04 Aug

Pack your Boxes

cat-in-a-box

My very own Tech Support & World’s Greatest Husband, AKA, Mr. Incredible, has just launched a short-duration project to “surge” fabric and sewing materials into the area around which he’s posted in Iraq.  It is timed to coincide with both Ramadan, and the departure of his units from Iraq. 

The project started, as many do, out of a confluence of inspiration and circumstances. It may have started with reading 3 Cups of Tea, an inspirational story not only of one man’s impact, but of his conviction that terrorism can only be fought effectively with education and opportunity, not by force. Follow that with the understanding that when a US military unit leaves an area, although they take with them everything on their master list of what they brought, truth is they leave a whole lot behind as well — bed sheets, small refrigerators, DVDs, old clothes, unused building materials, etc. As one man’s trash is another’s treasure, the idea to donate re-usable materials to local groups emerged. Then came the idea to supplement those resources with more — tailor made for individuals and sewing co-ops trying to make a living in the community.

The basic premise is to make a bundle of fabric and sewing supplies from your own stash, mail it to my hubby’s APO (American) address, and he will facilitate the distribution of the bundles. By bundling teh goodies, it saves time on his end as he won’t have to redistribute the supplies or use excess packaging for them, and it makes it far simpler for his local counterparts to distribute them to those in need.

The project is called Iraqi Bundles of Love, here’s a link to his FAQ page, and we’ve got until September 7, 2009 to bust our stashes and send what we probably won’t get around to using to my man, who will get it to those who will use it right away. If anyone is interested in donating, but doesn’t want/have a box-full, or can’t afford the postage, contact me and I’ll be a rally point here in Hawai’i. Please feel free to pass on the links, share this project with your sewing pals, local bee, quilt guild, etc. As I write this post, my husband doesn’t have a list of “most needed” items yet. Fabric, thread, needles, pins, yarn will undoubtedly be on the list. I hope it goes without saying that messages of God’s blessings or anything else evangelical/proselytizing should not be included. Let’s be sensitive to the world’s diversity. Thank you so much for your support of this project.

30 Jul

Heart House

I put this collage up on Flickr, so I figured I should share it here too. When I re-mounted “Pink House,” I consoled myself by immediately starting in on another collage stitched directly to the canvas. It was a complete coincidence that the only appropriate house I had left was pink-ish too.

heart-house-sm

This was also a great opportunity to work with my new screen printed house fabric from Ink & Spindle. It’s a bit more sparse than my usual, but it didn’t want or need any more. I like it.

Heart House, 12″x12″ Painted fabric house by me and hand printed house fabric from Ink & Spindle, further colored by me, stitched to gallery wrapped unprimed linen canvas, with a few other fabrics and fibers too.

27 Jul

Canvas is fabric too

As I was making “Fairytale Forest” it seemed less like a quilt and more like a painting that happened to be of fabric, yarn, and beads. It called out to be mounted on stretcher bars like a painting. I’ve also been seeing lots of small quilts mounted on gallery wrapped canvas of late. I’ve done it as well, to give postcard sized work more of the presence it deserves. That got me to thinking about using the canvas as less of an afterthought, and more of an integral part of the artwork (again, like a painting). “Cloud House” was my first foray, with the canvas more like a mat, but the fabric collage really worked for me. After making “Pink House,” I considered writing an article about stitching fabric collages directly onto stretched canvas (even though it’s now mounted on another canvas). pink-housesm   I gathered up a variety of canvases and have tried more collages — experimenting with primed canvas, unprimed linen, and plain bars (I even found round canvas, but have yet to make anything with it). canvases As I was working on the latest piece I realized that I wasn’t ready to let go of this. Obviously I don’t have the market on fabric collages on stretched canvas — and I do think everyone with the inclination should try something like this. But try it with birds, mushrooms, abstracts, figures, flowers, trees, and yes, houses. I’m afraid that if I write an article (and it’s published) with only houses as samples, it will limit how others see the technique. I’m enjoying the houses too much to branch out into other imagery, so I’ve decided for now to share what I’ve been working on, but not to write any sort of how-to.  rooted-canvases2 Enjoy and stitch amongst yourselves.

13 Jun

A Little (Kukui) Nutty

Why is it that as soon as I say (even just to myself) that I’m over something or not going to do it, I go and do it anyway? Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical.

