29 Jan

Tenacity

Plan D -- whipstitching the perle cotton

Lets hear it for persistence (and inspiring blog friends)! Plan D worked a treat and now my trapunto flowers will contrast nicely (but not too much) from the leaves and teardrop shapes. Thank you Jude for your “What ifs” — #64 in particular — I may have stopped at the couching without your inspiration.

I am nearly done with the straight line quilting too. Then it’s on to the free-motion stuff. I’m feeling very good about this whole quilt now and know that, not only will we be warm snuggling under it, but I’ll enjoy looking at it on our bed as well.

I’m still a bit perplexed though about how one might set about to create a “show quilt” and be confident that the end product will be worthy. I suppose it’s because I have a tendency to just jump right into a project without a lot of planning, but even if I did manage to get through the piecing of this quilt without mishap (like wrong angles on diamond templates) how can one be certain they won’t #@*&! up the quilting? It’s not that mine is so bad, but the stuff in the ditch has jumped out every so often, and I certainly wasn’t about to pick out a whole row of stitching and re-do it each time that happened. Ahhh, therein lies the answer, doesn’t it?! On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the slight puffiness of the trapunto is going to hide the slight ripple-iness of the corner squares that are not actually squares due to the aforementioned wrong angles. That’s making me very happy.

This is probably as good a place as any to think out loud about decisions I have made that are starting to walk all over each other. It’s a bit of a follow-up from the last post (and maybe too lengthy, but here goes).

When I went to Art Quilt Tahoe in 2005, I was starting to feel pretty good about my art quilting and thinking it might be time to share. A fellow student encouraged me, suggesting that if I liked my work, then I should show it — no waiting for that elusive “perfect” piece. Saying one’s intentions out loud has incredible power, because I lined up a solo show in a gallery for the end of 2006 and joined SAQA with the intentions of taking myself more seriously as an artist. Needless to say, I worked very hard that year, but felt that I was neglecting my family. I decided last year that I wasn’t going to pressure myself or my family with deadlines. I’d be flexible and go with the ever-changing rhythms of our life. I would also make things for the pure joy of making them — not worrying about a body of work or any particular theme (unless it spoke to me). Besides, I have learned that if I make any plans based on what I expect to happen in any particular time period, they will surely be thwarted.
Now comes the part where my tendencies towards tenacity (good description, Gerrie) are biting me in the butt. I can’t seem to let go of the side of me that wants the validation of getting into shows and treating my hobby as something more “worthy” than a way to fritter away the copious leisure time I have on my hands ;-). Yesterday I started preparing my entry for the European Art Quilt Foundation Exhibition V and realized that since no entry can have previously been shown, NONE of my work of the last two years is appropriate. Of course, if I had worked on creating a new body of work last year, I’d have a few pieces, but noooooooo, the same work in progress has been taunting me on my design wall for about six months. Sure, I could probably adopt a faster method of working, but again, I like my slower ways and ties to the traditional world from whence my art quilts sprang. I could probably hire a nanny to take care of the cleaning and laundry and meals and homework and tucking-in and ferrying to play-dates, etc. (because it IS much more than just a few hours a week of house cleaning that distracts me — or any other parent — from studio time), but I committed to being a parent and feel the need to honor that commitment.

So I want it both ways: I want to be sensitive to my family’s needs, but I want to be able to focus on the work I feel compelled to make. I want to work at my own pace, but I want enough work (and good work at that) to be able to enter a half dozen shows a year for the validation. And these all seem like good ideas, so I’m unwilling to let any of them go.

I’m going to have to work on that. I’m not going to be a full time studio artist. I have to keep telling myself that I don’t need to do the things that full time studio artists do. I just need to do what I’m compelled to do, and let go of the rest. Just let it go. In the mean time, I AM going to finish “Beat the Blues” even if I have to allow the kids more than their allotted hour of screen time per day to do it.

24 Jan

Stuff I’ve been Thinking About

Machine quilting lots of straight lines gives one time to think. I’ve been thinking about myself and my work.

