Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Still trying to figure it out

After doing a lot of thinking, I suddenly realized that in trying to plan hand embroidery, I'm trying to work with old skills--things I can no longer do.  Why not go with my current skills?  Than means getting down to machine work.  So, instead of giving up on the 12 by 12's, I've put together two backgrounds for collage and machine embellishment.

During my recent "purge" several things that could potentially be used in this were thrown out.  Most of what is left works well in a white/gold colour scheme.  I've used some cotton hand dyes, but also several scraps from silk kimonos.  The pictures aren't good, but the pieces all work together, and I look forward to starting the machine embellishment tomorrow.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


We've experienced a severe snow storm the last couple of days, and since any sort of travel is discouraged, that means lots of studio time.  I decided to start work on some 12 by 12 pieces I wanted for my gallery show in May.  I had no firm idea of what I was going to do, but figured that the smaller area required hand stitching as opposed to pieced work or FMQ'g.  Borrowing a technique described in a recent Art Quilt Studio magazine, I used Inktense blocks to make marks on several small pieces of damp cotton, and then diffused those marks with more water and elbow grease.  I was thrilled with the result, but the backs of the pieces were often more appealing.  I still didn't have a clear idea of what I might be doing, but decided to try using several pieces of fused glass that had been gifted as focal points. One piece had an amazing orange-y pink/brown colour that I just loved. I doesn't photograph well so you'll just have to take my word for it.

I did a bit of rubber stamping, as suggested in the magazine article.  Maybe not a good idea.  Then I selected thread and such for the embellishment. After quilting it,  I found I wanted to accent the stitched area a bit more, so needle felted a wisp of roving into it, the colour of which just about matched the darker lines of the InkTense blocks.  Glued on the glass, and stitched it down with invisible thread.  Started stitching, and worked on it, slowly, for about an hour.

I'm not thrilled.  As I said the colour is not true.  The background is an orange-y/pink with vague brown streaks.

This has sent me into a "blue funk".  My creative skills appear to have diminished significantly over the past couple of years.  I haven't produced anything that really "stirs my blood", in all that time.  I wonder if this is a part of aging, or maybe the first echoes of diminishing brain function?  Maybe a function of poor preparation?  Regardless, I am frustrated.  Creating an image and puzzling out how to a achieve it, used to come easily to me.  Have I boggled my mind with too many new and different techniques?  My two most significant mentors were aunts who remained creative well into their 80's and 90's.  Does this mean that I'm aging that much more quickly than them? This is certainly the longest period of creative block I've ever experienced.

Many years ago, I started a "prompt" jar, by writing down bits of ideas on paper, as they occurred, and putting them in a jar for use when I didn't know how to proceed with a troublesome design.  I also have a couple of pages in my sketch book containing similar notes.  Maybe it's time.  And maybe it's time to abandon my plans for the 12 by 12's, and find something else for my show.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Re-visiting Shibori

Today was the monthly meeting of my fibre art support group, who call themselves The Fibre Art Divas.  Under that name they are recognized a a group to watch.  They currently have one travelling exhibition, Prairie Perspectives, and a second one, Home Is..., currently being organized.  Our meetings are a lively exchange of ideas, as well as a genuine critique session that the members trust.

Today the question came up about how we use the fabrics we create with Shibori, or Eco-dying and printing, or anything else where we make significant changes in the appearance of the surface of the fabric.

In response to that discussion I would like to discuss a couple of the pieces I have created with my Shibori dyed fabrics.  I had a wonderful "how-to" book that I used as a resource in all by Shibori dyeing, but can't find it, nor do I remember the title and author.  Also missing is the correct terminology for some of the techniques I used.  My apologies.

My first effort consisted of overdyeing some previously dyed fabrics using a basic Shibori clamping technique.  I then added leaf prints to some areas for focal interest.There is one piece of pole wrapped Shibori, but at the time, I really wasn't sure how to use it in a piece.

The next piece was made using nothing but hand-stitched Shibori pieces.  I had far more than I could use, so chose pieces based on a colour scheme.  This piece has a great deal of hand quilting to complement the stitch, based dyed areas.

The third piece was made with pieces selected from my "stash" purely on the basis of colour.  It includes some stitched, some pole wrapped and some folded and clamped sections.  It is completely machine quilted.

Lastly, I put together a lot scraps from the previous efforts, using a colour scheme again.  Do you sense that I have an affinity for a blue red or blue green analogous colour scheme?  This piece was quite "blah" until I added the purple circles.  This addition completed the analogous colour scheme and totally changed the finished effect.  It is machine pieced, machine quilted and the circles are fused applique.

Now I'm worried that this whole trip down memory lane may result in more Shibori work.  Whoops!

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Something entirely different

Having worked every day for the last 6-8 weeks on the intricately pieced  top I posted about last time, I wanted something quite different to work on, and also wanted something where I could do some hand stitching, while I watched tv.  The hand stitching didn't work out too well, but I did get something entirely different. I started trying to figure out how to use the eco-printed leaves I  did some time ago.  This is fairly small about 22" by 22", or slightly less.  It fought me all the way when I was trying to hand stitch the sections or trying out various other coloured threads for the machine stitching.  It quite insisted on black, and fought for the buttonhole stitch.  I didn't sandwich and quilt this but simply backed it with black felt.  I didn't think it needed any thing more than what you see here.

