Saturday, September 29, 2007

Party Time or Nap Time?

I haven't gotten much work done in the past couple of days. We had John's birthday party today and we had relatives in from out of town. So we had to clean house and run errands and so on. The party was a blast by the way. Even if the birthday boy took a nap with his grandmother halfway through. Actually, I think most things in life would be better if you could stop and take a nap halfway through.

When things return to normal, I've got to get that artichoke painted, embellish that blueberry and try to get some quilting done on Kevin's quilt. I should also start the foundation piecing on the weeping quilting. And as always, I have the coffee quilt to work on. So much sewing, so little time. I need a nap.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Grand Prismacolor Experiment

The grand experiment with the colored pencils went great. After drying for 24 hours, I ironed the whole thing and put it through the wash. I washed it on a gentle cycle, in warm water, with baby detergent, which is how I pre-wash all my commercial fabric. I also got the sunrise fabric for the Weeping quilt washed too so I can get started on the foundation piecing. Then I put it in the dryer with all of the other fabric. And the whole thing came through with flying colors (pun intended). There is no noticeable fading. And the areas that were treated with the fabric medium still seem soft enough to needle through. The whole piece of fabric has maintained it's drape and softness. Now I'm going to trim it down, layer it and quilt-embellish the whole thing. Probably by hand. First I need to decide how I'm going to finish the edges. I'm not feeling binding. But I can't picture it bound pillow case style either. I've never bound something by satin stitching the edge, so I might try that. Ahh, another project for the WIP pile.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Distracted by Shiny Objects Too

I recently started a thread on the Pickle Road yahoo group about using colored pencils on fabric. I saw an article somewhere about using colored pencils to embellish your fabric but I couldn't remember where. I was wondering if anyone had any tips or knew of any resources. This lead to a discussion about the best method of setting the colored pencil. When it was all said and done, I ended up volunteering to give one of the methods a try. I know I've already got tons of works in progress. But I was too curious to pass this one up. And technically, since I picked blueberries as a subject, it works for my whole New Year's resolution thing.

So here's what I've done so far. I drew some blueberries and leaves using Prismacolor pencils. It was pretty simple. The colors go on smooth and nice and bright. I like Prismacolors pencils because you can build up layers of color. And they blend easily. Here's what it looked like.

Then I applied Golden GAC900. This is Golden's textile medium. You use it with acrylic paints to turn them into textile paints. You mix the medium 50/50 with paint, paint your fabric, and then heat set it. Some people on the yahoo group mentioned that this is what they used with the pencils. One person said they mixed the medium with water and then brushed it on. She had been using watercolor pencils. The other option was to use a spray fixative. Since I wasn't using watercolor pencils, I applied the medium undiluted with a brush. Prismacolors don't blend out like watercolor pencils - but they do blend. So I was careful to use a small brush and follow the shape of the drawing. The colors did blend a little. After I applied the medium, I painted the background with some Jacquard dye-na-flow. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pencil acted as a resist to the dye so it didn't flow into the drawing. This is the result.

Tomorrow, I will iron it to set it and then put it through the wash. This is the test. To see if using the medium and heat sets the color. See - it's for science. Lest you think I completely blew off my WIP's, I actually got some quilting done on my husband's quilt this morning. He was snoring away, so I couldn't sleep. Since the baby was asleep too, I took this opportunity to get some machine quilting done. I got about an hour of work done. Woo hoo. Here's a little bit of Kevin's quilt to whet your appetite.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Charmed, I'm Sure

Someone recently complimented one of my quilts. I responded by saying thank you and asking them what they liked about it. This is the second or third time I've accepted a compliment on one of my quilts without listing each and everything that was wrong with it. I've decided that it isn't necessary to point out every little flaw and to just let people enjoy the quilts if that's what they want to do. I think it's important to be critical of your work. That way you can identify areas for improvement. Like "Dawn of the Kiwifruit." I don't think the center spike is defined enough. The next time I draft a similar block, I will be sure to make a more defined center spike. Do I need to point that out to everyone who says something nice about it? No. It's like when you meet someone at a party. They say, "nice ta meet cha," and you say, "charmed, I'm sure." You don't list every character flaw and bad habit you have. You let people discover your fine points, quirky behavior and bad disposition in their own time.