I try and I try, but I just can’t seem to machine quilt with the accuracy and evenness of traditional show quilts. Oddly enough, I can sew together hundreds of hexagons and embroidery tiny crewel work, but somehow the lovely feathers and straight lines others can do evade me.

That’s OK because I don’t like to follow patterns or plans either. I really get excited when I start off in a direction and it takes on a life of it’s own.

Although I am trained as a graphic designer, it took me a long time to make the leap from traditional and pictorial quilts to abstract. However, once I made the leap, I didn’t really know why I hadn’t earlier. Sometimes I can just be too linear. To my credit, once pushed or enticed off the straight line, I’m OK with it. And I’m not working completely abstract either, although I now know I could go there if I wanted.

I still really like traditional quilts. I spent my Christmas vacation looking at traditional patterns and making notes of ones that would make lovely bed quilts. I even went so far as to order some fresh new fabric to make one.

I also like “crafting.” Yes, it’s a bad word amongst art quilters, but then again, so is “traditional.” So here I am, with a multiple personality disorder of sorts: quilt artist, traditional quilt maker, and crafter of stuffed mushrooms and tissue covers.

That’s the kind of stuff I’ve been thinking about the last two days while I quilt the Mariner’s Star Lone Compass Beat the Blues very large quilt to be stuffing in my sewing machine.

And now for something completely different: After our quilt retreat last November, R decided that we ought to make a quilt for her friend, our hostess. She chose the “Depression Block” because it was simple, and would be appropriately scrappy for a group to make. Here’s my two blocks that I finished last Tuesday (check that off the to-do list). The rest of the group are also making blocks in spring-y colored batiks.

Depression Block

23 Jan

Beat the Blues…

Fresh Start January (in which I finish up stuff so that I can start rest of the year with new projects) is moving right along at a clipping pace. I crossed off my 12×12 Chocolate quilt. I’m not posting it until the grand unveiling of all our quilts on 1 February (I think that’s our date). I made two blocks for a group project (I’ll post those later), and the Mariner’s Compass quilt is finally making progress.

I had basted the quilt in November, I think, and then set it aside for more pressing deadlines like the Sliced Quilt section and Christmas presents. Somewhere along the way I saw something with Ricky Tims demonstrating how he does trapunto with the sewing machine and uses fancy threads in the bobbin. I decided that this was a great technique for my quilt. You see, I was talking to my every-other-Friday, hand-sewing friends about what I should put in the corners of the quilt. Normally, one would do some fancy appliqué, or quilt feathered wreaths or something. I didn’t want to do appliqué or fussy feathers but I was having a hard time imagining how I would quilt it. We decided that since it’s a scrappy, naïve sort of quilt, it should have a folksy pattern in the corners, and folksy to me meant penny rugs. Back to Ricky, after seeing his video or Simply Quilts episode or whatever it was, I decided that I should do the penny rug-inspired pattern in trapunto with perle cotton in the bobbin. And un-basted the quilt to do so.
Ricky often prints his designs with the computer, onto water soluble stabilizer. I had a ton of tear-away stabilizer, so I used that instead and with a simple design, it works just fine. Here’s my traced design on stabilizer pinned with fluffy batting to the back of my quilt top:

Design on stabilizer

The next step is to stitch your design, following the lines on the stabilizer. Since the bobbin thread is going to be the one showing on the front of the quilt, you can take the opportunity to use something fun. (You can also use water soluble thread and stitch over it from the front once all the layers are sandwiched together, but I was stuck on this fancy bobbin thread thing.)

So, here it is from the front. Even after adjusting tension, my perle cotton insisted on bunching up unattractively:

#8 Perle cotton in the bobbin

Fine, I decided that I could couch the perle cotton on later, and soldiered ahead sewing my design in a nice variegated quilting thread that I wanted to use for the leaves anyways.  It’s got some wobbles, but hey, I planned on covering it up anyways.

