30 Jan

Sidetracked

Two weekends ago I took a two-day felting class. I know I’m supposed to be focusing on my quilting, but a lady in my quilt group had signed up and was looking for one more person to fill the class minimum. It was at Anette’s, my favorite yarn shop, so how could I refuse?

We first made a “painting” with the wool to get used to the felting process and what each step should feel like. I made a plaid pattern, but ended up liking the circle we added on the other side (to see how the colors interact when the fibers migrate) better. Yesterday, I sewed up the corners of mine to make this catch-all:

Felted

Then we learned how to make a closed shape — that is, to felt around a plastic template and then cut the shape open and finesse the shape into a bag, vase, slippers, beret, etc. I made this cute little vase. I loved the clever, twisty neck. All it needs now are some button flowers to go in it. We also learned how to make felted balls and ropes.

Felted vase and balls

On day two we got to make a real project. We could choose between a messenger bag and a lattice scarf. Three made the bags and two of us made the scarves. For all the “holes” in it, I can’t believe how warm it is.

Felted Lattice Scarf

I really like the felting process. It’s great fun to manipulate the fibers and never know exactly what you’re going to end up with. I’d love to try a Nuno felt project. I saw some gorgeous scarves of silk chiffon with wool strips and motifs felted into the silk at a craft fair. This morning I perused the jewelry sections of the two craft stores downtown. This afternoon my daughter was at a friend’s house and my son was supposed to clean his room, so I had planned on spending some quiet time basting hexagons. Really. I’ll post with results in a few days…

28 Jan

Mod Birds

Looky what arrived in our mailbox two days ago!

Birds

They are from Lisa, who makes all kinds of fabulous things like birds and log cabin pillows. We traded: I made this table runner for her (see it in situ here):

Lisa's Table Runner

I sent her some indigo dyed, traditional Northern German cotton/linen I wanted to do something nice with, and she made these cuties. They go so well with my blue and white pottery. I may even name then Pfeffer and Kümmel. Thank you, thank you Lisa!

Birds with poster

23 Jan

Everyone needs an Andreas

I feel like Melody, posting about my newly installed electrical or other gadgetry; but I have light in my sewing room again! And that needs to be posted. Since we moved into this house a year and a half ago, I have been working under this insuficient and ugly light:

Old Light

So, recently, I added this jerry-rigged light (and another by my cutting table) from my old drafting table. Note the need for a transformer (grey box in upper left corner) as well since this light is 110 and Europe uses 220 power:

Old light 2

Which, of course necessitated many ugly extension cords, including the last free one in the house which I had bought for our weed eater and is on an industriual looking roll:

Extension cords

Since we now can’t open the wardrobe with the craft supplies without upsetting the lamp on top of said wardrobe, TS&WGH finally suggested that we actually spend some money and purchase track lighting, or something. Since we hope to stay here another two years, the investment seems worthwhile, and the next inhabitants will probably appreciate the upgrade. But, alas, I could not drill through the kryptonite in our ceiling to install the new light. (Andreas has told me it’s concrete and one needs not just the concrete drill bit, but also a pneumatic drill.)

Lucky me, this morning, the ever cheerful Andreas arrived on his white steed (oh, my bad–white van) with his trusty teddy bear-like assistant, and they installed my brand spanking new light fixture!

New lights

Since the army has “assigned” us to this house, they have also contracted for a handyman team to be available to make most repairs to the house (and all the others that are leased by the army to be assigned to soldiers and their families). This also applies to on-post housing, but on-post, the houses/apartments are crummy and the Army Department of Public Works does the upkeep. Anyways, I love that I can call the housing office and someone will come fix things for me. I may even love it enough to find (and pay) for a similar service when (if ever) we move back to the States. It doesn’t hurt that Andreas is congenial as well as capable.