Full view 

 and two closeups of the eco-prints

I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread network

Friday, September 20, 2019


The latest piece is finished--not yet quilted as I would need to have someone do that for me, but my part is done.  I have been working on this for about 6 weeks.  Every day 4-6 hours in the studio.  Lots of ripping out, but also lots of piecing.  After getting this far, I carefully pinned it to my design wall and measured it from opposite corners to opposite corners to see how badly off square it was.  Wow!  Square within 1/4".  After all of the work, and brain work, when I did the measuring for determining if it was square, and found it so close, I actually wept for a  moment or two.  I know that this is very much out of my comfort zone, and the whole thing has been a significant challenge to me.

It has finished at about 51" by 60", or will be that size when I stitch a narrow dark grey border on.  I think that this will make quilting much easier from a technical viewpoint.  Now I have quite a few scrap pieces of pieced bits sewn together, and then trimmed off various sections.  I plan to spend tomorrow taking those apart so they can be re-used.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019


The last couple of weeks have been frantic both in the studio and on the home front.  Home front issues have been resolved for the most part, but since stitching is one of the ways I relax, there has been a lot of activity on that front, as well.  I continue to work my way through the Maria Shell book Improv Patchwork.  I've created samples of most of the techniques discussed, and am now putting together an actual piece using those techniques.  Obviously, my design is heavily inspired by her work, especially this first piece.  I'm sure there will be more of myself in any further pieces I may produce.  Here's my progress so far.  This picture was where I was last week.  I had figured out the design, but was having trouble getting any concept of the actual size of the various techniques, once they're assembled.  The center section is put together, and the triangles added against one side gave me an idea of what the actual measurements of the final piece would be--about 30 inches wide by 60 inches long.  Not a good size for anything, so I needed to add more width,  aiming at about 45 inches.

This meant adding another technique between the center section and the triangles.  I decided to make what Maria Shell calls "Polka Dots".  I chose red as my dominant colour and considered light green, yellow and touches of black for the "dots".  The idea is to have the dots almost appear to float against the background. This required putting together sections of strips,  I made three, all different. Then cutting them apart crosswise.

These narrow strips are then joined together, end for end, to create 60 inch strips.  I needed six 60 inch strips.

The next step is to join each narrow strip to a strip of red, and then join them all together, with a wider red strip on each side.

Here is the piece as it stands now.  The center section is not yet stitched to the red, and the triangles will have to be assembled as a separate section and then added. The bottom edge is yet to be determined.  But that is another day

 I'm constantly amazed at how different this is from my usual work.  I've been having a lot of self doubt about my art lately, but I'm finding so much challenge and excitement in making this piece, that I feel a real confirmation of my recent decision to make what I want, and not worry about my future as an artiste.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Well--I promised pictures

What is going on now is much more a re-organization than a purge.  With the purging we've done over the past few months, this was almost a "sit down and take stock" activity.

This corner of my storeroom used to house a corner shelf made up of 4 small plastic triangular tables that we used to use at the lake for holding drinks etc when we were sitting outside.  They link together vertically to make a four tiered corner shelf.  But it was out of the way and didn't get used much at all.  I think I used to store balls of crochet cotton and a tub of plastic drinking straws on it.  ( the straws were used to make beads.)  Now I have all of those rolls of batting or fabric, and the pool noodles I use to roll my quilts on, in that space.  These used to be against a wall and were always falling over and creating a safety hazard.My spare ironing board and the plexiglas portable table for my sewing machine fit quite nicely in there as well.

The corner shelf itself has moved into  the main area of the studio, where it replaced a tv table with an Ott light on it, neither of which have been used in years.  It had been set up to provide light for my sewing machine from the rear.  I think the corner shelf  will be much more useful here, and I've already started storing my Teflon ironing sheets there.

I still have lots of empty shelves in the storeroom.

This little shelving unit used to have both the upper shelves covered in spools of thread.  I found a hanging basket for most of the thread.  This poor neglected rabbit is one I made years ago.  He was a very complicated project, utilizing quite a few different furry fabrics, to get exactly the type of fur rabbits should have.  He had been relegated to a dark corner of the room, quite unseen, unless one knew where to look.

I have five different rolling sets of drawers on wheels.  With the recent purge there were many empty drawers in most of them.  I managed to amalgamate three of them and ended up with two totally empty units.

And finally, I spent part of the afternoon sorting through my cd's.  Here are the discards, and the small table, seen above, is now gone.

With moving the rolls of batting etc, into the corner of the storeroom, and removing one rolling cabinet from the area, I had room against the wall to store my two boxes of rolled drawing paper, tracing paper, and freezer paper, etc.  This has created so much more room.  The antique wardrobe seen here is also now empty of everything except one rolled quilt.  Except we can't agree on what to do with it now.

The other thing we did today was bring in an electrician in to replace one of the Fluorescent light fixtures above my work table.  It had been broken when we had tried to replace a bulb.  I had thought that all of the Fluorescent bulbs were full spectrum bulbs, but as soon as he turned the new light on, we realized that they weren't.  He also replaced the light bulb  in one of the incandescent fixtures in the non-studio end of the basement.  Oh My! What a difference.  He is going to come back to add a third incandescent fixture in that area, as, up until now, the area has been too dark to do anything in.
I'm thinking I might bring in another sturdy table and make that area my cutting area.  We are also seriously thinking of moving the two heavy duty storage shelving units presently in the studio area, into the other end of the basement, so as to give me more working area around my sewing machine and iron. 

So lots of changes being considered around here.