Plain old 50 weight quilting thread in the bobbin

But then, my thin thread didn’t really match the perle cotton so well, and with my foot for couching on curves didn’t like the thin cotton and wasn’t catching it reliably and the foot that allows zig-zagging wasn’t handling the curves well. I didn’t like the unevenness of the zig-zags, so this came out too:

Couched perle cotton

Oh well, I guess the variegated thread will have to suffice. Plan A was gonna be good. So good that Plan B was worth a try. But Plan C is OK too. There may be a Plan D here, but I’m not sure yet.

Moving on (because I want to have this finished, nearly) by the second Wednesday in February which is the next Guild meeting where we unveil our challenge quilts, of which this is one. The challenge was to use the blue fabric above in our interpretation of “Traditional.” Yes, moving on, I tore away the stabilizer and cut the batting away from the negative spaces — and cut a few threads in the process — argghhh.

Cutting away excess batting

I reminded myself that this is a bed quilt, not a show quilt (I couldn’t compete with the intense craftsmanship of traditional quilts even if I wanted to), and just stitched over the offending areas. This morning I re-basted the quilt and started quilting it. Right now I’m just doing in-the-ditch and 1/4″ -from-the-seam quilting with the walking foot, but I’ve made terrific progress securing the center of the starburst and finishing two large diamonds! I can’t wait to get to the stippling around the trapunto and a few details inside the shapes.

We don't need no stinkin' bicycle clips

I think I’m going to call this “Beat the Blues…” because one of the designs I tried out the first time Plan A didn’t work was based on “Beat the Whites with a Red Wedge,” and even though things haven’t been going exactly as planned, this quilt is not going to get me down. I’m going to keep working on it, and when it’s done it will look great on our bed.

16 Jan

Chevron Love

First off, thanks to all the bloggers who have said I Make Their Day (it started with Gerrie, and then Natalya and Karoda chimed in too). I appreciate it, and please know that you make my day too, as does everyone who reads my blog and takes time to comment. Our online “conversations” never fail to inspire and entertain me! What a wonderful way to start off a new year.

Speaking of entertainment, I can’t believe how much the Chevron Scarf from “Last Minute Knitted Gifts” has been entertaining me. It started with this one last winter:

Chevron Scarf the first

It was a simple knit, easy to memorize, with just enough thinking to keep me interested, but nothing too taxing for a take-along project at the kids’ activities. So, I decided to knit it again with different colors, in a yarn more like the recommended Koigu Painter’s Palette.

Chevron Scarf the second

I LOVE this scarf! The colors go with everything, and it’s very soft and drapey. Guess what? My mom loved this one too. What the heck, I had the green/blue/pink left over and a whole other skein of variegated pink, so this became her Christmas present and I picked up the needles again to make a third. I had to change it up a little bit to stay sane, and I remembered Alex’s variation over at Moonstitches, so I changed one row from a knit to a purl and came up with a version with ridges:

Chevron Scarf the third

I finished the third scarf while in the US (oddly enough, my wooden knitting needles were not considered a threat by TSA, but the Christmas Plum Jam with Vodka that we gave Opa was. Maybe the guys at the x-ray machine were just hungry.). Anyways, I had used up the blue/green/brown yarn for the second scarf, and the blue/green/pink for the third, but I still had enough variegated pink for another go. I picked up a lovely taupe yarn at Soft Horizons in Eugene (shout-out because it’s a gorgeous store with really helpful employees) and dove into, yes, a fourth Chevron Scarf.

Chevron Scarf the fourth -- WIP

Still inspired by Alex’s variation, this time I chose to replace the “knit front and backs” with “yarn overs” for a lacier effect. This scarf is based on multiples of six instead of eight as that’s what the “Old Shale” instructions said, but really, it could be either.

I’m pretty sure this is the last one. but no promises.

14 Jan

Sliced Quilt piece: check

After a slow begining, (can’t be helped, I was on vacation ;-)) Start Fresh January is finally underway. Yesterday I finished my section to the Sliced Quilt that was to be finished at the end of 2007. I’m now putting the Sliced Quilt assembly aside for a bit while I finish two other projects with looming deadlines. I’m OK with that since I don’t need to send in any paperwork for Festival of Quilts until about May. (I’m not going to wait THAT long to sew the sections together though.)