And, on a quilty note, I whipped up this scrappy number for our friends who were scheduled to have a baby this weekend. His name is Cashell, after a town in Ireland, so I gathered all my green fabics 1/4 yard or smaller and hacked and sewed away. There are some hideous combinations of fabrics in this, but I think the overall effect is quite wonderful.

Cashell's Fields of Green

Yarn update: Remember the scarf I wove with the “yarbon?” I found a picture of the yarn here. It is the Da Masi, and the weaving net is at the bottom of the page. Also, the boucle type yarn I’m currently drooling over is the Fusilli, although my color is not shown. I bought several skeins in a predominantly red mix and will be sending them along to my mom to see what fabulous thing she creates!

20 Jan

The Dog Ate My Homework

OK, I know, lame excuse. And it’s not even true. The real reason I did not finish my Color & Composition exercises last week like I had planned was because I was in power tool heaven making this:

Sewing Table 1

Sewing Table 2

I picked up this old treadle machine base a few years ago for about 5€ with the intention of making a mosaic top for it. The more I practiced machine quilting, however, the more I wanted a sewing table. I don’t really like the looks of most tables, although I admire their functionality. I can’t wait for some company to make a mission style, solid wood sewing table, but if anyone ever did, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it anyways. So, I’d been mulling over how best to construct a top with a sturdy, recessed box for my machine. I’m no carpenter, so I even went so far as to take the base and a suitable top piece to the carpentry shop on post. The guy that runs the shop is a major flake though, so nothing happened. Then my dad arrived for his annual visit (que clouds parting and heavenly singing). Master metalworker that he is, he offered to make a tray for the machine that we could bolt right on. Why hadn’t I thought of this? Because there were no holes in which to bold anything directly to the base! Good ol’ dad mailed me appropriate drill bits along with the custom tray and I spent last weekend drilling into cast iron, sanding with my trusty “mouse,” shopping for bolts, and painting, painting, painting. I’m still amazed that it all actually worked. Not having lived near my dad for the past 12 years or so, I often think that my confidence in the power-tool arena is waning. Apparently not. Perhaps my favorite part of this table is the T-Nuts I got so that when we move (which we will, again, and again) we won’t strip the wood screwing and unscrewing the top from the base.

So, now that I am done with that project, I was able to focus on the next Color & Composition exercises I’m doing with with Gerrie, Karoda, Vickki, and a few others. We were to go back to our contour drawings (I used the final orchid one) and enlarge a small section. Then we were to use that as a template for achromatic and monochromatic compositions. I did the achromatic first and like the swirly “background” fabric, but the rest lacks focus.

Achromatic exercise

Next time around, I reversed the lights and darks and I think my monochromatic composition is much better. It probably has something to do with the business of the fabrics as well. There might not be such a difference if these were four or more times larger. As it is, they are a little larger than 6 x 9 inches. Here’s the really crazy part: me, maker of the 800+ piece hexagon quilt, found cutting out all those little pieces of fabric for the excercise to be rather fiddly and tedious! I’m glad I did the two versions though, as I would have been disapointed with just the first one, even though the fabrics are cool.

Monochromatic Exercise

Sorry about the wierd lighting on these. I tried to replace the one ceiling mounted fixture in the room with a trés european track lighting thingy, but I couldn’t drill through the kryptonite in our ceiling and had to replace the old fixture. That pretty well burst my power-tool high. To make matters worse, the original fixture is probably 30 years old and the plastic part the bulb screws into broke. So I switched to a cast off laying around and it was broken too (no doubt that’s why it had been cast off). So I got the one from the kids’ room which the previous inhabitants had replaced with a ceiling fan, and used it. Now the light in my sewing room doesn’t work. I’m not sure if it’s because fixture #3 is broken in an invisible way, or if I just suck at poking wires into tiny holes above my head. The pictures were taken with just my color-corrected drafting lamp pointed at them (in an otherwise dim room), but I guess that’s just no substitute for a well-lit room.

