Saturday, May 23, 2020

More Springiness and Some Sewing

Soooo, this happened on the way to making a mask. I had an urge to sew like I haven't had for a long time, and the pieces I'd cut for split 9 patches on National Quilting Day were still sitting on my machine surround. The mask was going to require a change of thread and needle, and as long as the machine was still set for sewing these blocks, I decided to get to it. I arranged 5 of the half-square triangle units with light and dark squares and sewed them together. The next day I counted how many half-square triangle units were left, just 4, and after arranging them with dark squares and what was left of the light squares, I cut ten more light squares in order to complete those blocks too. Now I have a total of 13 six inch blocks, lots of dark squares left as well as some squares for making more half square triangle units. But this was enough to satisfy me for now, make me feel ok about packing it all back into its folder for another day.

As for the mask, yes I know, late to the party but I've never been much of one for jumping on bandwagons. While other sewers of all stripes have hunkered down to make masks not just for themselves and family but to donate, I just couldn't rally to the cause. I did check to see if my brothers/sils needed any but they are being well taken care of by their places of work. I've followed links, watched videos and read directions, and could see this was no quick project and would be the type of sewing I don't particularly enjoy. I also knew how much time I'd spend picking fabric and I wasn't wrong about that! I have fiddle now for parts of two days with what I thought was my preferred pandemic mask pattern and directions only to be unhappy with the fit and thinking I should have listened to my gut about some of the measurements and instructions. And I was so sure I wanted to make one with ties, but I am finding them problematic. One positive outcome was trying out these Clover Wonder Clips and liking them for holding all those layers of folds together instead of using pins. I've been giving these a wide berth but bought a small pack at the recommendation of my bookbinding teacher for holding signatures together or templates in place. They actually work better than binder clips for that.

Well, no matter that the mask with the ties isn't working out. I can just do that no sew version using an 18" square of fabric. I knew that when folded, the center tended not to have more than one layer so dug out some lightweight fusible interfacing from my clothes-sewing days and added a rectangle of it on the center. I happened to have some ponytail elastic ties, bought for quick closures for my soft journals, so I was set to fold and try it on. Well, THAT didn't work so well either. I've heard people say those hair ties are really too small and I'd have to agree. Plus I wear glasses and I was having trouble working around the end of the bows. And my small hoop earrings kept getting caught up in the elastic. And it kept slipping off one ear (I must have a Stephen Colbert-type ear issue). But even when I got everything in place and adjusted, I wasn't happy. No covering underneath the chin, a wad of fabric in the mouth area, I couldn't imagine talking to anyone while wearing it.
But as I often do, I'm digging in my heels. I've watched a few more videos, including one tested and recommended by friend Michele in Wisconsin, and rifled through my supplies. Not sure why I'm so hung up on the pleated ones, but I will be trying another version, and possibly taking apart the one with the ties to rework it. But in the meantime I had a lightbulb moment, remembering how pleased I've always been with the fit of my pollen mask, that I could no doubt make a pattern off of it. So that will be the next step.
Now for the promised Springiness. 

More trees in my neighborhood have blossomed, bringing welcome color. This one is by the Goodwill Store.

And this one is in front of the Animal Shelter Charity Shop.

But this is what I've been waiting impatiently for it to bloom for about 3 weeks now. 

I thought maybe I'd missed it all together, but each time I checked, I could see the tiny blooms coming on, getting bigger and finally this week opening up.

Another sure sign of spring - goslings! The goose poop at City Beach is a pain and several attempts have been made to remove the geese who have discovered they really don't need to fly south in winter, but there's no keeping them from returning. The positive side is how lovely it is to watch the little ones.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Japanese Stab Binding

April's Handmade Book Club taught us how to make basic stab binding books. I just managed to get the first one done under the wire so it could go in the gallery and also meet April's separate challenge that our fearless leader puts forth each month to both the private Facebook group and the public Crafting Handmade Books group.

