Monday, July 31, 2023

Capturing Flowers

I had planned to finished up a second butterfly binding book this afternoon, but the deck garden and warm weather were calling to me instead. The garden has turned from sorry to delightful and I have been spending many mornings doing a little reading in its presence. I still wonder at my desire to sketch florals but there's no denying I do enjoy it, from the close observation that sometimes reveals surprises to the matching of colors to the methodical movement of pen or pencil as each petal, stem and leaf is reproduced as closely as my skill allows. So one afternoon it was the pink Dianthus I tackled with colored pencil, this afternoon it was the rich maroon one along with the single osteospermum bloom that has finally arrived (upper right in above pic), outlining each in micron pen before adding colored pencil. As for the row of faces at the top of the spread, I did those a few weeks ago, an old Draw Tip Tuesday exercise where you draw a bunch of thumb shapes on the page, then add features, hair, whatever, to turn them into people. Some winners, some definitely a bit odd.

The Dianthus indeed had a surprise for me upon closer inspection: white stamen curling up from the center. Adding white is tricky; the white colored pencil didn't show at all while a white gel pen fared no better. I don't think I confessed to you that, after all my negativity and misgivings about Posca pens, I ended up buying some. There were coupons and vouchers involved to bring the price down, and because I couldn't make up my mind about what colors to get, I ended up splurging on this set of . . . yes you are seeing it right in the photo . . . sixteen colors. Sheesh. But I was glad I had them, including a white one that worked like a charm drawing in those stamens. It's making me eager to experiment with them more. And, in case you didn't know, they work on fabric too.

Not that I was compelled to draw them, but I did notice that the lavender geranium has new blooms and I still can't get over that color for a geranium. Perhaps I should sketch it.

I've been doing a lot of close cloud observation too lately. I've watched many tutorials on how to paint clouds and it's a tricky proposition. And any time I've tried adding them to a quilt either as applique or quilting stitches, I've only frustrated myself. But I observe anyway with thoughts of how the various ones I see are "constructed" and could be painted. Every now and then I see a formation like I've not seen before and think that if I could in fact reproduce it, no one would believe it really existed. I tried to capture one such cloud with my very poor cell camera, but if you look closely, the cloud on the right looks a bit like someone dragged a comb through it, lines running from upper right to lower left. The cloud to the left looked more like someone had taken a brush to it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Love Love Love It!

I've finished putting together the Little Link Stitch book and can't believe how taken I am with it now that it is done. A bit like making a quilt, in that you may really like all the components, but sometimes when they come together in the finished product, it is more lovely than you anticipated. Here are the steps once the signatures were folded and put under weights.

Note how the fore edges of the signature extend past the eco print

There's no way around it; when you fold a stack of papers, there will always be some fore edge creep. In purchased books, that creep, where the middle paper's edge and all those surrounding it goes beyond the outer paper's edge, gets trimmed off for a smooth edged text block. In handmade books, it is often a matter of preference whether or not to trim the papers flush. If there's a cover which extends beyond the fore edge, one can definitely get away with not trimming, and I have done that on many of my books, more out of laziness than preference. But with this book, it was necessary to trim back those fore edges to be flush with the eco print wrapper.

When I folded the signatures inside of the eco prints, I alternated the ones with mixed media paper with the ones with sketching paper and chose which side of each eco print would be on the outside and in what order. Of course, when I took them out from under the weights, I found myself questioning the order of the eco prints and reshuffled them to this order. Lord knows I've done the same with my quilting choices.

Time to stitch. I measured off a length of the hand-spun hemp I've been using so often, knowing that the off-white would compliment this book well. I made the first passes to attach the first two signatures together, took one look and thought, no - this doesn't look right at all. Looking through my limited selection of waxed linen thread, I decided perhaps the white would work and I liked that so much more. Look at those near perfect stitches! Again, it was reminding me of quilting choices I was so sure about but not working as I suspected they would.

These pictures show the interplay of design of the eco prints from signature to signature. 

The closure is attached by looping around the center coptic stitch in the middle of the spine, adding a bead (or two) at the end and then wrapping around the book several times. Again, I thought I would use a dark brown leather shoelace but when laid across the book, it didn't look right at all. But peeking out from the same bowl of odds and ends was this lime green piece of raffia. No, I thought, surely not. But yes, surely yes when it was laid across the book. I never would have dreamed to use that color but it does pick up the green and yellow tones of the eco prints. Remembering how well those wood beads worked for the closure on the wine and beer notebook, I instinctively reached for them. But because I usually do check ALL my options, I searched through some larger beads in my collection. I used to frequent a bead shop on Water Street when I lived in Eau Claire WI, and since this was early in my beading experience, meaning I often didn't know what to buy from the wonderful array of choices, I took advantage of the discounted grab bags or scoops from a bin of odds and ends. So I'm sure that's where these two beads came from, although I have no idea what they are made of or why they are such odd shapes. But they have a hole through them that I could feed the raffia through so on they went. So pleased with how this came out. At 6 x 4 inches, I could see using this as a travel companion - a place to not only sketch but keep notes on where I went and what I saw.