And, finally, I leave you with a picture of TS&WGH ready to take the streetcar downtown for a few drinks with the boys. Note the mittens with integrated pocket for his iPod that my sister knitted him for Christmas. He had found a pattern for a glove version on the internet and pleaded me to send it to all the knitters I knew.

Mitten Mann

18 Jan

Open Letter to my Sister

I just wrote this email to my sister who is to knitting what I am to quilting (not sure what that is, but I think it means she’s NOT a beginner and is willing to try most anything):

So, I was at my favorite yarn shop today to sign up for a felting class and saw this cute yarn. It looks a little like this, but it is boucle-ier. It has soft brown/green loops and more defined red ones. It knits up really chunky like a retro swirly, boucle jacket. In fact, Annette (fabo yarn shop owner) has a jacket/sweater all done and I’m afraid I might haul off and buy it because it looks all retro-cute. Then I saw a poncho with smooth stripes and the boucle yarn as a “fringe” around the top and bottom (I think the poncho was knit in the round). The yarn makes a super border, so I got to thinking maybe I should make a poncho too. Maybe just a scarf. I have a bunch of scarves, how dull. A hat with a furry, loopy brim? …and a matching scarf or poncho? Mommy/daughter ponchos? Are ponchos passe now? Gloves with loopy, fringy, furry wrists would be totally cool!!!! I can’t/won’t knit gloves. How about gauntlets? I’d never wear gauntlets. How about a felted knit bag with a border? Will it loose it’s coolness if it’s felted too? What to do, what to do? I know the yarn will be calling to me all day Saturday and Sunday at the class. What do you recomend (have already browsed knitty.com and am out of my league there–can only knit/purl rectangles or maybe something in the round with refresher coaching)?

love,

sister-dear

So, I am sharing this with you because TS&WGH suggested, ever so sweetly, that I need to focus on my quilting and should farm out knitting projects. I reminded him that my sister is not exactly prolific. His solution: issue a challenge. You tell me what you’d do with the yarn, and if I like it, I send you a bunch and you make “it,” whatever it ends up being, and keep the rest of the yarn for yourself. (He doesn’t quite understand how many skeins it takes to make things.) That sounded cool, but a bit too self-serving for my tastes. Long story short, anybody got any ideas of what I could do with the yarn that’s quick and easy?

14 Jan

Live and Learn

I picked up four quilts from the local photographer today. $200 later, I have most, but not all, of the slides I might need to enter a show. Considering the photographer’s time and equipment, $200 doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, but in my grand scheme of things, this artist gig is getting expensive! Melody alluded to this connundrum in one of her recent posts, and here’s my take on it plus more. When you add in $20 per quilt entry fee and about $20 each way to mail them with insurance, I’m getting close to $100 investment per quilt. Now that could be recouped by winning a third place ribbon, but come on, how often does that happen? On the other hand, quilt art does no one any good moldering in a closet, and walls and friends’ walls fill up pretty quickly. Besides, acceptance into a show seems like a welcome validation to me (that’s why I’ve waited so long to try entering quilts into shows outside our little army community; I’ve never been sure my art was up to par).

I made the decision a few months ago to try to enter more shows, and now I’m learning that it’s a lot more than just deciding which one has an appropriate theme, or a deadline you can make. In general, my two best quilts are too small for the major competitions. I’ve increased the size of my design wall/area to help out that challenge.

Then there’s availability. I was intrigued by the European Art Quilts IV show, but I’m not ready to let Katja’s Owlz go on a two or more year tour.

Images: I have taken slides in my house (too yellow, not enough room to set up real lights, no fun moving every few years into 1000 square foot apartments with photography equipment), in my yard (unpredictable sun and wind, distracting backgrounds), and now by a professional (need to work out the kinks in explaining what I need in german, costly). Many want slides; some now accept digital pics, but with an accompanying print, so I scramble a bit figuring out just what more I need to procure for each entry. Not sure what the answer will be on that front.