I'd been thinking that some of my eco printed watercolor paper could be used as covers for a stab binding book, so I was pretty excited to pick a couple and get going. Fulfilling the challenge of using something in your stash at least a year old was easy. The sketch paper I chose for the signatures has been around for at least 10 years, bought after taking a drawing class and taking advantage of some sales at my local Ben Franklin. Also probably ten years in my possession is some handspun threads and yarns that I bought from my internet friend, Connie Rose. Look at those ribbons! The cotton one on the left turned out not to be strong enough but the hemp on the right was perfect.

We started with a basic 4 hole version while we learned how to deal with single, not folded, signature blocks and punching holes through it all.

I chose two mirror image prints to show on front and back and of the two, the best different print on the other side to show as the inside cover. This one will be a gift to a fellow sketcher.

I jumped to the third more involve Hemp Leaf stitch because I thought it would show off well on a second set of eco prints where I could continue using the hemp thread. Not really difficult, just more holes, more sequences to follow. Since making the sewing holes with an awl on the first one was very hard, I got brave and got out a Dremel-like electric drill I'd gotten on sale for use in the studio. It has no slow speed so it was rather exciting whizzing through the layers (yes, I tried it on a sample first). I need to find a slightly smaller drill bit, I think, for use with more standard size bookbinding thread.

This particular eco print was lovely on both sides. I dithered a lot about what kind of paper to use as I planned to keep this one for my own use. I have a thought to go back to some pencil sketching, maybe do some botanical drawings and add color with Inktense or regular colored pencils. I decided on a heavy vellum bristol recommended by my drawing teacher, another one of my Ben Franklin finds that have not been used all these years, because, unlike the lighter vellum I have, this one is supposed to take a light wash which I will need to do to activate those Inktense pencils.

The issue is that it is quite stiff which means the pages do not easily turn and stay turned. I've made several attempts at "breaking in" the pages but I suspect I'll have to clip pages to keep things flat enough to work in it.

Rather than three leaves like the front cover, the back eco print features two - still lovely.

Determined to finish this group up before the end of the weekend (because, you know, May's lesson is waiting . . .), I've worked diligently the last couple of days to finish this book with the Noble binding, which has the same corner treatment as the Hemp Leaf binding but otherwise is just a bit more interesting than the plain 4 hole binding. I may like this one the best and saved it for use on what you might recognize as one of the silk fusion "papers" I experimented with. This one was done with textile medium and folds softly back so works ok as a cover. The decorative thread or yarn which may be familiar from my "Adrift" piece where I used it for grass was just the right color green with bits of purple mixed in. It's weight and the twisted threads made it a bit difficult to work with but very worth it. I wasn't brave enough to use the drill through the silk fusion and the rice paper I chose for the signatures but if I had, I probably would have had good-size holes, especially in the cover. The silk fusion holes made with the awl just slowly closed back up. This one is for my use too, and I'm looking forward to doing some rubbings and work with wet media which it is supposed to be good for.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

A Week of Pleasantries

I noted with a bit of joy the return of syringa blooms behind my place this past week. Syringa is the Idaho state flower and holds quite a few special childhood memories.

I've also been reminded that some of the trees in my development do indeed bloom. 

If I didn't know better, I'd say this was an apple tree in bloom. But I DO know better. Unless it's some mock or decorative variety that doesn't bear fruit.

I put my morning quick draw on hold while working on the Sketchbook Revival lessons in April. But I had printed out this batch of applique ideas off of the American Quilt Society 30 Days of Flowers series to use as prompts when I returned to the daily quick drawing. The prompts I'd been using had started to repeat too many from month to month, and I could feel myself losing interest. I'm still working in the sketchbook with the less than wonderful paper and getting out my cheap colored pencils to recreate each day's flower, but instead of drawing from memory as I'd been doing with the other prompts, I'm switching to studying each flower before drawing, breaking down the component parts and strategizing how to approach the shapes and the order in which to draw them. This has been enlightening, especially when I see a flower with so many parts, like the top one, that I am tempted to be overwhelmed into skipping it. But my experience with Zentangling kicks in and I can see how to proceed. Then I work in the color, striving to match the colors (which sometimes takes the blending of two) and shading light to dark where needed. These are still fairly quick to do and feel worthwhile as a daily practice, at least for this month.

