Thursday, March 15, 2018

Studio Day

While I've spent a fair bit of time in the studio lately,  it has involved a lot of working to deadlines, and catching up with my "to do" list.  Today I had a FMQ'g project on the machine ready to start stitching, but I didn't sleep well last night, and decided that I wasn't ready for a pains-taking job like that.  So, I decided to paint.  It's been on my "to do" list but not as a priority.  This means completely re-organizing my studio into a "wet" studio, as opposed to the fabric, or "dry" studio it usually is.  Doing something like that means doing a fair bit of production, as it's just too much work for one small piece. (In summer, painting is usually a job done out in the garden, but not in March when it's freezing out there.)

This is my set-up.  I protect my work table with an old tablecloth, and then use a 32" sq. piece of good Plexiglas on top.  Most of us who show and exhibit our art, also have smaller "bread and butter" items, that we use to assure our booth rental, and other expenses.  The items I make start with mono-printed cotton, so a great deal of my basic preparations involve pulling prints.  I do this once or twice a year, and aim for between 20 & 25 prints that I slowly process over the next few months.  

The large piece you see on the table is (I hope) the background for a fibre art piece that I currently only have in my head.  Today I only managed to get 14 prints, and here they are drying, below.

Once, I had got this far, and took a break, I realized that it's been far too long since I sorted out my painting supplies and took inventory. This had to be done before I could do much more, as I had realized that some of my "go to" supplies have been all used up. So that was the next step.

Normally, my painting supplies are organized onto bins in a large book case.  I keep fabric paint, acrylic paint, water colour supplies, alcohol and other inks, and various art mediums, in separate bins,

 The various junk needed to use these things is kept on what was originally a wet bar. All of my metallic paints and Procion dyes are kept under the bar, just around the corner from the laundry room that I use for all of my dyeing, and some of my painting.

Not to worry, both have now been tidied up and a whole bunch of containers etc put out for re-cycling. I learned in university to buy the best tools I could afford, and care for them properly.  This attitude has served me well over the years, especially with my paint brushes.  I made myself a caddy for them, and have used it for many years. It is just a piece of good cotton that I embellished with Shiva Paint sticks.  There is a place for each brush, and the whole affair rolls up in to a neat bundle.

All together a very productive day.

I plan to link this with Nina-Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, and The Needle and Thread Network.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


In my recent studio purge, there were two large hangings that I decided to re-purpose rather than discarding.  This is a fairly new activity to me, so I took one of them to my fibre art group, the Fibre Art Divas, for ideas.  One lady suggested table runners, and generously gave me a some technical hints.  Thank you Cathy Ugrin.

Here are the two pieces that have evolved from one of the hangings. The original piece was a large hanging comprised of commercial and hand-dyed fabric, discharged and raw edge appliqued into a representation of water flowing over rocks, heavily machine quilted.  In the final analysis it just didn't work.  This opinion was expressed by a few artist friends, who saw it in an exhibition.  I had already decided when I first saw it hanging, after being away from it for a couple of weeks.

The first piece is on white cotton sateen, and measures 36" by 16".  It is matchstick machine quilted horizontally.

The second is on creamy coloured white quilting grade cotton, and measures 14" by 32".  This is also match stick machine quilted horizontally.

This has been quite a learning experience for me.  I have frequently used matchstick machine quilting, done free motion, in smaller irregularly shaped areas.  This is the first time I've tried it this way.  It is much harder than it looks.

I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I must be out of my mind!

I've often written about the stash reduction process I've been working on over the past couple of years, and plan to continue working on for the coming year.  My daughter has often threatened, in fun, that when I go, she is going to have the biggest garage sale the neighbourhood has ever seen.  My goal over the next 6-8 months has been to go through all of the quilts and hangings I have stored in the studio.  Some will be discarded, and some re-purposed. I am also in the planning process for 5 exhibitions that I will be participating in between now and the end of November, and hope to find a few older pieces that I can use to fill out the display. I have written up a "to do" list for the studio that covers the rest of the year. 

 But my strength (?) is in procrastination, and the process is slow.  My husband is very supportive.  He often helps in the studio, and enjoys doing routine cutting for me.  As I write this he is sitting in front of the tv, cutting beads off a couple of hangings, for recycling. 

Today, was to have been an effort to re-purpose a hanging that we culled out a month ago.  Husband came to see what was going on, and looking for a job.  To my dismay, having seen the list, he decided that today was the day that we would go through a huge storage chest, and cull out the pieces stored there.  Within half an hour the total studio was in chaos, and the project for today abandoned on the sewing machine.  Decisions were made, and I was left with a pile of about 15 hangings that had to be re-purposed or disposed of. My husband had suggested that we send them to the thrift store.  The thought of doing this chilled my heart.  But, the idea of trying to figure out some way they could be re-purposed also terrified me.  I have better things to do with my time, and I could see several months work in this, probably with poor results.

So I cut them all up with my rotary cutter and threw them in the garbage.  Here they are in five gallon pails waiting to be taken out to the garbage bin.


I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It must be spring--more musings and navel gazings

Suddenly, opportunity appears to be coming out of the wood work.  My fall schedule is rapidly filling up with group and individual gallery shows opportunities. With my husband's help, I've been going through the items I have on hand to see what could be used, or re-purposed easily, to augment the body of new work I have.  After all, the purpose of these events is to sell my work, something that hasn't been happening a lot lately.