My section of the Texies Sliced Quilt

I blocked it yesterday and am very pleased with the results. My initial idea was to use a running stitch (often called Kantha after traditional Bengalese stitching) with black perl cotton for the shadows. Oddly, I had a hard time finding the what I wanted and went with some lovely, thin, Danish thread intended for fine cross stitch. It took a lot of stitches, but looked good. However, as I worked the piece I didn’t like how puffy the non-stitched areas were, so I added stranded embroidery floss that I had on hand in the colored areas. Somewhere along the way, I finally found a perl cotton, but it was much heavier than the other threads I was using. A voice inside told me to just go ahead and throw it on top for the deeper shadows. I’m glad I did because, even though I didn’t use much, it adds a nice dimension and did help the blacks go blacker.
Detail of Kantha-esque stitching

13 Jan

2008 Goals

You think you're gonna do what?

My goals are getting smaller and smaller each year, but hopefully they are getting more focused — even if the focus is visible only to me.

After working my butt off in 2006 preparing for my solo show and simultaneously being a single parent, plus entering some shows for exposure, I decided that 2007 would be a year without deadlines. I would work at my own pace and not enter any shows unless I already had appropriate work. Ha! Although I did lots of relatively quick craft projects, artwork (which requires solitude and contemplation: two items in short supply around my house) progressed at a snail’s pace and I did little of the skill-building exercises that I wanted to do. Therefore, my 2008 goal is to find a balance somewhere in between.

I’d like to add to my body of work this year and hopefully show again at Bourgeois Pig. I’d also like to say “yes” to a repeat of last year’s show/sale at Villa Meixner. I’ve identified six art quilt shows or opportunities that I think I either have appropriate work for, or are in line enough with my current work that creating something specifically for that purpose would actually help further my work. I’m happy to report that I sent off my first application already. My hope for January/February was to clean house and finish up some outstanding projects so that I could continue the year focusing on the art. Now that I look at the list and compare it with some of the deadlines I’d like to make, I may have to do some work in a “dirty” house. Oh well, Spring Cleaning has a nice ring to it too.

For 2008, (listed here so I don’t have to keep track of the pieces of paper I wrote it down on) projects I’d like closure on:

  • Finish the Star Quilt
  • Finish the Sliced Quilt Project (woo hoo — this one is well on it’s way)
  • 12 x12 Chocolate Challenge (this is next on the list!)
  • Zavi’s stuffed dragon I promised to make
  • PIF gifts (these will be put off a while, but will be loads of fun when I do get to them)

Then I can move on to some things that have been lingering in the background:

  • The mosaic project that’s been sitting in the basement for about a year
  • Finally painting the two bedroom dressers I’ve wanted to change for two years

Skill builders:

  • More needle doodles when I get a chance
  • Revisit “Color and Composition” exercises
  • Exercises from Jane Dunnewold’s book

I’m not going to write down the new art/projects that I have in my mind (and on another piece of paper) because it seems like that might jinx them. I’ll post them as I progress, of course. Oh, and in order to get even half of this stuff done, I’m going to try to be more judicious with my computer time. If I don’t post as much assume it’s because I found some incredible creative time and I’m in “the zone.” It’s probably not going to happen like that, but it’ll be nice imagining that it does! I also realize that there will be some days when I just have to tell the kids to leave me alone and I’ll be a bad, selfish mom (not that they really do leave me alone, but the barrage of requests is lessened). Like yesterday and today. That’s how I got my Sliced Quilt piece done. Yup, some days it’s just gonna be like that.

10 Jan

500, No, Make That Two, Handbags

It seems like everyone in the blogosphere is getting published these days. Be it books, magazine articles, patterns, exhibit catalogs, whatever. When Lark Books put out a call for entries last summer for a book called 500 Handbags, my bag-crazy friend, Valerija, and I decided to jump on the bandwagon too. Yesterday brought the letter stating that, even after extending the deadline, Lark did not receive enough applicants to proceed with the book.