A while a go I lamented the many directions I could/should go and wondered if would be beneficial to focus. After that post, I decided that although I would probably never be the type to focus completely and create a “brand” for myself, it would be OK to let a few things drop.

There are a million über-talented fabric designers out there that I couldn’t dream of competing with, (not being terribly fashion forward myself) and I had decided that as fun as exploring patterns based on local flora would be, my energies would be better spent on art quilts and home projects. My sketches were unceremoniously shoved to the back burner.

Until last week. I had reason to expand on one idea, and that, of course, built some momentum, which got the juices flowing, and now I have six designs uploaded to Spoonflower (private at this point) being made into swatches, just to see what a small collection would look like.

I had the idea that if my designs were picked up by a fabric company, I could donate the proceeds to an entity concerned with the study and preservation of Polynesian plants, or just plain conservation, like the National Tropical Botanical Garden, or Hawai’i Nature Center. I’m not particularly interested in opening up an Etsy or Big Cartel shop to sell fabrics at upwards of $18 per yard myself. I suspect this will go back to the end of the line now that I’ve gotten some of the fun part out of my system (not before making a list of nearly 20 plants that would be interesting to draw when the mood strikes again).

Speaking of the mood striking, Katja watched me using Adobe Illustrator to make my designs and wanted to make some herself. I think this is a perfect example of being inspired by something and yet making it uniquely one’s own. I’m also so proud of my daughter’s creativity, that really this post is mostly an excuse to show her off!

03 Jun

My Process

I may not have found my artistic voice, or style yet, but I’m definitely settling in to a process.

Momentum seems to have a lot to do with it. I get an idea and then I have to jump right into it. Or, if I can’t do that, I write it in my sketchbook, make dinner, collect bits, mull it over, procrastinate a lot, get side tracked, and do myriad other things that lack discernible forward movement. It’s all good though, because this slow percolating time helps me refine what it is I’m going to create.

Then, when the mood hits and the planets align, I get down to work. The hardest part is that this is when the momentum really kicks in and once I’m elbow-deep in paints or dye, or firmly planted in front of the sewing machine, I don’t want to stop. More frozen pizza nights than I want to admit to are the direct result of sewing “just one more row,” “I’m almost to a stopping point,” or my favorite, “I’ll be right there,” which really means I’m standing in front of my design wall contemplating the next move.

Knowing that I work in these fits and spurts helps me to get the most out of them, such as grouping like tasks together, or making sure there’s plenty of pizza in the freezer. Another aspect of my process is to gather bits so that when I do get inspired, I can access the bits akin to a painter choosing paint from blobs on her palette (a great analogy I adopted from artist Gerry Chase in her workshop).

One day I’ll be immersed in sun printing, and try out multiple colors and sizes of motifs. Painting and stamping are the same. If I dye fabric, I’ll throw in some extra pieces, or maybe some yarn or lace. Another day I’ll be piecing, and I’ll sort scraps by color, or set aside cut-off strips, squares or triangles that could come in handy in another project. Now, I take crochet yarn to the kids’ TaeKwonDo and hook roots while I wait. I need to have several things going at once so that I can choose one aspect and roll with it for a while, not breaking my momentum to create a single project start to finish, but rather to focus on a day to paint, or to sit at the machine, to crochet or embroider, until I have enough pieces to sort through them to create the composition I’m looking for.

The last two photos are details of quilted, embroidered, fabric and thread collages mounted on or sewn to stretched canvases — similar to Cloud House. There will definitely be more.

29 May

180°

180° across the quilting circle from a cathartic protest art piece is a utilitarian quilt for the couch.

I love simple, repetitive blocks transformed by color, technique, or composition, into fresh or unexpected quilts.

Our local guild offered a “One Block Wonder” class last weekend, and being intrigued by the construction of a kaleidoscopic quilt from a single fabric (plus the opportunity to get out of the house and play with friends), I signed up.

In class, we prepared and cut the fabric. Donna, our teacher had a few helpful tips not in the book, such as a nice chain piecing technique.

With the bonus of having my husband home on “vacation,” I just kept the momentum going and have been sewing at home every day.

It’s so much fun to see how different the fabric looks once cut up and rearranged. It’s much more about favorite colors than the fabric design itself.

Now I have tops for two lap quilts.

I think the one above might need a large embroidery over it…

This one will eventually join the Ripple Afghan (a bit stalled out as it’s getting too warm here to enjoy much crocheting) on the couch.