It's a big achievement for me. Believe it or not, I wasn't always a slacker. At one time, I was a goodie two shoes, grade grubbing, over achiever. I was always trying to win someone else's approval. It's like trying to make everyone happy. In the process you make no one happy, least of all yourself. When I read the "Bell Jar" and identified a little to closely with the main character, I decided a change was in order, lest I end up hiding out in the crawlspace of my house. One of the things about being a slacker is deciding for yourself what makes you happy and not bothering with the rest, no matter what anybody else thinks. I make art that makes me happy. I don't really care if anyone else likes it. And in a bizarre way, this allows me to be open to sharing my work with others. I can have a critical eye for my own work, and accept the criticism (or praise) of others without needing a dose of EST afterwards.

One of my favorite quilts is Covered In Stardust. I love the fabric, and the beading. I love that the title came to me in a dream. It was the second to last line of a poem I recited about the quilt in a dream, and the only line I remembered when I woke up. I love the colors and the quilting. It was the first quilt I free-motion quilted. It is also full of cut off points, bad quilting and mis aligned beads. I don't care. I still love it.

Venus Must Be in My Creative House

Well the planets must be aligning or something because yesterday I cleaned my studio AND worked on the artichoke quilt. And when I say, "cleaned my studio" I mean both lower and upper surfaces. Who knew there was a floor. And good golly a desk top. So here's the sketch for the artichoke. I know it has way more petals (or whatever those things are called) than the average artichoke. But for me the sketch is about learning the shapes and scale, figuring out where things sit on the page, and experimenting with color and texture. So they go a little wild sometimes. It's colored pencil and Sharpie. I also make notes about construction, fabric and quilting. This is because otherwise I would forget what I was going to do and the thing would end up as a string bean or something.

Here are my supply items. The lighter green is a piece I hand dyed and the darker piece is commercial fabric. In the end, I went with the darker fabric because the texture was more artichoke like. I will paint it with Jacquard textile paint and some lumiere for the purple highlights.

After the sketch, I made a cartoon. This is what it will actually look like. You might not notice because I have a crappy camera, but the actual artichoke is smaller than I originally thought it would be. That's one of the things I learned from the sketch. I needed to bring the size and scale down to make it work. This is why you should just go for it in your sketches and art journals. I think you have a better sense of what will work if you just go a little crazy on paper first. After all it's just pen and wax and paper.

I used this the cartoon to make the pieces out of fusible web. I followed the advice in Robbi Joy Eklow's book, "Free Expressions". That's where the numbers and arrows come from. I was debating about whether I should paint the fabric and then cut out the pieces or cut out the pieces and then paint. I decided I would have more control of the painting if I assembled the artichoke first. So, I got the thing cut out and put together. Now I need to paint it. It is actually looking like an artichoke, so I'm pretty happy about that. I know. I can't believe I got so much done either.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where were you September 18, 2006?

Today is my baby's first birthday. A year ago today, I woke up and jumped out of bed at 4 am when my water broke. Quite an achievement considering how ginormous I was. Fourteen hours later I had a c-section. The kid was not making his way towards the light. Well it turns out he was well over nine pounds. Significantly heavier than the seven pounds my gyno estimated a few days before. So an hour later he made his appearance. Happy and healthy. And everyday this year he's been a big old bundle of joy. And I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for us.

So this post isn't completely off topic, at this stage, John loves to look at quilts. I actually took him on the shop hop when he was about 4 months old and he seemed to really enjoy it. I also used to take him to guild meetings. He loves the attention he gets from quilters. I'm doing smaller, faster quilts because they are easier to work on with him around. I've also discovered a new benefit of hand piecing and quilting. Portable and easy to pick up and put down. And I think I'm adding more textural elements to my quilts because of him. He likes to touch the fabric, beads, threads and jewels. I find myself adding more texture to engage him in the quilts. Yes, I let him touch my quilts. Fabric is meant to be touched and I can't think of a reason to make a quilt that can't be touched.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

City Girl Goes to the County Fair

I went to my first county fair today. I thought the baby would like to see the animals and I was interested in the crafts. All they had today were these little cows and shaved sheep. The baby seemed to like the cows but was not impressed by the bald sheep. Oh, and there was a big white bull scratching himself on a fence. He only seemed to be restrained by some kind of leash - no fence or anything - so I got the hell out of there. I'm a city girl. My experience with animals is pretty much limited to squirrels, pigeons and ants. So I find most large, unrestrained animals alarming. It didn't seem to bother most of the kids running around there though. From their t-shirts I gathered they were Future Farmers of America, 4-H and that kind of thing. I'm glad those groups are still around. I wish more people would take advantage of locally grown food instead of the stuff that comes from God knows where to the mega stores. What's going to happen when all of our food is produced by big conglomerates?

