Tuesday, August 29, 2023

What's Next

“Despite all the hand-wringing about distraction, it’s asked less often what it is that we want to attend to in the first place.” David Schurman Wallace

It amazes me how often a quotation will appear that speaks to a topic I've been mulling. Just last week, I noted that I felt at loose ends after completing all the book projects that had been lined up for so long, leaving me with the question of now what? The quotation (which is from a lengthy article in The Paris Review) shifted my perspective a bit and after a quick look around, I have come up with an answer of what I want to attend to. Let's start with the need for a project I could work on at last Monday's charity meeting that didn't require my packing up my machine. Still not crazy about a lot of lifting, but the group had decided to have a free sewing day to work on whatever we wanted, and I decided that the above hand applique project was what I wanted to spend time on. Truly can't remember the last time it was out and fear it might have been as long as ten years ago, although it sits near the couch in a ziplock bag with this small pouch that has everything I need in it to work on this. It's a very old project, using a different applique method I learned from Jeana Kimball that works like a charm - you can watch her demonstrate a bit of it here: Back basted needle turn applique.  I did worry if I would remember how to do it after so much time had passed, and did I really have everything I needed in that pouch? (Yes I did.) But after a fumbling start, muscle memory kicked in, and I was back to soothing meditative stitching. 

Antique reproduction 4-patch strip quilt

But I knew I wasn't going to switch to hand sewing for the rest of the week. It was time to finally finish requilting the couch quilt, working on the clam shell quilting in the borders and setting triangles. I may regret this but I couldn't face redoing all of them, so concentrated on securing those areas where the bobbin stitches had broken. Hopefully this mend will be the last I'll have to do. In the meantime, I have another quilt with broken stitches that has been waiting for me to attend to it for quite awhile and darn it, let's just get it done. This one I'd quilted in a crosshatch with YLI Heirloom silk thread. Yes, there's a story as to why but all you need to know is that it was a poor choice, and I let my stubbornness prevail rather than switching to a better thread once I realized there would be problems. But silk is supposed to be strong, right? Maybe, but this fine thread which works well in tightly quilted free-motion designs cannot take the stress of a straight line of it being pulled on as in when you pull a quilt up over you. Like the couch quilt, I'd already spot-mended it twice, and once again I was hearing the pop pop pop of more threads breaking. This time I'm using 50 wt cotton thread and going over ALL the lines of quilting. It will take some time but it will be worth it to have it functional again. After that, I remembered I have a demo quilt block to finish piecing from the fat quarter quilt that is now on my bed. I'm pretty sure it will become a pillow sham. Well on my way from distracted to attending to things.

In the meantime, I had a birthday, one I am not particularly happy about but what can you do? You can feel better as cards like these started to arrive. Look at those beautiful flowers, especially on the card at the right.

In preparation, I checked my grocery store's fine bakery for German chocolate cake, as I've been having a real chocolate craving lately, and also found this small huckleberry cheesecake - how could I resist? Served up on a bone china plate from my collection, that got the week off to a good start.

Then a started working on that single layer cake a few days early. I still have several servings left.

The biggest treat, which may sound silly to some, was to order up dinner and have it delivered. I just never do delivery, except for last year's birthday when I couldn't drive. I'd never eaten at this eatery but besides pizza, they had calzones on the menu. I don't think I've had a calzone since I worked downtown in Tacoma in the 80's, and I would occasionally treat myself to one for lunch. Something small that you could hold in your hand to eat. I'd seen how big this eatery made them from pictures on the website so knew I wouldn't be holding this one in my hand to eat and that I'd have leftovers - that is half of one. I probably could have made do with a quarter of it.

Some birthdays, I try to think of something different I can do to treat myself, someplace to go for a different view, something to see I've been meaning to check out. This year I just didn't feel up to going out and found enjoyment in things at home. Between beverages and meals and desserts, let's just say there were a lot of calories involved and I'm afraid to step on the scales! But I savored every moment and ended up feeling much better about this particular milestone birthday than I expected. Onward!



Sunday, August 20, 2023

Celtic Weave Binding

Does this look familiar? Yes, just like in quilting, I find myself draping threads to audition colors for stitching. When I was doing my shopping on the internet, I had a feeling that the butterscotch thread in one collection might work well with this handmade paper and it seems that I was right about that. As for the many greens, I was disappointed that there were no true olive greens the color of the leaves. That lightest one at the bottom just didn't look like it fit to me. The dark green one though was like the few dark green sprigs and stems, and in viewing what other members in my club had chosen for the woven part of the binding, choosing that one seemed a good bet. I did let these sit overnight before making my final decision, but I'm trying to keep to something that came out of a 5 day journaling exercise I did back in July - LESS DITHERING, MORE DOING! I could have gone back and forth over several other options and combinations but after sleeping on it, it was pretty clear I'd be going with the butterscotch and dark green.

