her visit to India. If you click for a larger view, you can see the stamp in the upper right. Not sure about the color of the paint I chose but it was the third one I tried.

Test printing new photo manipulation designs for padfolios. Looks like I'll be making more than the one for June this month.

Using up the leftover purple strips from the last fabric basket. This one is destined for another birthday girl who celebrates at the end of July.

Feels like a pretty productive couple of days...

Sunday, July 06, 2014

On My Mind

I mentioned that I had another padfolio to finish up, next on the list. But as I work on that, my mind will be wandering over to what's next in line on the design wall: Two of my hand-dyes, an African batik, and finding myself drawn to work with rectangles. Circles be gone!.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

My Sweetie - Long Time Passing

F. Allen Barnes III circa 1975
It's that time of year again, for remembering a dear one long gone but hardly forgotten. This marks year 14 without my friend, muse, and husband who supported my quilting efforts, tolerated all my idiosyncrasies and loved me anyway. The picture is from our college days where we met. The Allen-shaped hole in my heart is still there...and it should be. Oh, but the memories! We made over 25 years of them - a good run.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

My Well-Traveled Padfolio

Autumn Trees padfolio checking out the old city gate in Marvejols, France
Remember the padfolio I made earlier this year for an exchange with Michele in Wisconsin? Michele had mentioned that she planned to take it with her on a trip to France and Scotland, which in itself pleased me. But imagine my surprise and delight when pictures of my traveling padfolio showed up in my e-mail!

Autumn Trees padfolio enjoying the view of the harbor at Portree, Isle of Skye, Scottland

Years ago, back when I was entering my quilts in shows all over the country, I had that realization that they were better traveled than I. Now the padfolio is even more so as it has become an international traveler! Michele noted that it was very handy for jotting down lists and information and the pocket for storing receipts on the go.

Autumn Trees padfolio contemplating stone walls, sheep & the tip of Skye

I've given away quite a few of these padfolios in various designs but wouldn't you know, I've never made one for myself. However, Michele's journal that I got as part of the exchange HAS been put to good use - I've nearly filled it with life lessons and musings. My padfolio will have to wait - I've gotten an offer of a painting in exchange for a similar version of Autumn Trees. It's next on the to-do list.

Michele braving the windy & cold tip of Skye

Thank you, Michele, for thinking to do this. It's really fun to see that padfolio and you having such a great time!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Another Basket

Still following instructions from "It's A Wrap!" author Susan Breier, I tried my hand at making an oval basket. Somehow, it didn't come out quite as I envisioned. It's oval alright, but I guess I thought the sides would be more up and down, the opening not as large. I used a slightly thicker clothesline this time so that may account for it being slightly larger than the pattern measurements indicated. 

Besides those things, I learned how jarring  the start and end of a single round of contrast can be (see top photo) and that a common problem with the ovals is developing dips along the side. I used the worst side to end my basket (edge farthest from the camera), letting it fill the dip before tapering for an even edge. With further reading, I now know how to deal with those in the future. Frankly, I was led to believe the oval basket would be easier than the round to do, but it's only those first few rounds of the base that are easier, and really not that much. The basket does weird things once you start up the sides, that oval shape hard to keep against the sewing machine as it flips at the ends - part of what causes the dips, I gather. Well, I guess it's not a bad first try. Yet something about it bugged me - the balance of it just looked off.

I decided it needed handles, made in the same fabric as the dark center contrast. There are so many cute and interesting handle options shown in a special chapter in the book and they too were something I wanted to try so now's the time. Had I not cut all this fabric up into strips, I could have made a kind of handle that would cover those jagged joins of the orange contrast. But I needed to get this done, so settled on these that I could do with what I had on hand. I'd been using a Superior King Tut purple variegated thread on the basket so didn't think twice about continuing with it. I wish I'd switched to something that blended better with this one fabric. Other than that, I was super pleased and amazed at how these turned out. Can't believe they are actually identical!

Instructions say to glue, then stitch handles on, the stitching needing to be done by hand. I was having none of THAT this particular day. I used my standard go-to glue when I need permanent bonding - Beacon Fabri-Tac glue and crossed my fingers. Since the handles are decorative and I can't imagine they will actually see use to heft anything heavy, it should be ok.

And now the balance looks right to me.

And it has gone off to its recipient. Hope she likes it!