Thursday, April 26, 2018

April Art Group

The Muse is so capricious. One moment she's leaning over my shoulder urging me on, giving advice and keeping me on track, the next she's taken off to who knows where and left me on my own. Thankfully, just as I realized she was off on holiday stranding me with confused and muddle thoughts, I was relieved to know the gals in my art group would step in to fill the gap. This is the first conundrum I presented them, as we sat outside on our first truly warm day of spring. Quilting up the sample of various thread colors for the garnet stitching of the latest leaf cluster did not give me a clear answer after all. I was leaning toward two of them which were not the ones the others were suggesting. They made their case and it forced me to dig deep and make my own. Other colors or values were suggested and I added a couple more test patches when I got home. It all boils down to the overall affect I'm going for, and after all that, I've settled on the original thread that I used on that other leaf cluster with the garnet quilting. In the end, what I really want on this one is pure texture and if any hint of color gets added, I want it to pick up the green in the fabric. I'm not feeling that the time spent stitching up the other colors was wasted energy though. I'm sure it will make a great reference in the future.

I had better luck on my zigzag piece. Seen out in the sun, it was pretty clear that the green fabric instantly pulled up the green in the top (maybe not so evident in this photo). The other works if a more subtle edge is wanted but with so much texture in that piece, I think more of the light areas than the dark ones would end up showing, confusing the eye. As for the leaves, they thought they would be a good addition, and they did look ok in this lighting.

I can't show what Terrie brought as they need to stay under wraps at the moment, but Meg had lots to share. Working at a recent weekend retreat, she got more birds cut out and stitched. These are fused to Peltex for individual display on walls and still need their legs.

And now there are hedgehogs! This group is at various stages as she experiments with the most efficient way to do the steps. The black around the ones on the right is the Peltex that will eventually be trimmed away.

Ok, I was a little too taken with these perhaps, but they are beyond cute in my book! She's been posting some of her small offerings on her instagram page where she is picking up some sales, and where you can contact her if you are interested.

I believe this is a commission, a smaller version of her girl with balloons.

On a personal level, she's started stitching on a boro to make a scarf for a relative, having been inspired by one of our other members who tried boro last year (scroll down this post to see it).

And she also took some time to try out the various decorative stitches on her somewhat new machine. Like most of us, she doesn't often need stitches like this, but had to admit there were some she really liked. This sampler will actually be made into a little mat or rug for the footrests on her daughter's wheelchair. Lucky daughter!

Finally, I had to share these that I received from my friend Alice who is taking part in the slice quilt project. She just amazes me with how much she produces and how effortless she makes it look. The photo is of her 19th selvage quilt which will be in next year's AQS engagement calendar. She makes these selvage quilts in all sizes and all kinds of traditional block patterns and has won quite a few awards with them. But as if that were not enough, she also makes pincushions out of selvages to give as gifts to friends like me! And because apparently she has too much time on her hands, she also made a small version of our bridge photo, cut it into 4 sections and finished it off as fabric postcards, one for each of us participating in the collaboration. Such beautiful work! speaking of the bridge slice, I've been given a sneak peak and it looks great, with an unplanned but perfect left to right progression of morning to night.

As always, click on any picture for a larger version. And if you are looking for a great deal on thread, my friend Mary has just listed a group of Mettler Threads for your consideration.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When You're Gone...

I really feel for my friend Mary Stori right now. She is sorting through and disposing of a friend's entire quilting studio and quilting life actually, now that the friend is gone and left all this to Mary's care. I'm guessing many of us consider from time to time what will become of our own obsession with quilting but probably have not worked out a plan. I always thought my best friend Judi would be the one to disperse my things, but when I brought it up, she flatly turned me down. Ironic that she went before me and I ended up having to go through a lot of her things instead. Friend's revenge! Anyway, you might want to pop over to Mary's blog and look at what she has up for sale. Start with this post but go back a few too. There are books and fabric bundles (currently of the feedsack variety as in the photo above) and quilts as well. Maybe you'll spot something you've been wanting, and if you do, you'll be helping out a couple of fellow quilters.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Trouble With One-Of-A-Kind Fabrics

I ended the last post with a preview of work begun on that great save of a disappointing dyed fabric. My problem with these kinds of fabrics is that I don't know what to do with them, can't imagine cutting them up, and fear any addition of stitch will ruin, not enhance them. But I'd stared long enough at this one to have at least moved to the conclusion that I would not hurt anything by stitching along the dark edges of the zigzag. Of course, my first thought was to use a dark blue thread, but the muse has returned to the studio and said, "Uh uh uh." Yeah, that really is one of my weaknesses, going too matchy matchy and ending up with something less than exciting. So with the mantra "go bold or go home" ringing in my ears, I reached for that bright green spool of Oliver Twist Hand-dyed thread, shook off my timidity about freemotion quilting and dived in. The green blended in nicely, not getting lost but not jumping off the quilt either. Whew!