Now that it is done, I've had second thoughts about my thread color choices. I'm very happy with the butterscotch, just not so sure pairing it with the dark green looks as good as I thought it would. On the other hand, I simply did not think the "khaki" green thread, the lightest of the bunch, would look right either in the link stitches, really didn't go with the rest of the green going on. And to ditch green thread altogether to use something else with the butterscotch? Well, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So here I am, wondering if it looks alright, if perhaps I should have just gone with one color or the other for all the stitches. It makes me want to make another one right away!

The link stitches on each end of the spine are done first, to stabilize the book and make the weave part a bit easier. An unusual technique in the making of this book is the insertion of the first and last signatures into front and back covers respectively which have been folded in half. Apparently this is because the stitching might rip through the soft handmade paper. This method makes the attachment of the covers strong.

The covers are cut (or in my case, torn) wider than the width of an open signature so that the fore edges can be turned inside to create more stability along that edge and also to provide pockets if the top and bottom edges of the flap are secured (I used double stick tape).

Here's a closeup look at the stitches - link (or Coptic) stitches on the outside, the Celtic weave in the center. The weave looks very complicated, doesn't it? But it really isn't, a simple crossing over of threads using two needles as one works up through the holes of each signature. Once you've got your rhythm, it's a bit meditative, and reminded me a bit of braiding hair.Click on the photo for a larger view.

Here's one last look at the finished book. Since this is to be a gift, I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way it came together. The stitching is nice and tight without keeping the book from closing naturally which means the signatures have very little gap between them and little if any wriggling. And it feels so good in the hand, soft yet substantial. I'll be adding a few things to the pages before sending it on, Celtic inspired things, which should be fun.

That's the last of the books (unless I want to keep going by working on the one I have a cover set aside for but I think I need a break from bookmaking). I hardly know what to turn to next, though I planned for it to be some sewing. Do you find yourself at loose ends once you finish a major project if you don't have something immediately waiting in the wings? After being so driven and focused for so long, it's a floaty feeling for me, relief and indecision all at once!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Road Bumps

I made a good start last week on the final book that I had set out directions and signature papers for prior to last year's back surgery: Celtic Weave. I chose a handmade paper embedded with small leaves and sprigs for the covers, tearing it to size to maintain the soft rough edges and folding per instructions. I so wanted an olive green thread to do the binding stitch with, but I didn't have any green bookbinding thread. Well, maybe that tan hemp thread I've been using so much lately would do, or even a white thread, but you just know I could not get my mind off of green thread. I spent way too much time on the internet tracking down a green in the waxed linen thread preferred for bookbinding. As you can see, I succumbed to a collection of green threads - something in there will be right - and another collection with a possible better tan/brown thread. First road bump taken care of.

And because if I just added a few more things to my cart, shipping would be free. Yes, I easily succumb to that one too, but to be fair, it will be nice to have these extra color options as I continue to make books.

While I waited for my order to arrive, I gathered and folded my signatures, placing them and the covers under weights, then went back to watching a few instruction videos for this stitch as well as a follow-up one where another member asked what she could do about the very problem I'd had when folding that embedded handmade paper. Some of the leaves are so close to the surface, or totally exposed, that when folding, some of them pop off. I had wondered if brushing on some matte medium might help keep them in place as the book is being used, and sure enough, that was the suggestion given. So second speed bump that had to be dealt with before I could get to sewing my book together. I had a pretty good size piece left over that I could test this on, and I was pleased that the matte medium didn't make the paper buckle or take away from the textural feel of it. The thread is here but I didn't have time to coat the book covers until today, so with any luck, stitching will commence tomorrow.

In the meantime, we are having our own heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, where many cities exceeded 100 degrees and my own little town managed to break a record yesterday with a high of 99 degrees. I've been staying in as it heats up fast in the morning so even shady deck sitting isn't pleasant, and waiting for the sun to go down before going for my walk when, while it is still 80 degrees, without the sun beating down is quite pleasant. 

Monday I took my sketchbook and captured the nearby EMS station which really does sort of sit in an open field backed by trees. My lines are not exactly straight, partly because I drew this standing up.