I was also hoping for a big craft show. But they had all of the submissions in a weird room and you had to look through a glass to see them. So the quilts, were all folded up and way up high. I hate it when quilts are displayed folded up. Magazines do that too - drape them over stuff so you can't see the design. Spread that bad boy out so we can see it in all it's glory. The other problem with having the quilts behind glass was that you couldn't see the quilting. Hello, it's a quilt because it's quilted. So it was a little disappointing in that respect. On the other hand, I did have my first funnel cake.

On an unrelated note, I got a new book called "Painted Quilt: Paint and Print Techniques for Color on Quilts". It's a pretty cool book. The pictures are great and there is a lot of content. I especially like that it has ideas for your sketchbook. I actually keep several sketchbooks in different sizes and with different weights of paper. The heavier paper lets me use watercolor pencils and paint. I also use pencils, markers, and different types of pens. It seems the authors of this book understand how important it is to work in your sketchbook. I hope I can get some time soon to paint the fabric for my artichoke quilt. Maybe I can submit it to the county fair next year. As a quilt, or produce?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Y-Seam Is Thing of Beauty That Is A Joy to Behold

I have two projects that will probably take 100 years to finish. One is my coffee quilt. It took 60 years to decide on a design, another 45 to pick out the fabrics, and I have been piecing it since the dawn of time. Not easy since I was only born in 1972. It is progressing so slowly because I get distracted by other projects and set the Coffee Quilt aside. I think I finished 3 or 4 other projects in the time I have been working on this one. But I recently picked it up again. I can't seem to get to my other projects because I just don't have time right now. The coffee quilt is hand pieced so I can work on it while the baby naps or plays or destroys the house. This is what I mean about hand work being easier. Kevin's quilt is waiting to be machine quilted and the foundation piecing needs to be completed on the Weeping quilt. I can't work on the machine AND watch the baby unroll the jumbo roll of toilet paper. The fabric for the artichoke quilt needs to be painted but there is no way I'm breaking out the paints while you-know-who is awake. So you see the advantage of hand piecing?

Anywho, the coffee quilt is made up of diamonds (it's a coffee quilt because of the colors). Originally it was going to be a traditional baby block quilt. I know. I don't know why it took so long to come up with that. I have about a bajillion bably blocks to sew. Here's what they look like put together:

This is going to seem weird to some people, but I really like Y-seams. They give me and odd sense of satisfaction. To me, this is a thing of beauty.

Then I got bored and started making blocks that look like this:

So who knows what the quilt is going to end up looking like. I'm kind of curious to see myself. The other 100 year quilt is from Jinny Beyer's book and it is blue. It is also hand pieced diamonds. I can't show you a picture becasuse the pieces are safely in their case, buried under a pile of stuff. If I pull the case out, I run the risk of the pile collapsing and being trapped under a pile of UFO's. Then the baby and the cats would take possession of the house.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New Year's Resolution 1

Around February or March, I made a New Year's resolution regarding my quilt work. I made a list of all of the techniques I would like to learn or improve and resolved to make a series of small quilts that used the different techniques. The quilts have to be based on my favorite fruits and vegetables and have to use at least one new technique and one technique that I need to practice. So far, this has been a pretty good resolution. Picking a theme frees me from worrying about a design. The small size makes the quilts easier to actually get finished. I guess that's the trick to resolutions. You have to set yourself up for success by setting small goals you can actually achieve. So here is the first quilt. It is called Dawn of the Kiwifruit. Yes, those are my son's hands in the picture. It is machine paper pieced and the curved piecing is done by hand. I do all of my curved piecing by hand. It is machine quilted and hand quilted with this funky metallic floss. It is hand beaded and bejewelled. The new skills I tried were drafting my own New York Beauty Block, using a metallic thread, and using the bejewler. The skills I practiced were free motion quilting and binding. I also got in some practice in on the foundation piecing.

So what did I learn? First, I really dig that bejewler. I would bejewel EVERYTHING if it was socially acceptable. You have to be careful to put the jewels where you want them though. If you slip and put them in the wrong place, it is next to impossible to pry them up and put them back in the right spot. Ask me how I know. I also liked drafting the wonky New York Beauty Block. I really like NY Beauties. I was also pretty happy with the machine quilting. I have a long way to go, but this one is light years better than the last thing I tried to machine quilt. The back of my last machine quilted piece looked like a nest built by a drunken, near sighted bird. There were NO threads tangles on the back of the kiwifruit quilt. Woo hoo! I have to give Alex Anderson props for that. I could actually understand her book on machine quilting and the pictures were great too. Maybe it clicked this time because she is a lefty hand quilter like me. The quilting on the kiwi is not going to win any awards, but I was jazzed at how the meander quilting came out since this was the first time I tried meander quilting.

