26 Nov

Random Stuff I’m Doing

What to blog? What to blog? Life is continuing on here, but there’s nothing particularly exciting going on, and I’m definitely not taking photos worth looking at.

Army Wife Aprons

I did go up to NIH (National Institutes of Health) and install two Army Wife aprons in a display case on the third floor. I encourage anyone in the DC Metro area to go check out the artwork in the main clinical building (#10). Lillian Fitzgerald has really done a lovely job curating a wide variety of work. My aprons are on the third floor right in the center. My next goal is to get a few pieces across the street at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Hopefully next month will begin that process.

I’m still enjoying drawing group each week. It even looks like McGuffey will be showing off the work of all three drawing groups in February. I’m excited.

Untitled

On the advice of a MAC friend, I also contacted a local lingerie shop about showing my figure drawings there. I would never have considered a store as a potential venue, but the shop has been doing quite well pairing figure drawing and painting with the store ambiance. One never knows what might come of showing work in unexpected venues.

Little Leg Warmers

And, I’ve been knitting. I find it very satisfying. Knitting seems to go so much faster than quilting. For the most part, I’m following other peoples’ directions, so I wonder if, like in my quilting history, I start deviating from the path, it will become more complicated. For now though, it’s great fun to make a sweater for me, a cowl for every member of the family, little leg warmers for my niece, and soft stone poufs for the living room.

I finished the scrappy quilt and made great progress on a new one that I thought had an upcoming deadline, but now doesn’t. I’m percolating something with fabric, stitch and my figure drawings, and I still have my big quilt to quilt. It’s all kind of on hold until Thanksgiving though because I don;t want to stop if I get into a groove.

19 Nov

Quilting Follow-Up

I’ve been too busy quilting to sit down and blog. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t wasted a bunch of time checking Facebook and Instagram on my phone, but we’ll just gloss over that, ‘K? Anyway, I finished the quilting on my second practice quilt today. I say practice because it’s been a while since I’ve done a bunch of machine quilting and I wanted to get back in the groove before delving on a large art quilt that I’d really like to do a great job on. My practice quilts were a lap quilt made from two Jelly Rolls I had originally intended for a 1700 quilt but lost interest on and recently made into a plus pattern, and a quilt made with scrappy bricks that’s one of four stash busting projects.

Plus Quilt

Plus Quilt

I finished the Plus Quilt. I did the best I could, The front looks just fine, and I will ignore all the problems on the back (of which there are many). Washing the quilt and throwing it in the dryer did wonders — the old timey wrinkliness hides a lot of the puckers. I was already familiar with the tips suggested about taking out stitches and easing the fabric before stitching again, and I had been gently pulling/easing to keep things pucker free. However, there’s only so much of that to be done. Long time readers may remember the Amish Drag Racing in the Southwest diagonal quilting debacle here.

Amish Drag Racing in the Southwest quilt

I fixed that quilt by adding a big black border and squaring that up, but I really wanted to not distort my next quilt rather than fix it post-distort. I’ve also run into distortion problems with circles.

Charming Puddles quilt

If I were to do circles again, I’d definitely spray baste in addition to the pins. My next quilt will have lots of straight lines though, so I might just go with more pins. Some suggested thread basting, which would probably be good for quilting when using a walking foot, but I know from experience that I don’t like free-motion quilting with thread basting. Even when I’m paying attention I catch too many of those big stitches on my presser foot and am forced to stop and often unstitch.

scrap bricks

Speaking of free motion, the brick quilt called for a little bit of straight lines and a whole bunch of free motion. Quilting went much better on this one. I noticed on the Plus Quilt that I had more pucker problems in the areas where the backing fabric was a thinner eighties calico. I also remember reading in one of Ruth McDowell’s books that she uses upholstery weight fabric for her wall quilts. So, Sue’s comment to starch the backing fabric made sense. I had already done the straight line stitching on the quilt, but I unpinned the rest, starched the backing, ironed it, and re-basted the quilt with more pins. No Puckers! I don’t know if it’s because of the starched back, or the free-motion quilting, but it’s so much better than the Plus Quilt. I will definitely continue to starch the back of quilts that can be washed, especially if those backs are pieced with an assortment of fabric qualities.