And I was ready to stop again. Afraid to add any more quilting. Afraid I would lose all that texture and subtlety of flowing colors. So it took awhile to get comfortable with the nudging from the muse. She was reminding me that at one point I'd considered quilting leaves inside the dark areas, and that I had those sheer leaves still looking for a home. Honestly, I'd been thinking maple leaves and the sheer ones are birch leaves so that's not going to work. After much "musing", I remembered an Amish-style wall quilt made long ago and unearthed when I was going through the bins looking for something to go with my offerings for the Rooted In Fiber Exhibit last December. I remembered being surprised at the quilting I'd put in the borders, but wondering why I hadn't used this again. I was pretty sure it was from a book of Amish quilting patterns by Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham and quickly found it on my bookshelf. Looked pretty much the right size, and I traced it out on a transparency sheet so I could audition it over my fabric. So perfect!

Now to decide on thread. I'd been mulling three from my Oliver Twists: a dark plum, a medium dark blue, and this warm golden brown - all variegated because of the hand-dyeing, all picking up colors in the fabric, all very viable choices. Again, I felt I was going bold by picking the golden one, wanting something that would do more than create a shadow and one that would complement and tie in with the sheer leaves. The muse was nodding in approval.

I'm generally very tense when I start freemotion quilting, but from the get go I felt I was in my element, cruising along with my stitches more even and my curves more smooth than I think I can do and filling the space freestyle as I moved down the zigzags. I did mark the undulating center line with soapstone, if for no other reason than to be sure I was ready to curve in the right direction around each 90 degree turn. Mostly, I wondered who had inhabited my body for this stage.

I loved the way this design looked but I wasn't feeling so confident about the color choice anymore. Yes, it was very much like the leaves I want to add. But I couldn't help wondering if that blue thread would have been a better choice. That's another problem with one-of-a-kinds, no extra to do samples on.

Up on the design wall it went, with a lone leaf attached. I'm just not convinced like I once was that the leaves work on this. It's taken me days to decide about the thread color, with or without the leaves. I've come to think it's a good choice, playing on the lighter yellowish areas of the fabric. Well, good or not, it's there and not coming out.

Here's a shot lying on the table, colors adjusted and perhaps still a bit off. The sheer just picks up the light differently, does not mute like one would think, looks different in different kinds of lighting. The Muse, however, is being mute on the issue.

Here's another shot of the quilting in more natural light and thus more true. I had been thinking to call this one "Float" because I'd planned to float those individual leaves across the surface, but once I chose this particular leaf design for the quilting, "Sway" came to mind and seems more appropriate. That is what the long thin branches of willow trees do as they hang down and move in the wind.

Here's the quilting from the back. It's squared up now, no mean feat when a quilt is longer than your cutting board and has no seams or borders or blocks to use as a guide. I butted a variety of square and regular rulers together, used a tape measure to check that dimensions matched in all directions, then chalked the cutting line on so I could do one last check and one last adjustment before cutting.

I started auditioning binding fabric while it was up on the wall, having narrowed that down to two that have been auditioned as it lays flat on the table. I cannot make up my mind between a dark forest green and a dark charcoal - both leaning towards blue. My art group meets Monday so I may enlist their help. In the meantime, I'm about to embark on yet another leaf cluster for the ArtWalk application. The Muse agreed it was time to quilt up a few more, had been drawing me that direction. This one already had stitching around the leaves but I hadn't done more because I couldn't decide how to quilt the background. After placing my transparency sheet over the top and drawing some ideas on it, none of them were working. The Muse reminded me how well that garnet stitch had worked on one and poo pooed my resistance because I'd already used it. Shouldn't part of this "working in a series" thing be exploring different quilting designs too? Apparently not, and it made me quite happy to come to that conclusion, freeing me to repeat that successful design. However, I can't figure out how any of these thread possibilities will actually look just by pooling them. The Muse let out an impatient sigh. Oh, right. Unlike my zigzag overdye, I have lots of this fabric and the smart thing to do would be to make up a small sandwich and do samples. It's ready and waiting.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Since Last I Wrote . . .

Here's a collection of little things awaiting their turn to make an appearance on the blog. Some actually showed up as I was winding up the taxes and bridge slice. Like the reappearance of that collaborative liturgical stole project, first an envelop in the mail returning my long ago sent design edits and fabric swatches, and then the bag of fabrics - some for the project, some for me to add to my own stash of silks. I e-mailed my collaborator warning her I was not even going to open the envelop while I had these deadlines to meet, knowing how easily I can be distracted. She assured me there wasn't much new in there but that she'd figured out how to get the fabric to me without mailing it, and I could proceed when ready. I only agreed to this project with the caveat that it would take a backseat to any of my other art deadlines, so it can sit until I deal with those. But I had been thinking about it as I shuffled its stack of fabrics out of the way when straightening the workroom and looking for other things. So although I won't be doing anything about it right away, it is good to have it all in my hands now, ready when I am.