I still hate binding.

And if you're wondering why it took me until March to made a New Year's resolution, I think the subhead tells you everything you need to know.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thank You Ms. Beyer

One of the current discussion threads on the Pickle Road yahoo group I belong to is about books for hand quilters. I mentioned my two favorites, "The Perfect Stitch" by Roxanne...something, and "Quiltmaking By Hand" by Jinny Beyer. My apologies to Roxanne, but I'm too lazy to go upstairs to look at her last name on the book. The Perfect Stitch book is great for technique and the Quiltmaking By Hand book is inspirational to me on a deeper level.

I found the book at Jinny Beyer's store in Virginia during the shop hop out there. I was a pretty discouraged hand quilter at the time. None of the magazines or books widely available addressed hand quilting. I couldn't find tools or support. The books I had focused most of their pages on machine quilting and just a few on hand work. Nothing I could really use. I thought maybe people didn't do handwork and I should just give up and start using the machine. I was sad about it because the only machine I had at the time was an old Singer and it was packed in a box somewhere, plus I really liked hand sewing. And then I shop hopped my little butt into Jinny Beyer's store. The book had just been released and the quilt that's on the cover (I forget the name and I'm too lazy to go upstairs and look at the book) was hanging in the store. She made it in commemoration of 9/11. It's huge and it's gorgeous and it is entirely hand pieced and quilted. I bought an autographed copy of the book and it totally restored my faith in hand work. It reaffirmed my opinion that hand work is easier and faster in some cases than machine work. And there is something about working with a needle and thread. That book made me want to be a hand quilter. And even though I do work by machine, I consider myself a hand quilter.

I think the point is that you get what you need when you need it. You can never see the big picture. You just have to have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to work out. When I design a quilt, I don't expect the final product to look exactly like the sketch. I start working and I change my mind, things go wrong, I forget what I was supposed to do and do something else. I once had a piece of fabric facing the wrong way when I started cutting. You know what? It's cool, man. It's just a quilt. It's going to be what it wants to be. That's life.

So here are two quilts I've made entirely from Jinny Beyer fabrics. They are hand pieced and quilted. The first is called Blue and Gold Mills quilt and it was made on the occasion of my 10 year college reunion. Jinny Beyer actually helped me pick out the fabric for this quilt. It doesn't look anything like my original design even though it is a one block quilt. The second is called Ms. Beyer's Garden Maze. It is a traditional pattern. It looks exactly like the original design. I like both of these quilts because you can't really tell where the blocks begin and end. I know what the blocks look like, but I can kind of let that go and find other patterns. I like quilts where you can squint and turn your head and see different things. That's life too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Just Do It

I've been spending my time lately endlessly pondering my blog. What should I call it? What service should I use? Blah, blah, blah. I do the same thing with quilt designs. Then I reach a point where I just kick myself in the butt and do it. The blah, blah, blah is just a form of procrastination. If you never start something - never cut the fabric - you never screw stuff up and embarrass yourself. And you still look like you're doing something because you're considering all the angles. Whatever. I recently took a class from where we were forced to cut into our favorite fabric that we had been squirreling away for that perfect project. It was a terrifying exercise. But liberating at the same time. Here is the fabic I chose for the exercise:

It is in that spirit that I started this blog. Plus I made a New Year's resolution to add new skills to my quilting know-how (more on that later). The purpose of this blog is to journal my progress as a quilter. There's a lot that goes through my head during the quilting process. I take notes and keep a journal of all of the quilts I make. But it's private. I don't actually like to show my quilts to people. Here is something else I need to get over by just doing it.

So here's a little bit about myself. I've been quilting for about six years but collecting fabric since college. I am mostly self-taught, though I've taken lots of art classes. I am mostly a hand quilter. I think hand piecing and quilting is easier and more relaxing than doing work on the machine. That said, I am improving my machine skills. I actually have two Baby Lock sewing machines. A big momma that stays in the studio and a little one that I can use in other areas of the house. I have an 11 month old son and husband so I like to hang out with them when I sew. I have multiple projects going at once. I'm a fast typist and an atrocious speller. I find cutting pieces out tedious. If I were a master artisan, I would have my apprentice do all of the cutting. I hate binding. I love everything else about quilting.

By the way, here is the little quilt I made of that fabric I had been afraid to cut.