Thursday, November 8, 2012

More navel gazing

Two new Bonnie McCaffrey videos came out today.  These were from the recent show in England, which had representation from all over Europe.  What dramatic and vibrant art!   As usual, the use of new and original techniques is a big part of what is shown, but the designs themselves blow me away. I experience the same sense of awe when viewing shows from this part of the world.

This "sense of awe" then leads me to thinking about where I fit in all of this.  My "Twilight Snowfall" was shown on one of her videos, when it was in New Zealand.  The same piece was on display in Houston last week.  Through the FAN exhibitions, my pieces are shown in association with Quilt Canada.  So I am part of that world, but such a small part.  When I think of strategies to become better known, I have second thoughts.  Am I willing to set apart 50%-70% percent of my time to marketing and networking, in an effort to promote myself?   Not bloody likely!   More and more I'm realizing that my pleasure comes more  from the creation, not the exhibition.   Earlier in my life the accolades and feedback were paramount, but not today.

Having said all of this, I have a new piece in the works.  Awhile back, when showing off some of my new found FMQ'g skills, a friend looked at my feathered paisley patterns and said "Carp!  They look like carp!"  I was a little put out with her at the time, but when I thought about it, she was right.  They do resemble fish.  So what if-----?  I think this is likely to become a series of very stylized fish.  The first piece will be painted fish, with heavy free motion embroidery. Not very representative  of the FMQ'g paisleys at all.   But I don't want to completely loose that association, so there are two or three more pieces gradually taking form at the back of my mind.

 I am treading slowly this time, and am doing a technical study, before embarking on the main piece.  I have been experimenting with thickened dyes and Dyna-Flo paints to find the best "hand" to the coloured fabric. This has lead to experimenting with resists against "wicking" of the colours.  Using Jacquard No-Flow taught me that it is just a water-based gutta, similar to the one I use for painting silk, and must thoroughly soak into the fabric to work properly (Ask me how I know.  Whoops!  My first fish will have blue lips)  Thickened dyes are wonderful to paint with, but so much colour came out when I washed them afterwards, that I decided this technique just doesn't work for me.  ( Yeah, I know, I must have been doing something wrong).  Doing a technical study is also giving me an opportunity to work out the best method for marking my pattern, prior to the painting.  No clear answer there, yet.  I'll know more once I have heat set the paint, later today.  This experimentation is also giving me a chance to play with some PFD fabric that I bought earlier this year.  I've been saving it for a special project.

So my recent health issues haven't really held me back.  The old girl is back in business again!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Diversional therapy

Had my surgery last week and am still struggling with finding the energy to do anything in the studio.  I'm also taking significant pain killers, which seems to put my muse into a stupor.  So I have been playing with an old clean-up rag.  I have rubber stamped it and have now quilted about half of it.  This is giving me a chance to practice my new-found machine quilting skills, as well as experiment a bit with design. My machine is still giving me grief about mare's nests of thread on the back, but only where I start stitching, and only in regular stitching ,not FMQ'g,  for the most part.  I've tried every strategy I know to solve this, but nothing seems to work.  You would think that a $3000.00 machine would work better than that.  The machine is still objecting to finer threads, as well, but has been willing to accept Bottom line in the bobbin, although winding the bobbin is often a challenge.

What can I say?  These issues keep me busy and off the street!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

much ado about nothing

That pretty well describes my studio activities over the past while. Not being able to post pictures robs me of much of my incentive to post.  I think I mentioned taking a Craftsy class in machine quilting with Cindy Needham.  The last month has been spent working on both formal samples from that class, and a couple of my own pieces using some of the techniques.  I also have found the confidence to set up a class in machine quilting of my own. I've often thought that machine quilting is a strength of mine, but every bit of practice and information helps.  But working mono-chromatically gets boring after awhile, even when working on my own hand dyed fabric.  So I added metallic paint to the most recent piece, and fell in love with the result. Now I have another piece in the planning stages, in which I hope to move even further into combining intensive quilting with painting the fabric.  I'm just not sure which technique should come first!

So, while I'm trying to figure that out, I've started a piece from Yuko Saito's most recent book.  I like most of the pieces in there, and, of course, love the muted Japanese colour scheme.  Several of my hand dyes would fit into the scheme but there wouldn't be enough to make the bag, so I've added other fabrics, and the colour is much more North American.  I really didn't want to be buying more fabric, as my goal is to use up what's here.