I've also finished up that sketch of garbage trucks, having fun working with the Inktense pencils and a wet brush. I've not done much with the Inktense pencils since I got them long ago, just a little testing and experimenting on fabric. This seemed the perfect place to use them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


I folded the signatures for the Little Link Stitch book, putting them under weights overnight and never got back to them. It was a weekend of racing to watch, and I'm not sure what else kept me away, just know that I shouldn't put off posting any longer with the intention of showing it all finished. I did get the signatures sewn into the cover for the wine and beer notebook though. I used the handspun hemp thread that has become a favorite, using a long enough piece to have plenty to wrap around the book as a closure. But that end needed something, and I pulled out an unopened bag of wood beads, bought ages ago with the intent that they end up on a quilt, but don't they look perfect here?

Oh, now I remember. I made two late afternoon trips to sketch these garbage trucks that I pass by on one of my daily walking routes - the first to get down the shapes and details in pencil, and the second to ink them in and add a little color with Inktense Pencils. I do not do "quick draws" so each session took about 45 minutes and I knew I could put the final touches on it at home, primarily to find something to color in the cyclone fence and to activate the Inktense with water. But like the Little Link Stitch book, the drawing still sits in my bag waiting. Don't ask me what it is that intrigued me about these trucks, hunkered down for the night after a long day of picking up trash, but there was something that made me want to draw them.

Daniel Sroka - Allusive 2023

With so little to show this week, I am sending you over to Daniel Sroka's latest online gallery. Through written and spoken word and a couple of short videos plus his beautiful photos, he tells a story about childhood and nature's inspiration that is not unlike my own. Enjoy Getting Lost In Nature.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Establishing/Returning To A Practice

Since getting "serious" about art quilting and later starting up yoga lessons, I've been bombarded by this idea of "a practice". Usually it has been presented as more than just setting a schedule or routine, but more of a focused dedication. I've never been able to sustain this kind of practice, and in fact joke with my yoga teacher when she talks about "our practice", saying "Practice? What Practice?" I only seem to be able to maintain my yoga one when there are weekly sessions to attend, and my art one when there is a deadline of some kind. I get discouraged that I can't seem to maintain what I think others mean by a practice. Then a ran across this: 

"But if there’s anything I know about practicing it’s that it isn’t about rules or consistency or scarcity or god forbid optimizing: it’s about coming back. A practice is built on the movement of return." (Mandy Brown and the A Working Library blog)

So that is what I determined I'd do during my week of semi-isolation and contemplation, come back to my studio practice, a little at a time but steadily. And that is how the Mixed Media Challenge Journal above got finished. It's a good size book (6" x 9") filled with Fabriano 108lb mix media paper, and with its bookboard covers, heavy in the hand. And a good thing I wasn't making it as a gift. The first (and smaller version) of this journal gave me fits ( so many awkward parts to master and I was not happy with my straps), but I was confident I'd avoid these second time around, which I mostly did. Instead, different issues cropped up, ones I've never had before. The cover paper is some that came wrapped around an order with the encouragement to recycle/upcycle, and the color was just what I was looking for to go with the strap material which was the real reason I wanted to try the book again in a larger format. That's a leftover piece from a silk papermaking or fusion experiment after cutting the full piece into Japanese Stab Binding covers. Waste not, want not, and really too big just to toss. Anyway, the paper appeared sturdy enough for gluing to bookboard so I was stunned that it wrinkled and bubbled across the PVA-covered board. I worked and worked with my bone folder to smooth it the best I could, and some of it disappeared while drying under weights but there is a spot you may be able to see about a quarter of the way in along the top of the cover where the paper is no longer attached to the board. For now I am ignoring it, but at a later date I might be willing to try slipping some glue under there. The big button is out of my grandmother's/mother's button collection, probably off a coat, and I adore it. I really didn't want to do a lot of stitching down of the strap (nor had I wanted to split the strap into two narrower pieces) so this was my solution. I fashioned a closure from what I trimmed off to shorten the strap.

Only one of those lovely buttons but I rather like this one too which is the same size but not as thick, a bit better for the back of the book. I should have used this cover for the front but it really did look worse to me, but in fact the paper now looks less wrinkled etc. for reasons I can't fathom. And why did I think the strap should overlap so far over the covers? Well, I think I meant to leave more of a gap over the spine but even so, it probably should have been trimmed even more.