05 May

A New Resource

I’ve forgotten if I posted this swatch before or not.

There’s been a lot of buzz about print on demand fabrics lately. I think Spoonflower was the first, and right now, they are definitely the best known place for printing fabric with your own design. I heard about it when they were in Beta phase, but didn’t really know what I would need my own fabric for since I am already a huge fan of new and re-purposed commercial fabric and all the connotations and stories they hold. There  are so very many colors and patterns out there already, how could I possibly be lacking?

Completely unrelated, I’ve had a drawing my daughter did a few years ago that looked to me like it needed to be an embroidered patch. A patch, of course, needs something to go on, so I’ve had in my mind to make a messenger bag. Recently I found a pattern for just the bag I want to make, and decided that the original drawing, plus more would make a perfect lining for my bag. Back to Spoonflower — here’s the perfect way to incorporate the kids’ drawings.

I ordered the swatch, then adjusted the colors, and now I have my own fabric! I messed up a few of the repeats (scatter designs can be tricky when you need a portion of something on one side of your repeat to match up exactly with the rest of the image on the other side), but it wasn’t due to any defect on Spoonflower’s end. For my purposes here, I doubt anyone but me will notice anyway. I’m excited to make the bag and my own patches, but I’ve got a few other things in the works I’m excited about too, so it may take a while.

09 Apr

Another Pattern Review

Just to add another dimension to my already schizophrenic blog, I seem to be on a roll with commercial patterns and I think the best way to share them is to do a review. So here’s another pattern review:

Like the Heather Bailey apron, I saw a peek of the Anna Maria Horner’s Multi Tasker Tote and knew I wanted it — but had to wait for it to be published. Luckily the wait this time was less than a year. Kathy of Pink Chalk Fabrics was potentially first in line to stock the patterns and I think I was first in her line to order one. She ships fast and I was off and sewing right away.

Description:
A roomy tote bag with integrated outer side pockets. The bag’s big side panels are perfect for bold prints as shown on the pattern, but also leave room for adaptations like mine. I love the side pockets as an opportunity for coordinating fabric (the more fabrics, the better in my book).

Instructions:
The instructions are very complete with lots of diagrams. At first glance some steps might look a little weird, but as soon as you have the actual pieces in front of you it all makes sense. I spotted two typos and noticed that although the pattern piece for the strap says to cut two out of interfacing as well as your fabric, the outer panel pattern piece does not (even though you DO need to cut two out of interfacing). Luckily, the written instructions are very clear about what you need to cut out of what and the typos are inconsequential.

Degree of Difficulty:
Although this is not a difficult pattern, there are some steps that may be a bit tricky for an absolute beginner — mostly in terms of wrestling odd shapes under one’s sewing machine foot. It should be a piece of cake for an intermediate sewer though. Sometimes I see something and I can figure out how to make it myself, but this one has a bit of ingenious construction, so I’m glad I bought the pattern and learned a new trick or two to add to my toolbox of sewing skills.

Modifications:
It’s probably obvious that I modified my tote a bit. I deconstructed one of Mr. Incredible‘s old uniforms for my outer panel fabric. The side in the first picture is the back of the uniform “blouse” with the nice big side pocket from his pants. I added a name tape and branch insignia in totally non-official places. I used the cinch-y thing from the pants and a cuff from the blouse for quasi-usable decoration. The other side is essentially the front of the blouse with the two lower pockets, and including the button placket, although it opens to nothing (if I were really high-speed I would have sewn an inner lining behind the button placket so there’d be a hidden Napoleon-style side entry pocket). Another cinch-y thing, jump wings, insignia from another branch, and a tape you can’t see that says US Army dress it up a bit. On the inside  I used the upper pocket from the uniform blouse because it has an awesome inner pocket for a pen (photo above). The other side of the interior has the pocket included in the pattern, although I used the ribbon that cinches up the bottom of the uniform pants instead of the fabric loop from the instructions (photo below). The shoulder straps are from the length of the pants and include a bit of the double layered sections that reinforce the knee and inner thighs (adds nothing to the functionality of the straps, just a couple of decorative seams).

Conclusion:
I’m very pleased with the pattern and the finished product. I appreciate when something looks equally handsome in real life as it does in the photos on the package. I would definitely recommend this pattern. I give it 12 muffins too (though not literally this time).