Much of this effort is in keeping with my vow to make what I want to make, and not to be concerned about producing a marketable product. I still plan to exhibit, however, and I'm please that one of my pieces  actually sold, recently.  So I guess I'm maintaining my quality control, even if I'm finding joy in my muse.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pre-estate Sale

What a disaster!  I don't dare die yet as almost all of that fabric came back into the house last night.  A couple of the ladies sold well, but I mainly sold a couple of  small purses--the ones left over from last year's craft sales.

This all begs the question of what to do with it.  In the past I've tried to make utility quilts but that is so very labour intensive, and my heart isn't really there right now.  The small purses that sold were made from monoprints that I re-purposed into purses, as the print was just too ugly to use.  After thinking about this most of the night, and all day today, I wondered if I could paint or dye over the commercial prints that just have no use in my work. I've heard of artists  doing, this especially with print-making or fabric altering, where much of the surface is hidden quite nicely.  While the next little while will be spent on machinge quilting, fabric altering just  might be the next step

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tools in the Tool box.

Sorry, no pictures.  And DH thinks fixing a major problem in the bathroom is more important than buying a camera, so that I can post pictures on my blog!  Go figure!

This week I have been enjoying a Craftsy class on advanced Machine Quilting, with Cindy Needham.  Now, I have been a well experienced machine quilter, for years.  Wore out the internal cams of my beloved Kenmore flat deck sewing machine teaching myself.  But I have still  learned a lot from this course.My former mentor, now deceased, always said that if she learned just one thing in a workshop, it was time well spent.  The next step is to spend time practicing.  Whenever I have taught this, or even discussed it with other quilters, no-one ever seems to understand how very, very important the "practice" aspect of machine work is.

However, all of the energy and time devoted to this begs the question " How does improving my machine quilting impact my life as a fibre artist?"  This is just another tool in the tool box.  What I'm doing is increasing my technical skill.  This will not make me a better artist, but will make me better able to express myself and convey my message through my art.  So is it worth it?  Yes, even if it just increases my confidence in my ability to convey a message or idea.

This is the second class I've taken through Craftsy, the first being Jane Dunnewold's class on dyeing.  These classes have rejuvenated my spirit.  They have both spurred my creativity, and I am grateful for the opportunities they have given me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Food for thought

Today I was visited by an old friend.  She is also a fibre artist,but has taken advantage of every opportunity to increase her skills and visibility.  She is now recognized for her knowledge and skill internationally, and is thoroughly enjoying her new life style. But she is also becoming aware of the price that she paid for this level of recognition, in terms of her ability to organize her own time and activities, and the impact on her family.

I have blogged in the past, about my tendency to sabotage my own "high falutin'"  ambitions/dreams, by not taking advantage of opportunities.  I've also spoken of my emerging recognition/acceptance of my position in life.  I realize that I am more or less happy where I am, and the life I lead.  This is in the nature of an epiphany.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pre-estate sale

This week I was given the opportunity to participate in a stash reduction sale.  Actually, I look at it as a pre-estate sale--get rid of it before the family has to deal with it.

Over the years, I've bought a lot of fabric ( haven't we all?).  But my interests have changed, as has the industry.  As this point I'm painting or dyeing most of my own fabric, and the commercial fabric I use is mainly in dark, plain colours, as it's really hard to hand dye a good navy or black.  Both my husband and daughter have been urging me to get rid of some of the stash.  This is really hard!!  I loved every bit of it when it was bought, but I have to admit that most of it will never get used.  I still make charity quilts, but those require more than the fat quarter size pieces that make up a good portion of my stash.

So I've been working my way through three large bins of fat quarters.  Each and every piece is being pressed, measured and marked with its size and a rock bottom price.  It has taken most of the day, and I'm through half of the first bin.

I have to wonder if this isn't an exercise that most of us shouldn't go through periodically.  I'm exhausted, but also feeling as though a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders.  I no longer have to feel guilty about those bins staring me in the face very time I go in the studio, and the fabric will go to someone who really wants it ( who else would buy it?)

Here is a picture of what I'm up against.  The two bins on the left have yet  to be gone through. ( Who knows what may lurk...) The laundry basket contains all of the fabric I have yet to go through from the third bin and...
the third bin contains the fabric I have spent six hours processing today.
I was very surprised to find the number of pieces that were 12" by the WOF, so I packaged them up as being 1/3 yd.  I have no memory of why I would buy that amount.  Now I need to worry about whether or not this stuff will sell.  Not that much of it is batik, and that is the hot property these days!
Otherwise, it has been a quiet week.  I delivered my beaded piece to the gallery on Monday, and then had to prepare for a private student on Wednesday.  These students take so much preparation, that I probably only make pennies an hour, but I find the whole process very, very stimulating.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Binding done!