This leads to the question of whether to spend money on additional supplies to facilitate this production frenzy, or to spend extra time attempting to produce using only the supplies on hand.  My goal has always been the process  more than the product, but now I'm trying to figure out how to increase production, but enjoy the process at the same time.  Added into the mix is that health issues within the immediate family will be given absolute priority-period.

Somehow, I had never considered that I might be as pressured and busy during my retirement, as I was while working and raising a family.  I think I visualized myself as a pampered grandmother, enjoying family, and quietly "tending to my knitting", or quilting, as the case my be.  More realistically, I now understand that  I would never have been happy with that.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


A few years ago, with two total knee replacement surgeries within a few months of each other,  we had to move the serious working components of my basement studio, up into a spare room, as I was having great difficulty with stairs.  My mobility has improved, and family circumstances have changed, and we now need that extra bedroom.  My husband and I prepared everything for the move back downstairs, but neither of us is capable of any heavy lifting, so today my son and grandson came over to help.

The first job was to remove this empty machine cabinet from the basement to the garage.  This was my first cabinet, and worked well with the three Kenmore machines that all  died when I used them so much that the internal cams wore out.   They were all flat deck machines and I taught myself to free motion quilt on them.  How I miss those old flat decks.  Now we need special tables with a lower area or plastic shelves, that we add to the machine to make a flat deck.  I've held onto it for forty years, but now it's time to let it go.

This bookcase was a problem. It had been about 10 inches away from the wall on its right hand side, (that's where I stored a bolt of batting) but we needed the extra room, so, after emptying it, my husband and I tried to shove it into the corner.  Didn't work well until we realized that it had been screwed to the wall behind it.  Five minutes with a screw driver, and the thing moved easily.  Go figure.

Here is the empty area we were moving into, ( with the old cabinet still in place).  Yes, it may be along narrow room, but it's all mine.  It even has a bathroom, and the bar attached is an ideal place to coordinate my painting, and store the paint.

So the bed was moved upstairs, and here's my guys, with Grandpa supervising.

And my Janome at the top of the stairs ready to go.  That was as far as I was able to carry it, and I probably shouldn't have gone that far.

Everything was in place by about 4:00 this afternoon, and ready to go.  I even got a few minutes sewing done before it was time to come up to start supper.

I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Red Birds

Every month I attend a luncheon meeting of an informal ATC group.  Inspired by my piece Snow Fence, my atc's this month featured a red bird.  Worked with the theme of "Fifty Shades of Red".  This was also a chance to play with my new Ranger Distress Oxide.  I discovered this in a casual visit to a scrap booking store last week.  The lady there had taken some time to demonstrate how to use the stuff, as I had no idea.  I can't say that I got the same results, nor did I get anything near the picture on the package.  But I'm happy, and will certainly try this again. 

Here are my results, working on water colour paper.  The birds are just dimensional stick on things that I bought at Micheal's to use in the little quiltlet.

Unfortunately, I got so involved with quilting my "Oreo Inspiration", that I didn't make it to last Sunday's meeting.  I was also silly enough to date the cards.  Big sigh.

I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Hexie Saga continued

Yesterday,  we re-arranged the upstairs studio so I could start machine quilting my hexie quilt. I have entered this in a judged competition, and wanted to do everything myself, and perfectly. Despite, or maybe because of, my enthusiasm (not!) nothing worked out as it should.  I started with black specialty thread (Invisifil) on top and and a dark grey Superior Bottomline in the bobbin.  I will often use slightly different colours, so I'm able to tell the top thread and bobbin thread apart.  I decided to use black on top, as this is what worked best in hand stitching the hexies.  Well, my machine doesn't like the Invisifil,  and fought me  every inch of the way, breaking and snarling. Finally, I changed the upper thread to a basic 50wt cotton poly blend.  That problem solved. By the way, this is also the largest quilt I've ever attempted to quilt on my machine.  Not an easy thing for me to do, and very awkward. ( Yay! for long armers!) After an hour, I accepted that the workmanship was never going to be good enough to enter into a judged competition. A disappointment, but this allowed me to accept the level of work being done, and relax.  I took breaks, and worked very slowly.  After about 4 hours work, I had about 25% of the black quilting done. I should have the black finished today. This turned out to be one of those few times, that my push button start-stop was a hindrance, so I plugged in my foot pedal for more control.  Not necessarily a good thing, as I found out how much my control has suffered with using the push button.  But that is very much dictated by my arthritic hips and knees.

Even having abandoned the intent to enter this in competition, I have to look at this process as one of practice.  I still want to do the best possible job, but neither do I obsess over small mis-steps.  Not every mis-step is corrected, unless it might cause some sort of functional issue.

But I must keep in mind that a couple of my followers have asked for a bit of a tutorial about the making of this quilt.  This just isn't the sort of job in which one can take a "selfie", so my husband tried to help, but he isn't always sure exactly what  the focus of a picture should be.  Nor is he comfortable with my camera, and the minor zoom function.  We really only have one picture that might be of any use.  

What I'm trying to show is the quilt rolled (sort of) and draped over my left shoulder, as I push it through the machine and onto the table behind the machine.  The table supports the weight of the quilt and makes the "pushing " much easier.  Because the configuration of the hexies, I was using free motion, and initially tried to "stitch in the ditch" but quickly abandoned that in favour of "echoing" along the edges of the black rows.  The beige areas will be done separately, later, with a beige thread on the top.  Since I'll be able to see so much better in those areas, I will try the "stitch in the ditch" again.

I plan to link this with Nina-Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday, and The Needle and Thread Network