Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Week's Progress

What started as feeling like a slow crawl of quilting on the fat quarter quilt borders has sped up some as I got into a rhythm of following the paisley designs in the fabric. It's not particularly straight forward with one paisley leading to the next, and there are times when I quilt myself into a corner or miss going into an area, requiring a stop or start in an odd place. Just keep reminding myself of the "aha" moment I had early in my learning to free motion quilt: Just because you are working on a "continuous" design doesn't mean that you have to stitch continuously and can't stop to reposition your hands or assess where to go next or even to backstitch and cut threads to start again in another spot. The beauty of this quilting is that it literally cannot be seen (except on the back) and thus I don't really need to worry about quilting exactly along the line of a paisley or those times when my stitches get uneven. I'm just going for the texture here and to highlight those paisley shapes. I know that when I first started quilting on the first border, I was pretty obsessed with going around every shape, even the small ones and that was making things slow going. But as I worked along the top border this week, I simply couldn't stop myself from continuing that somewhat, even though I want to go faster. As I finished the top border, I just rationalized that the borders may as well be densely quilted because the rest of the quilt is densely quilted as well.

I wasn't sure I'd get the whole border done by the end of the week so I was much pleased when I did. Side borders are a little longer I think but it would be nice to see each one finished in a week as well. I have to say, I still love the colors and the fabrics in this quilt, 20 years after I bought them. While I'll admit to having fabric in my stash who's colors and/or prints look dated, none of these in this quilt strike me that way. Good thing, huh?

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Discoveries of the Week

Nothing "finished" this week but at least I got things set up so I could proceed with the quilting on this fat quarter quilt. After clearing the ironing board and deciding to let the wool pressing mat remain, it was easy to slide the board next to the machine I use for machine quilting and plop the folded quilt on it to see if it would rest there and make quilting on those borders less of the push and pull that I remembered. The wool pressing mat has more grip to it than the smoother ironing board cover which I hoped would help keep the bulk of the quilt on the board.

And oh my goodness, this is working like a charm! The border area is totally free to be moved around as I quilt the paisleys in the fabric print. It's still slow going, as slow as I remember it, which puzzles me, but I think it is partly because of quilting around the many shapes in the fabric rather than choosing a larger overall motif to quilt. I may switch when I get to the side borders. As for why the ironing board is working better than I remember, I think it is because before I lowered it to be even with the table surround of the machine. Leaving it up higher is definitely giving more freedom of movement. And I am so glad I have not had to move the machine with all the unhooking of cords and removing of the table surround required to set it up where my other machine resides as you see in the first photo.

I doubt that I've mentioned that, after I'd pin basted the baby quilt, my screwdriver that I use exclusively to loosen and tighten screws holding needles and feet on my machines disappeared. I don't remember where it originally came from but I have had it for decades and through many machine changes. Those short ones that come with your machine are more irritating than useful, I've found. Just not enough length to hold on to it well and give leverage like a full size screwdriver. And now mine was no where to be found. And I looked everywhere I could think of, be it logical or not. I finally decided that perhaps it fell from the spot near the machine where I always keep it into the wastebasket next to the table and thus had gone out with the trash. Sigh and much angst over this as I struggled changing needles and feet with the little screwdriver.

And then, as I was setting up to start quilting on this quilt, I got out the Almond Roca tin where I keep my basting safety pins to set by the machine. I popped the lid and was stunned to see my screwdriver in there! I really have no recollection of putting it there, would have no reason to put it there. It's a mystery but I am so happy to have my screwdriver back!

I can't remember the last quilt book I bought but it's been awhile; I think it was one on a certain type of machine quilting. I'm at that point where there's not much new out there that I don't already have a book on or a magazine article that covers it. Instead, I've veered off into the lesser known region of handmade books, seeing how-to book recommendations popping up on the club Facebook page. One title in particular keeps getting mentioned, and I knew my library had it, in fact, I'd copied a few things out of it at one time. I decided with my new-found knowledge, it was time to check out all the books on the subject my library has and peruse. I decided that the two books above were ones with enough info in them that I wanted to add them to the two I already own. The great discovery while tracking down used copies was an alternate site to the Better World Books which I use often because they do more than just sell books; they have raised millions of dollars for literacy and donate a book to someone in need for every book you purchase. But this time they didn't have these books. The alternate site I discovered during a google search is Alibris and I was thrilled to find both books and at prices under $10 dollars. And they look brand new. I really do try to stay off Amazon and buy more directly from other sources.

Final discovery of the week - that there is a book about dyeing using Hawaiian plants! My well-traveled cousin who likes to pick up souvenirs for me found this one and thought I might find it interesting. I honestly thought, who knew???

Will I actually try out any of these recipes, provided I could source the plant material needed? Probably not, but it is a lovely book to page through. I'm so taken with the illustrations within, so many of the plants unknown to me. A whole new world!


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Journaling and Tidying

I've journaled since high school - not daily and sometimes with huge gaps in time between writing my thoughts in various kinds of journal books. Last year I had earmarked several suggestions of journal prompts that looked to go well with the other kinds of "deep dives" I was doing through my reading and some webinars. I've always found writing to unearth feelings, answers and truths that don't seem to occur to me any other way. Art journaling, I have found, does a similar thing, but with fewer words and the addition of images and marks. It can be quite therapeutic! As Laly Mille notes after finishing her most recent spread:

"I often feel that it’s not just me playing and writing in my journal, but rather that my inner soul is writing to me on the page, telling me something I need to hear, providing gentle guidance and support from deep within."