The piece is now fully finished.  In finishing it, I had a terible time trying to get it square.  I have to wonder if this is one of those things where I see it, but viewers probably won't. David noticed it,but I had been talking about it and he was looking for it.  Regardless, it has to be delivered to the gallery on Monday morning.  it has given me pause to consider my habit of quilting and then beading.  Next time I will probably square off at every single step of the assembly.  I used to do this religiously,but, perhaps, got a little over confident.

Having finished an exhibition piece, which is usually a pretty intense process, yesterday, I had a little fun putting together some small purses, for which I bought a pattern and kit(s).  These will never be a production item, firstly, because the pattern specifically prohibits selling them, and secondly, I could never sell them at any sort of profit. It was a fairly time consuming process, using a variety of supplies, and would never sell for what they would cost to make, without even trying to consider labour. So this was purely a labour of love, and I think I know what I'll be using for smaller Christmas gifts this year.  I also want to kick myself for even thinking about production costs etc, when I've promised myself that I won't even think about any more sales for the next six months.

And the hat sits there, staring at me, and nothing is being done with it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We did it!!

It has been a bit of a journey, but I think we can post pictures.  I have been working on a small hanging, using a piece of hand dyed fabric that I just love.  The first picture is of the assembled hanging.

Then it had to be quilted. Looking at it, I see beige, red, and spots of blue, but when it came time to match thread, I ended up with a clear celadon green--perfect. But matching means that the only way to see the quilting, which took a week of hard work, is from the back.  I used the swirls, that I like, and the empty spaces left room for a bit of thought about negative space, which ended up being the parallel lines that I've used before.

Then came the beading.  Before I could start, I spent almost a month, and losts of $$$, looking for the right beads, every bead store in Winnipeg, and even as far away as Fargo.

Here are the principal beads positioned. The blue are very nice Lapis Lazuli.  As well, I used antique jade, but while the rest are, for the most part, good quality glass beads, they are only really filler beads. There are even a few acrylic beads, used where I felt I needed either a more interesting shape, or a different value of colour.

Here I've been adding the filler beads, and even found a couple of strange things that look like red beans, but work well with this piece.  You'll notice that I use a Q-Snap set, and position the work area over open space, so that I can work with two hands.

Here is the finished view, and below is a close-up of the finished beading. The colour doesn't show well, and much of what looks like bright red, is really more of a deep cherry red.  But some of it really is bright red, with metallic gold highlights. Deciding when enough was enough, was difficult, but, since I wanted to highlight the beauty I saw in the dyed fabric, in this case, I felt that "less is more".

And what of the hat, you ask?  Well, there has been little progess, but I've been using steam and heat , in an effort to re-mold the brim--un-successfully.  Here it is, beside the armature I spoke of.  The armature is made of buckram.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Holidays and computer mal-functions

Yes we had a holiday. And both of our computers were down for over a week, but are okay now.  For the most part we travelled with family, but I did manage to get 4 days at the lake with no interruptions.  I did quite a bit of dyeing, but with mixed results.  Unfortunately, there is still no new camera, and likely won't be for awhile---so I don't have to show you my disasters.  The basic problem appears to be insufficient dye in the bath, as most of the pieces turned out to be very pale.  Now, in one case I tried a second bath, using the same colour but twice as much powder, with only a minimal change in the depth of colour.  For another group of pieces, it was the second dye bath that was insufficient and over-dyeing with a more concentrated bath did produce a visible difference, but still not the depth I would have liked. 

So this lead me to suspect that I was putting too much fabric in the bath--4-5 fat quarters in a bath with 2-3 tbsp of dye powder.  Since I'm dyeing stitch resist Shibori pieces, it takes me a few days to prepare the fabric for the dye bath, and I want the pieces to be the same finished colour, which is why they go in the same dye bath, but maybe I need to re-think this.  Perhaps dyeing each piece separately, with a carefully measured concentration of dye will be the next step.

In the meantime.  I have two other pieces that are on deadline.  I am committed to re-purposing a hat.  This is in response to a challenge.  There are about 40 of us who have been given hats from the estate of a lady, who collected them over her lifetime.  We are to alter the hats in a way that reflects our lives.  My vision requires an internal armature to support the weight of the hat, once it has been covered with several layers of paint and other embellishment.  This armature was a bit of a problem, and once made, took almost a week to dry.   I took it out in the sun yeterday to finish the drying process and discoverd tiny pin dots of what I assume is the beginning of mould.  So it was left in the bright sun for several hours, and will, hopefully, be okay.  Now I get to do the embellishing and painting--I'm just not sure what order to tackle that.