I sketched my pussywillow branch again a few weeks ago, this time with different pens. It's interesting (at least to me) to render something using different mediums. (Plus it's helping to use up a few remaining pages in a Sketchbook Revival sketchbook.) I'd run across an article where Phillip Pullman says,

"Drawing helps us see better. We never look at anything with so much attention as when we’re drawing it, and it’s a thinking attention, comparing this shape with that, the breadth of a hand with the span of the glass it’s holding, the darkness of that shadow with the brown of the velvet curtain, the foliage of that silver birch with the quite different leaves of the hornbeam beside it. Learning to draw is learning to see much more vividly and clearly."

I would add that it sparks curiosity as well. Not just about the thing one is drawing, but one's own abilities. This was always a driving force for me in my quilting, a curiosity about if something could be captured in fabric and thread. I find I have the same curiosity about my ability to capture something with pencil, pen or brush. 

And yesterday my curiosity was aroused by these ribbon-like undulating clouds, picking up the last of the sun behind the mountain. Rendering clouds in fabric and stitch has always frustrated me, and I have no illusions about how well I could do it with paint, yet I can't help but study clouds closely now, noting where the dark areas are and where the colors brighten. I can think of worse ways to spend my time.


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Powering Through

I was quite determined to get a couple of books completed last week, and I DID, thanks to a rearranging of my daily schedule putting studio time first. First up was the second butterfly binding which had gotten sidelined by motorcycle racing. :-) Here you see it stacked on top of the first one and can see that although the covers are of the same piece of handmade paper, I opted for the tan hemp thread for this second one. I'd considered it for the first one but thought perhaps I should pick up some of the purple petals in the paper. This time around I was sure it would look good and I was not disappointed. See this post for more about this binding.

Next up was another coptic binding, this one from a March 2021 First Journal Challenge (which I believe was the first challenge offered to non-members of the club). Yes, THAT long that the challenge was run and I printed off directions and opted for a 6 x 6 format to make a watercolor sketchbook and am just now making it. Because the covers are the same watercolor paper used for the signatures, I needed to come up with something decorative to glue over them. I didn't have a lot of options lying around, and what I had wasn't big enough to wrap around the 6 x 12 inch pieces (which will be folded in half to make the cover sturdy), I opted to try another one of those techniques for turning brown paper bags into faux leather. Instead of an actual grocery bag, I tried it with a thinner piece of brown packing paper, which after crumpling and smoothing, running a stamp pad over the high parts of the wrinkles, spritzing with water, then massaging with hair conditioner, developed some tears. Just too thin a paper for this process. But once dry, I was able to get two pieces out of it to wrap around the cover papers. The hair conditioner is to soften the fibers to create a supple and suede-like piece to work with. I have to say, that much was true, and I can imagine just how much more like suede one done with the heavier grocery bag would feel. And I had no issues with it as I glued it to the watercolor covers and turned the extra to the inside. If you are interested in trying this, here's the video I followed.

This was not going to be my first journal, nor my first coptic stitch book, had I done it when the challenge first came out, but just another opportunity to learn a different way to do covers and practice sewing that binding. It definitely came out better than my actual first coptic stitch book with watercolor paper which sprung open like crazy for several reasons I figured out later. I was making my stitches quite tight for one thing, so that may account for some of the stitching being a bit loose on this one even though I thought I was pulling them up snug, causing the signatures to move up and down, but at least there is very little spring! Love the look of those stitches, made with that hemp thread again.

Open cover waiting for stiffening inserts and strap before gluing shut

The covers were sewn on before gluing them shut, the sewing holes punched through the fold. Another piece of watercolor paper cut slightly smaller than one side of the cover were then glued inside for added stiffness, and I opted for a strap closure, one end of which was also glued inside and slits cut on the opposite side for it to slide through on the front. I didn't think my "faux suede" paper would be strong enough for a strap, even if doubled, so went looking for something else, finding fabric self-made bookcloth strips trimmed off while covering bookboard of another project. Too narrow to use one alone, but two butted together and fused to cardstock was perfect. Well, maybe the cardstock made the strap stiffer than necessary but at least it will hold up.

Here's a look at the inside after the cover was glued shut. Not sure how much that cover paper looks like leather. Sometimes the look and feel reminds me more of cork, which I am discovering is a favorite of many in the club for covering boards. They are buying the cork fabric you may have seen in quilt shops. I'd lose that feel if it turns out the paper can't hold up to use and need to have a coat of acrylic varnish added to protect it. Always an option but I didn't want to do it outright.

And here's the finished product, which I am pretty pleased with. I was also pretty pleased with the way I moved right along, day after day. So much of bookmaking actually is doing a step that doesn't take very long, then having to wait hours or until the next day while signatures are being pressed or glue is drying before proceeding to the next step. This pace and the breaking up of tasks suits my current attention span, not to mention it keeps me from overdoing it physically as it forces breaks that my sewing and quilting do not.