A packaged arrived this week from my globe-trotting cousin who was on the last legs of a south sea island tour when ports started closing because of the virus. (No one on her small cruise ship tested positive but they still weren't allowed to debark for any planned flights home and eventually restocked at Hawaii for the unplanned cruise to San Diego - a trip extended by many days!) She often will pick up a souvenir for me if she can find something textile related. I'd seen her post about this yarn which she got in New Zealand and could only dream it might be for me. And it is! It is hand painted blend of merino wool, silk and possum fur! It has a wonderful feel and there are even instructions about how to work with the two skeins at once to even out any variations in the colors one skein to the next. Nope nope nope, no idea what I will knit out of it yet, but I am truly taken by it. And it will forever remind me of her floating around at sea for days before the captain could arrange a port of call.

The Whitlock women

Finally, I had every intention of finishing up the April bookbinding lesson last week (3 different stab stitches). But guilt is a great motivator for me, and I've been feeling guilty for quite awhile about harassing my brother for months and months to find and send the missing carousels of family slides from the larger collection he'd already delivered, and then after scanning a few, leaving them to languish for well over a year I'm thinking. The boxes sit in my studio because I've been scanning to the laptop I keep in there, and one day last week the pull was very strong to forget about bookbinding and do some scanning. The two carousels I worked on had slides from 1949 into 1953, so before I was born and when my brothers were very young. So many delightful photos including this one of my mother (right), aunt (left) and grandmother (center). Mom wrote on the slide frame that this was the first time she and her sister had been together with their mother on Mother's Day since mom had gotten married in 1938. Family was rooted in South Dakota and mom was all about family. It must have been so difficult for her to leave them behind when she and dad (and the first of 4 boys) moved to this mining region in Idaho during WWII. Her sister eventually relocated there for awhile as well, teaching in nearby schools, and she shows up in most holiday and camping pictures from here on out. Anyway, how sweet to run across this photo just days before Mother's Day.

Claud & Dot Sink with baby Mary December 1950

That strong draw to scan may not have been for my benefit though. I also ran across a photo of my parents' best friends with their newborn as they visited at Christmas in that same year. I've kept in touch with a few of the many children they had (they were Catholic), most recently one on Facebook who I'd promised long ago I'd share any photos I ran across with her family in them. I had no idea she wouldn't have a picture like this herself, but she told me that she was 13 when her mother died and that she had very few pictures of herself with her mother. She was over the moon to get this one, and especially just before Mother's Day. Sometimes you just have to follow those urges . . .

Friday, May 01, 2020

The World Is Brightening Up

I've been waiting not too patiently for some color to return outside. This time span between the freshening-of-the-landscape snows and the greening that comes with warmer weather is my least favorite, everything brown and grey and lifeless. My neighborhood in particular has little flowering landscaping so to find some color, I must to go into town. Last week I needed to visit the post office to mail my taxes, and I suspected that the garden of the building across the street would have some spring bulbs blooming in it, and I was right.

Several different colors of tulips were blooming here and there.

Even this somewhat scraggly azalea by the corner of the next building over was a welcome sight on this day of showers moving through.

And the other day I noticed how the tall cottonwood trees along part of my walk had leafed out, that bright new green that will soon turn a richer darker green. It inspired me to grab my sketchbook and watercolor kit yesterday to see if I could capture the feel in an impressionist style rather than my usual more precise inked and colored in style. This gravel road, shaded in the afternoon by those tall tall cottonwoods, skirts the dog park and leads to the human park behind it. I'd like to try this again as I didn't get that soaring feel of the trees, make the road smaller, thinner to allow for taller trees. But this was quite fun and freeing to do. And though it's still too cool to go without a jacket, being out in that fresh air was wonderful, now that the main pollen offender for me has finished doing its thing.