A closer deadline is also closer to my heart.  I am working on another beaded hanging, using a hand dyed fabric that struck a cord with me.  I used a low water immersion technique with the strange burgundy dye I mentioned once before.  The resulting fabric is mottled sage green with deep red and blue patches.  I spent a lot of time while travelling and since getting home, finding just the right beads for this piece.  It is now together and I have started the FMQ'g, but it has been entered in a  show with a delivery date of August 27th.  Guess I better get off the computer and start stitching!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sale weekend

Last weekend was my first art sale in almost two years, and quite successful.  My booth location was good, and there was enough room to display everything nicely.  Because I like to display a range of pieces, I took one major piece with me, with a price tag to match.  I know my "bread and butter" is in smaller pieces  with price tags below $20.00, but this was an art show, not a craft show, so I wanted to have "art-y" things.   Within the first hour, I could have sold that piece three times, with no dickering over price. It went to a good home, someone I know, who has bought my work before.  The next day, I took another major piece to replace it in the display.  That sold, as well, although I had discounted the price, before taking it out.  I was still pleased with the price I got. I also sold three of my framed pieces.  Overall, it was one of the best sales I've ever had.  But no-one showed any interest at all in my two Shibori pieces.

The Thursday before, I judged quilts a a local agricultural fair. I worked steadily from 8:45 am until 9:00pm with a half hour for lunch, in a Quonset-type curling rink without A/C, and with a concrete floor, in +30 heat. This was a very interesting experience.  Such a variety of skill levels and types of work!  I could tell when I was judging a quilt belonging to someone  known to the volunteers present, as they would all subtly gather around to hear what I would say, although no-one ever gave away whose quilt it might be.  Nor did they make any comments on what I said, until after all of the judging was over.  Then a couple of them challenged me on my decisions.  Thank Goodness, I was able to explain to their satisfaction, more of less.  Overall I can see how such events can prove an excellent learning situation.

Knowing what an exhausting weekend it was going to be, I had put off several projects, and now deadlines loom.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Dyeing

Part of the class work involves creating small samples of the various dyes, by dropping a small amount of dye powder ( a very small amount) and them spritzing it with a bit of moisture.  If you do it right, those dye colours that are created by mixing pure dye colours, will split, and you can see the various component colours. After doing this I saw a couple of mixed colours that I wanted to try.  One was a very strange colour that had been labelled burgundy, but showed almost no red when it split.  I created a flag fold piece with grey ( it didn't split) and then overdyed it with this strange burgundy. 
There was a second piece that had been originally dyed with sky blue, then overdyed with fuschia, then navy, and finally yellow.  I'm not thrilled with this, but it shows that four separate dye baths may be feasible. It also shows the lines where the bundle had been originally tied, which I think is neat.
More and more fun!  But now DH is asking what I'm going to do with all of this fabric I've created. I checked supplies and realized that I've been through about 10 meters, so far.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

new venture

Yesterday, I signed up for an on-line Craftsy class with Jane Dunnewold on Fabric Dyeing, then spent most of the afternoon and evening watching lessons and dyeing fabric, ( since I already had most of the supplies).  I was thrilled to find out that I didn't really need triangular pieces of plexiglass to create a triangular dyed pattern.  So here is a picture of what I accomplished and close-ups of the individual pieces.

The upper two pieces were from the last batch I did with the Sky Blue and Fuschia.  They really needed something, and I think this may be the first step.  I had said I might do the one on the upper right, again, with flour paste resist and create a dark crackle pattern, and now I think I might do that with both of them.  I absolutely love the one on the bottom left.  I pleated the fabric two ways and then clamped it between two large metal washers.  I tied it, as rubber bands don't work well with circles, and even got some evidence of the strings in the dyed pattern.  I tend to like that, as it confirms that it was created by hand.