After being coy for so long, at least I can share our entries now:

(not quite) 500 Handbags

This ric-racked, embroidered, pieced and embellished variation of the Square Bag in my patterns section has a lovely silk lining and my favorite color combination, scrappy blue and white:

Ooooh, shiny!

I thought I had more/better digital pictures of this one,

Lots of fun layers and embroidery here.

but I guess I saved all my energy for our photo shoot with the slide film. Now you can see though, that it’s a Süße Sac (pronounced “soo-seh:” German for sweet) with Fliegenpilze, of course!

One side is a patchwork of red dotted fabrics plus greens in hand dyed velvet, layered fabrics, and a novelty print or two. The other side is raw edge appliqué under lots of embroidery, beads, and embellishment with more fibers, pom-poms, buttons and yo-yos.
The rest of the bags in the picture above are Valerija’s. She creates wonderful things with very limited resources and I was so hoping that she could see one of her creations in a book. It would have been such a great affirmation.

I feel the need to insert a little rant in here. It’s something that’s been nagging at me since we decided to try this. Part of me wonders if the lackluster number of entries for the book was because Lark was looking, not only for fabulous handbags, but fabulous pictures as well. The slides (and with the later deadline, digital images) were to be of print quality — what would ultimately be published in the book.

When I worked as a graphic designer we very, very, often hired professional photographers when we needed people or product shots. As much as artists and craftspeople have a vast knowledge of materials and techniques and how to combine them for the best effect, a professional photographer has a huge toolbox of experience with film, cameras, lights, the best way to set up a shot, tricks for getting the right reflections or not, and so on and so on. Although Valerija and I did the best we could (which was actually pretty good) with various backdrops and natural light and my nice old SLR camera, it is by no means what I’ve seen pros do on location or in a studio.

I suspect it would have been less intimidating for makers to submit their best photos in order to get their work selected, but to have Lark ultimately hire a pro (wouldn’t they even have one on staff or retainer?) to photograph the final 500 — if for nothing else than visual consistency. Must the creator not only be incredible at their chosen media, but be extremely well versed in photography and photo styling as well? (Obviously, I’m not talking about photo essay-type books — the creator and the photographer are one and the same there.)

It seems to me that all an editor has to do nowadays is find some popular blogs and offer a book deal. Magazines appear to do even less — their calls for entry mean that content essentially comes to them — no surfing necessary. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this rant is just sour grapes because although I have tried many things, I am master of none. Certainly there are incredibly talented people out there who write eloquently AND take beautiful pictures, and those who conjure up wonderful designs AND can photograph them to their best advantage, or those who can do all three and probably even more. Yes, these renaissance people definitely deserve book deals. I suppose asking for it all is the editor’s way of separating the creme de la creme from the rest of us. It’s probably better this way after all.

08 Jan

Pieces Parts

Painting by Juan Gris

Juan Gris
Pears and Grapes on a Table 1913

Sliced Quilt parts

Interpretation by Texies

First row, from left: Kristin, Cordula, Edith, and Christiane. Second row, from left: Erika, Birgit, Susanne, and Elke. 

Here they are — all the Texies Sliced Quilt project parts. Mine still needs some more stitching since I don’t like how poofy the non-shadow parts look. When I finish my part all I need to do is sew them all together and bind it. We’re thinking about sending it to Quilt Festival in Birmingham, UK. The deadline isn’t until May, so I don’t see any problems. As I had hoped, everyone has interpreted their part a bit differently and there’s a nice variety of techniques. One of my favorite parts is how the commercial fabric Erika used for the wood in the lower left corner has a very similar color and feel to Edith’s oil stick version in the lower right corner.

Some of my other favorite bits:

Cordula‘s use of plaid fabric for the woven seat:

Cordula's part

Edith’s shiny green silk:

Edith's part

Christiane‘s hand quilting:

Christiane's part

Erika’s luminous knife and wood” fabric:

Erika's part

Birgit‘s ultra-dimensional cloth:

Birgit's part

Susanne‘s excellent machine quilting:

Susanne's part

Elke’s text:

Elke's Part