So I knew working with these prompts was something I wanted to add to my "finish more" list, and that is what I've been working through this week, both in a blank journal and my altered book. All very personal so not much to show, but I did want to show you part of a page where I am experimenting with drawing right on the page in the discarded library book I am using for my art journaling. I've seen this done many times by some Urban Sketchers, usually using a black brush pen or marker, but I've also seen art journal pages done like I've done here, where the medium used in not opaque, yet somehow, the eye ignores the text in the background, it does not have to be covered over or blacked out in any way. I was surprised at how well it worked with my different colors of Sharpies.

I had lunch with a quilting friend this week, sharing that I was bound and determined to finish the large quilt just needing its borders quilted and had decided that it was up next. In the course of describing the issues with my machine stations when machine quilting a larger piece, it became clear that I might have to bite the bullet and move my machine to a different table, something I'd rather not mess with. But it would make my life easier in that everything to the left of the machine would be supported with a wall keeping it from dropping off the edge. Not so with where that machine is now, residing in a plexiglass table with a drop off to the floor. The quilt will need something to rest on, and I have vague memories of using my ironing board for that. Either way, I cannot proceed without clearing things off of either that other sewing station or the ironing board which I'd stacked with various bookmaking items. So I've also spent some time this week organizing directions for future bookmaking projects with suitable signature papers and putting away odds and ends, book board and the many pads of paper I now own and often use as weights along with coffee table books. In the picture, you can see them stacked on top of a tall box which holds my batting. I'd put my first pad of watercolor paper there back when I was using the thick paper to sew art quilts to before popping them in a frame. It was the only flat surface large enough to accommodate it. It's amazing how many more smaller-dimension pads of various kinds of paper I've accumulated thanks to my increasing interest in sketching, mixed media and bookmaking. Reminds me of my stacks of fabrics . . . 

Lady Liberty catching some rays

I also took a stroll down at City Beach the other day. We may still have piles of snow but the temps have been in the low 40's with the sun gaining some warmth. With no breeze it was a very pleasant place to be and as always, did a bit to restore my soul.

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Indeed a Challenge

I got behind this week, partly because of what you see above. It should look familiar, something we quilters do all the time, dig out more than enough options from our stashes in order to find the "perfect" one for our needs. In this case, I was just looking for a bit of blue fabric for the straps attached to the covers that wrap around the spine. I was originally going to use a piece of teal leather, but talked myself out of it as being "not quite right" and then did the deep dive into my batiks. 

Over 3 days while I tended to an out-of-town medical procedure and my usual Thursday commitments, I kept coming into the studio and changing my mind until I finally said the heck with it, I'm choosing this bubble one, convincing myself that it "coordinated" with the stamped bubbles on the inside spacers. I glued the covers to the text block flaps (not without some drama), fused two pieces together, cut them to size and sewed them with a long wrapped stitch. No sooner had I completed that step than I decided I didn't really like them, nor the thread choice for the stitching but too late!

Here's another thing that got me behind: the soft opening of a new yarn shop in my little town on Saturday. The owners have been having "supply issues" but didn't want to delay any longer. So with limited stock and offering a 20% discount on all purchases, they partied on and I joined in!. Like I need more yarn, but goodness, what an array of interesting textures and colors hung on one wall and promises of even more to come. And 20% off!!! These are mostly merino wools which I usually don't buy but oh, how luscious they are. And no, I don't know what I will make with them. But I DO know this is very dangerous, being situated about equal distance and under a mile from both a yarn shop and a quilt shop.

But I digress. Shopping spree over and I return to the studio to find my journal has sprung very open. Ack!

I'm pretty sure it is because I pulled the straps too tight around the spine, having miscalculated how long they needed to be. Ideally they are supposed to gap a bit but instead, mine are pulling the covers open I think. I have an idea of how I might be able to fix that, but for now, I just want to get the final steps done.

I'd not put much thought into a closure but now I needed to since the book would not stay closed on its own. Frustrated and out of patience, I did the quickest thing I could think of: just add a piece of elastic to wrap around the front edge vertically. Part of me wishing I'd taken the time to do something more decorative, part of me just wanting to finish. It can always be changed.

And lastly, using more of Sylvia's paste papers for the end papers, covering where the cover attaches to the spine tab and the thread stitches.

Just to remind you, the point of the signatures being sewn into an accordion spine is to create space for adding things to the pages (like cards or collage) without causing the book to bulge. With nothing in the book, the spine edge will be thicker than the fore edge.

But it is NOT supposed to do this on its own! Fortunately, the elastic closure is keeping those edges of the cover in check.

And here's what one of those spine tabs between signatures looks like. The whole thing came out a bit wonky and I'm not sure I actually like the structure as much as I thought I would. It strikes me as something that will be difficult to work in.

I had planned to make a larger version of this journal but I struggled so much with these last steps of attaching the covers and straps that I need a break from it. Not sure what project is up next for the coming week, but I don't think it will be a handmade book.