Continuing the liturgical theme, a catalog arrived in the mail a few days before Easter, with this dramatic image on the cover. I'm sure it is meant to be a modern representation of Christ, but in my mind, it could be an apostle, prophet, a holy man, not necessarily Christian although it's difficult not to see a hint of a cross in the possible halo about his head and the upraised arms invoking a crucifixion. At any rate, I kept seeing beyond those things and being drawn in by the stylization throughout. I saved it as a possible focal point for a collage.

Speaking of collage, just when I thought I'd broken myself of saving every envelop with a security pattern inside, I found this. I don't think I've ever seen this pattern before, something that looks like wood grain, or perhaps rippling water. I really did hesitate longer than one might think before deciding to keep it. I've filled a small bin with these envelops and have yet to use them. Oh well, one more won't hurt, especially since it is different.

I've observed more evidence of my resolution word, refresh, in the studio. After wrapping up a project, its scraps and fabrics and tools and threads can stay scattered on the worktable for days, generally until I pull out the next thing to work on. This is not a good habit and what leads me to shoving to one side and piling on top of other things until I have little space to actually work when work commences once again. So on the day I put in the last stitches on the bridge slice, trimmed it up and called it done, I was ready to walk away and plop myself in front of the computer for the time left before dinner. Some unfamiliar force stopped me though. Oh, you're right, I thought. Swipe those unusable trimmings into the wastebasket and put that one small piece of fabric and the netting back into the stash. I tried walking away again and it felt like something was literally pulling me back to the table. Ok, Ok, I'll gather up the pattern, photos and directions. And put away the rulers and scissors and rotary cutter. Are you satisfied now, whatever it is driving me to this unfamiliar behavior? I have to admit, it actually lightened me up a bit, and I thought - ah yes, refresh that studio behavior! Instead of experiencing the usual sudden dread upon entering the studio later, I was uplifted by the clean and ready work space. Yeah!

Surprisingly detailed security pattern that could be inspired by quilting?

Not so much my office/guest room space across the hall though. It is still a cringe-worthy mess of papers and projects and notes. Although my taxes were done and mailed off, my copies and their substantiating documentation as well as some I didn't need still lay scattered across an open file folder on the floor. It's quick work to gather up, organize and stuff this into an envelop for the file box but my habit has been to looked the other way when entering the room because when I go in there, I already have a list of things to attend to. But we have started to refresh that as well, apparently. On a day that had been long but left a short space of time for something, a space I'd talked myself out of as being enough for the studio but more than I should waste, I realized it was just enough time to put away the tax things and file a bunch of papers I'd let stack up. Suddenly I was deep into some files definitely needing weeding - out with the old, in with the new! And oops, I unearthed another security pattern I didn't remember having and decided to keep. Now to refresh my habit of procrastinating about tending to the growing stack of papers to be shredded.

Speaking of procrastination, I was doing just that one day when I was putting off tackling the bridge reflection by convincing myself I was just catching up on links I'd saved to read "when I had more time." Just one more article. Well, just another one. This will definitely be the last one. And yes, I ruefully smiled at the irony that this last one was all about procrastination, it was right there in the title, How to Beat Procrastination, and as long as I was procrastinating then sure, let's see how I can beat it. It was an exercise in head nodding, as I actually know most of what's in there. But it's definitely presented in an entertaining way and gave me some different ways of viewing it. The author, Tim Urban, talks about planning as breaking down a daunting task into manageable parts - not a concept I'm unfamiliar with. I love the analogy he follows this up with though:

"No one “builds a house.” They lay one brick again and again and again and the end result is a house. Procrastinators are great visionaries—they love to fantasize about the beautiful mansion they will one day have built—but what they need to be are gritty construction workers, who methodically lay one brick after the other, day after day, without giving up, until a house is built."

My, that's a pretty good description of me, the fantasizing part. It's harder to convince myself to keep after the gritty day after day part. He's got a lot to say about that too, the doing part, and you should go read it. This is actually part two, but he gives a link to part one right away, so you might want to read that too.

April has brought rain AND snow showers...and some new pens!

And now March has turned to April, we're still kinda stuck in winter, and I'm still buying pens for sketching. Dare I say it verges on addiction, this fascination with the astounding variety of drawing tools and inks out there? But in my defense, I had a soon expiring Mystery Reward from Staples, a guaranteed $5 if not more, and really nothing else I needed from that store. So I found myself in front of the pen display, wishing they carried bottled ink in the store, checking cartridges and specifically looking for something red. This was as close as I could come without ending up with a larger collection of pens and colors. I've noted my Urban Sketchers often recommending the Uni-ball brand, especially their white gel pens. These are roller-ball and permanent ink and I haven't used a roller-ball pen in ages. With my coupon, these came to about a dollar apiece so I am excited to now have a better choice of red pen for my "just add red" sketchbook along with the other colors for other sketching.

With April has come a confirmation of ArtWalk's application deadline, later than in previous years but coming up fast nonetheless. No wonder I felt my snowdye overdye zigzaggy piece was calling louder than the baby quilt. Brick one has been laid!