Keeping track of all this stuff. I think this is actually OK. I’ve made a spreadsheet of the shows, their entry deadlines, what I would consider entering, etc. So far, I’ve been crossing a lot of shows off my list! Here’s most of what I’ve been contemplating: Patchwork Expo X (Tactile Architecture seems a possible fit for my little strip-fuse-y castles), Quilts for Change, AQS Nashville (Katja’s Owlz actually fits in Category C), Festival of Quilts in England, IQF Houston (probably only if I finish a bigger quilt than any I currently have), PIQF (ditto). Do any of you out in blog-land have favorites I should check out as well?

So, I’m learning about this quilt show dance. If nothing else it is making me feel better about having a show of my own. I often feel very presumptuous thinking that I could have my own show, but the other side of the coin is that I’m not at the mercy of jurors; size limitations are my own; and just which, and how many pieces I show is negotiable. I don’t know where I’d stand monetarily, but I imagine some plates of crudités and hanging supplies wouldn’t be too much scarier than all the entry money spent on entering shows!

12 Jan

Color & Composition Basics

I’ve been saving these pictures until I had some time, and nothing else really going on. I have just whipped out a baby quilt which I’ll share just as soon as I finish sewing on the binding, but in the mean time, here’s my grayscales and color wheel for Color & Composition.

My first thought was “Hmm, before I go shopping for fabrics, I wonder how close I can get with what I have on hand?” Here’s a grayscale (with as little as possible being patterned) and a graphic grayscale:

Near-solids Grayscale

Graphic Geryscale 1

Not bad, I thought. I can just skip this then. Well, then I realized that the next exercises called for creating a composition with values of gray in seven steps, so I figured my steps should be a little more accurate (I have particular problems with the jump between steps 5 and 6 in the graphic grayscale). So, I tried again, this time buying some fabrics from my wonderful, but slightly limited, fabric shop on post. Not perfect, but better, I think.

Graphic grayscale 2

And, finally, just because I have one already, here’s a color wheel. I made this one (again, with somewhat limited resources) to show students in my begining quilting class that red and green don’t have to mean solid Xmas green and solid stop-sign red. It can mean a pink check and an undulating olive pattern, or a sage polka dot.

Color Wheel

I find it easier to explain complementary or analogous color schemes to quilters when looking at actual fabrics than looking at solid colors. But then again, just who is letting ME teach?! They must be desperate here 😉

08 Jan

More Color & Composition Exercises

Wow, three posts in one day! It’s amazing I actually had time to get dressed and have breakfast today.

For all you waiting anxiously for the next installment of “Bloggers go to Art School” here’s my exercises from pages 26 to 29 of Color & Composition:

First, a composition using black strips placed parallel to the edges of the white ground. I’m calling mine a grid composition (This was my second attempt, first one will not be shown in public).

Composing With Line: parallel

Next, another composition with none of the strips parallel to the edges. This was kinda obvious, but I like it. It’s happy. A radiating composition, of course.

Composing With Line: non parallel

Now we get to use curved strips. I went for a diagonal composition and like the way the foreground and background intermingle.

Composing With Lines: Curves

For the fourth composition we get to use up all the leftover scraps. (I had no leftovers and so cut some more.) I wanted a horizontal composition, and although the proportions of curves to straight strips are asymetrical, the composition itself could possibly be considered bilaterally symetrical. So I don’t know what category it falls into, but I don’t care because I like the way the curves interact with each other.

Composing With Line: Combo Plate

As a bonus suprise, look what happened when I put them all together. Looks to me like a spaceship landing near a waterfall on a sunny day.

All four black and white exercises

OK, two more exercises. First is a composition in one color with a predetermined amount of shapes. This one is asymetrical.

Composing with Shape 1

Lastly, I made another composition with the same shapes, but now with the addition of a 2″ square of another color. Pretty vertical, if you ask me.

Composing with Shape 2

Stay tuned for greyscales and color wheels. I need to go get more Wonder Under before attempting the next set of exercises.