With the strap and closure sewn on (through holes worked into the covers with an awl), time to glue on the endpapers which will cover where the threads come through and are tied off, and where the accordion spine now glued together attaches its end flaps to the covers. These are from another piece of wrapping paper which was brown paper bag-like on one side and this slightly glisteny green on the other. I was ready for the worst and I got it. The paper started curling as soon as I started applying the glue and was a real challenge to position in place. When I started smoothing it down with a bone folder, I found many places along its edges where it wasn't sticking down and I struggled to get glue on those areas without it ending up on the right side. Back under weights until dry, hoping the wrinkles and bubbles would disappear and for the most part they did. But you can still see dark places that I don't understand and the paper not really heavy enough to mask the underlying threads and knots.

The other thing that became clear as I worked with that accordion folded spine was that I really should have heeded suggestions for a sturdier/heavier paper than my signature paper. But since that signature paper was the size I needed (so no cutting) and supposed to take wet medium, I opted for the easy way out. The paper didn't stay flat when the watercolor paint hit it and when you flip through the book, some of those painted peaks are not stiff and flat. But they do add the bit of color I was looking for. The book itself opens pretty flat and there is minimal rocking from the strap and buttons. It should work well for collaging and experimenting with the Posca Pens I bought.

There was slack time between steps while waiting for glue to dry while under weights, so I forged ahead with prep for the next books. Remember when I experimented with eco printing paper? I've used quite a bit of the product of those sessions but 7 of these smaller ones were still waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. Then the Handmade Book Club lady gave directions for this coverless Little Link Stitch book where the signatures are wrapped in a slightly heavier decorative paper. I checked my eco prints and although they were a bit larger than what the directions called for, I could just up-size my book. Have had this idea floating around for ages and now its going to get made. My signatures are cut to size and paired with a wrapper, ready for folding and punching.

In the meantime, here's another "use it up" project that will take no time as long I get the pieces together. And so I did that too - an orphan piece of eco printing and trial printing of lined paper teamed up to make a notebook for recording info on wine and beer. Right now that info is scribbled in a falling apart spiral notebook that is awkward to use when I take it with me to the store. This will be much better - holes punched and ready to sew those signatures in!

So yes, a productive week, returned to my practice which I plan to continue with renewed enthusiasm but remembering it is the returning part that is important. And partly fueled by the young neighbor girl who generally shows up at my door to borrow an egg, then bringing me a sample of whatever it is she's baking in return. But this time she just offered up the plate of cookies on the left, then returned the next day with the two cookies and selection of teas on the right. Can't she see I don't need more fattening up? :-) She is a very good baker, I must say, and since cookies are not my forte, these are much appreciated.

By the way, here's the link to the post where I ran across the "coming back" to a practice. It is actually about keeping up a blogging practice which was of interest to me, a die-hard blogger while so much of the social media world has moved on from that. Read it here

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Marking the Anniversary Once Again

F. Allen Barnes III - 11/12/1953 - 7/5/2000

My guy . . . taken too soon. I'll be spending the week remembering, and hopefully doing some special things to mark our years together. He had such faith in me, more than I had in myself. I think about all the things I've had to get through without his support since his death and realize that he would have had no doubt that I could, urging me on from beyond. And he pushed me in my quilting too, never letting me slacken my standards. So I'll be trying to live up to some of that in the studio, in his honor, in his memory.

Monday, July 03, 2023

And Suddenly It's July

How did that happen? Felt like a wake up call the morning there were no more days in June, and I had to flip the calendar to reveal the month of July. Ack Ack Ack!!! I'm making progress though on the mixed media journal that I painted the spine paper with watercolor paint for. Knowing I'd be making another one of these books was the deciding factor in purchasing one of these Scor-Pal tools.They are primarily used by card makers of which there are many in the Handmade Book Club. One of them mentioned that she'd used hers to do the scoring for her accordion spine and we all sat up and took notice, realizing how much easier that process would become using one of these. And other ways we might use it too.

Score lines from the back

Well, I can confirm it was quick and accurate with its grooves every eighth of an inch for the scoring tool to glide down.

My spine was soon ready for the signatures I'd made and put under weights ahead of time.

Spine from the back showing pamphlet stitch

Easier said than done, sewing the signatures to this spine. This is an awkward binding to work, what with each signature being sewn separately into the valley of a spine fold, although the 5 hole pamphlet stitch itself is simple.

The first few aren't too bad. But the more you sew, the more the spine starts flopping around.

And by the end, it is getting difficult to maneuver the signature clipped to the spine into the cradle to punch the sewing holes.

But it is done and back under weights in preparation for the next step, which if I remember correctly, is a messy one.

I've also cut the covers from book board, a job I hate as it takes so many swipes of whatever cutting tool (craft knife, box cutter, etc.) to finally get all the way through the hard 2mm board. I've tried all the suggestions for making it easier, and I still find myself needing to draw my blade several dozen times to make it through, all while holding down the metal ruler without it slipping out of line. But it's done now too and ready for me to add decorative paper to it.