Untitled

On the other hand, I did have issues with skipped stitches. I’ve had skipped stitches before with an unruly fabric. I was using the BSR stitch regulator on my machine (which I have had issues with before). Because I was stitching on crazy scrap blocks, I was thinking that the skipped stitches were the problem of some thick seams and bad fabrics (especially since I was consistently having problems on specific fabrics with tight weaves or painted surfaces). I still think that this is part of the problem, but not all of it. Although I kept cleaning out my bobbin area, and I changed needles three times I got to the point where I was having waaaaaay too many skipped stitches to want to keep stopping, removing the stitches, and re-stitching. On a last ditch effort, I took off the stitch regulator, since I was done with the weighty center section anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, things went a lot better. Next time I take my machine in for service I’ll have them check this out, Maybe my machinee is old enough that I can get a replacement part without breaking the bank.

The next quilt will have a heavy or starched back, possible spray baste, lots of pins, slow speed, new needle(s), lots of support, grippy gloves, and potentially no stitch regulator. So there it is, two weeks, two quilts quilted. Lots of problem solving, and lots of muscle memory stored. Good thing I do push ups regularly too — my shoulders aren’t sore at all.

13 Nov

Saying it out loud

The pucker quilt is boring and depressing now. I hate working on it because all the puckers just remind me of what a horrible quilter I am and how the quilt is now worthless (I know these things aren’t true, but this is what the quilt is telling me). I have redone so much of it and it’s just a practice quilt, so it’s not at all worth the time and effort I’ve invested in it. But still, I’d like to finish it so it can be donated and do some little bit of good in the world. Yet, it’s going slowly and is a black cloud over my head.

So I’m avoiding it by doing other boring things. I cleaned my desk, balanced the checkbook, paid some bills, and added some recent items to my “art business” accounting spreadsheet. I know it’s bad form to actually talk money and stuff, but this years’ numbers (and presumably most of my years’ numbers if I had bothered to pay as close attention as this year, and a good portion of everyone else’s numbers I’m guessing) are pretty sad. To date I have spent $3017 on art-related things. That’s mannequins for my show, new business cards, drawing pads and pencils, parking at venues, thread, batting, paying someone else to quilt Zeitgeist, mailing to shows, contest entry costs, etc. Granted, this year is probably a bit spendier than previous because of the quilting for hire and the gallery show investment, but if I’m going to continue showing my work in gallery settings, I know I can expect similar continued costs. On the other hand, I’ve sold some work, some catalogs, and won a prize at a local show, so that should balance things out a bit, right? Nope. I’ve made $338 this year. Yup. All that support the arts, buy handmade, value your work, art is necessary for society, you should do this for exposure, the exposure will lead to something, stuff is a lot of crap. We all know this. These numbers are no surprise. I’m lucky to have a spouse that supports our family so these numbers don’t matter to my day to day survival like they do for so many other artists. I’m just putting the numbers out there to make them more real. Because some days you just have to say it out loud.

08 Nov

Arggggggh!

I feel like I used to be pretty good at machine quilting. Nothing fancy, and my stitches weren’t always even, but at least the fronts looked good and the backs of my quilts were smooth.

Untitled

Lately, I’ve been getting this and it’s ticking me off. The only real change is that I used to use cotton batting and now I’m trying wool. Cotton is less poofy and it sticks nicely to the fabric, whereas wool and poly are both poofy and non-sticky. I tape my backing to the floor smooth but not taught. I pin baste a hand’s width apart. I use a walking foot for straight lines like these (and I have to say, that I’ve turned down the speed on my machine and that has done wonders for keeping me slow and steady and at least making my stitches much more even). I work from the center out unless I have motifs that need to be dealt with first (like the red cross in the background).

This particular quilt is a small utilitarian bed quilt from a Jelly Roll and destined to be donated, so I’m not stressing too much about the puckers, but I’m using it and another that I do care more about as practice for my next round of art quilts and I want to solve as many issues as possible before tackling something bigger and more important. I want to use wool, so I’m looking for any tips anyone wants to throw at me?!? Probably closer basting, but I’m open to all ideas.

04 Nov

Thoughts on Houston

As the big quilt show in Houston wraps up, I’ve been doing some post-show ruminating. No, I didn’t attend this year, or last, though I have been twice (2010 and 2011). I am recognizing a kind of love hate reaction to the show.

I love seeing everyone’s photos of the quilts and reporting from the wholesale-only market days. Kathy Mack and Team Pink Chalk always do a great job reporting each year’s trends from Market. This year, I especially enjoyed seeing Market and Festival glimpses from Facebook and Instagram friends, Victoria Findlay-Wolf, Cheryl Sleboda, Judy Coates-Perez, Jamie Fingal, and Kathy Nida who did a thoughtful review on her blog. While not at all like being there, it was definitely fun for the last two weeks to see what all the excitement is about and what quilts and fabrics people were responding to. It’s also worth checking out the big winners on the IQF page here.

I look at the winners each year, and am always in awe of the craftsmanship in these pieces. The style or subject matter is not always my cup of tea, but I can never disregard the passion, skill, and care taken in creating the most oft seen quilts at the show each year. I could get discouraged that my own quilting is not so perfect or that my pieces are not so small, or that my appliquĂ© not so meticulous. However, seeing these quilts tends instead to be a push for me to constantly improve my work. I may not see my work fitting in a venue like IQF Houston, but it keeps me striving to make sure that it’s not for lack of craftsmanship. I love a good traditional bed quilt (especially a scrappy one), and I appreciate good craftsmanship and intent, so for any poo-pooing I may do of predictable subject matter, or styles that have jumped the shark, overall, I am far more inspired by what I see from Houston than not. In fact, I spent all morning warming up my machine quilting skills on a pair of scrap quilts, just to remind myself to be mindful and meticulous (as much as I can be), because when it comes time to quilt that piece with 900-something 2-inch squares, I want to do it and it’s concept justice.

So what’s the hate side of the equation? It’s the part where I see all the fabric designs from Market, and promotions like the video from Cotton and Steel, and lovely young women being entrepreneurial and passionate, and pro-active about what they want to be doing, be it fabric design, pattern design, online shops, teaching, inspiring, whatever. That always makes me feel like a lazy bum. Granted, designing fabrics and sewing patterns is not my thing or my strength; so while I may be jealous that these people are achieving their goals, I don’t actually want to be in their shoes. But what their stories do is make me ask myself where I want to be in five years. What are MY goals? And that question always stumps me. It’s hard, and I never put in the effort to figure it out. My go-to excuse is that I don’t even know where I’ll be living in five years, but in our interconnected, online world, that shouldn’t matter.

I feel like I may have made some baby steps this year. When I left Hawai’i, I told myself that in our new locale I would try to connect more with the local arts community. I wanted to do life drawing again, and I felt like my Army Wife series was just about ready to share. Now, 15 months later, I actually accomplished all these things, and there’s still forward momentum. So, where to take it next? What fabulous, exciting, Houston-worthy, goal do I want to set my sights on? I’m not sure just yet. I’m excited about a new series of work with social commentary, and I want Michelle Obama to see my Army Wife show, and I’d love to sell a piece or two to a serious collector, but are these actual goals that I have control over? That I can shape into something ongoing? I don’t know. But I’ll use the general excitement of what I’m seeing around me to keep pushing me to consider the possibilities.