The last piece was simply pleated one way, then rolled the other way, and then secured ( tightly!) with a rubber band.  This, too, shows the hand of the maker through the pattern left by the rubber bands.
My next step ( should have been the first one) will be to create small samples of all of the dyes I currently have available for me.  However, I will have family visiting over the next couple of weeks, and may not get much more done during that time.  But, since my sister has promised to bring her camera, I should be able to post a picture of anything I accomplish.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cameras and frustrations

I told my husband that I had arranged to borrow a camera to take some pictures of my shibori work, and this gave him the incentive to actually play with my camera, and see if he could get it working.  He did!  But then acknowledged that it probably won't work again and we need to start looking  for a new one. So here is a picture of the first Shibori piece I finished, and a close-up.  This piece has the basic structural lines machine quilted, but the decorative quilting is done by hand, using hand dyed #16 or #20 DMC embroidery cotton ( not floss--this is the stuff used in very fine white work embroidery.  It's similar to Danish Flower Thread)  This piece is about 26" wide by 37" long.

I've also finished the second Shibori piece, which has been entirely machine quilted, some done freemotion. I put as very narrow border on each side to stabilize the half-square triangles, while I was putting the top together, and now see that I should have balanced that with a similar border on top and bottom.  The final size is 26" by 33".

The last picture is of the fabrics that I have selected--so far--for a potential third piece.  I'm struggling with figuring out how to put these together so that they will work.  The upper left piece is a disaster, and I'm considering over dyeing it, using a flour paste resist, to create a crackle pattern. I think I would use navy rather than black, as it works so well in the piece on the bottom, second from the right. The two pieces on the bottom left came from the same original dyed fabric, but the one second from the left has been overdyed with the fuschia.  This pattern involves a very labour-intensive process, as the tying took me almost a week, of working a couple of hours a day.  I very much like the pattern, but don't think I want to go through that too often!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sometimes quilts talk

The first shibori piece worked out very well, and I'm quite pleased.  The second piece came together beautifully, and was sandwiched quickly.  Then it refused to allow me to hand quilt.  I had dyed thread to match and was ready to go, but it demanded that I machine quilt it.  I even found a spool of thread by the machine that matches beautifully, and I'm sure I didn't put it there!  So the machine quilting is almost done and this piece works quite well and pleases me.   I have dyed fabric for a third and last shibori piece and have it all up on the design wall, but the individual pieces don't seem to want to play nicely together.  I think the problem is too little value difference between them.  I first used Sky Blue Procion dye and then overdyed with Fuschia.  The Fuschia was probably been too strong for the lighter Sky Blue.  There is one piece that was first dyed with Navy and the Fuschia looks quite good, but there is a stronger value change between the two colours.

This all makes me ask myself why I think I need a third, finished piece.  I have a lot of scraps of shibori fabric that could be worked nicely into some sort of "scrappy" quilt, and putting the blue/fuschia pieces in there would give it a focal colour.  Hm-m-m.  Have to think about that

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Finished my first design today, and I'm very pleased with it.  But when I went to take a picture, the camera wouldn't work.  We've had trouble before, and had been told that it just couldn't be fixed again.  So--no pictures and probably none for quite awhile, as a new camera just isn't in the plans.  But--maybe by that time I'll have half a dozen finished tops ot show off.  The one I pieced today should be quilted in the next week or so.  I am stabilizing the whole thing with quilting in the ditch, but plan to add some hand stitching as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Time to stop

for the next little while, anyway. so the dyes are put away, and the finished fabric sorted into compatible colour groupings.  Now it's time to start designing, and this is turning out to be much harder thanI thought it would be.  Thank Goodness, I put some of the fabric through more than one dye bath.  That second, or even third, colour just makes the fabric sing!  And having extra colour helps the design process.  I'm not sure whether adding that colour is a traditional way of working, but it seems to be the direction I'm headed. I anticipate having about three pieces to hand finish, as hangings.  One way of stretching the hand-dyed fabric I have is to use it with some of the African fabrics I've acquired, and saved, since stitch-resist dyeing is also an African tradition, and the colours are quite compatible..

The one gridded piece is being hand-quilted as a whole-cloth piece.  I'm thrilled that the fine cotton thread that I dyed came out so well, because it quilts like a dream on the basic muslin fabric. The stitching is a less fine than some of us might be used to, but I remembered from when I studied Japanese ethnic counted thread embroidery, that a well balanced and even running stitch is basic to most, especially the Sashiko and Kogin, so I feel I'm honouring tradition in that way.

I'll post pictures as soon as I have something to show.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Still dyeing

I have been just in a dyeing frenzy over the past few days.  I certainly have more fabric than I'll ever need for one hanging, but the ideas just keep coming. Shibori is traditionally done with indigo, but I don't want to deal with the chemicals involved in that, so have been using Procion MX, in, mainly, navy.  I want a burnt orange to use as a compliment to the navy and tried to mix that yesterday.  I had heard that orange and fuschia would work.  Nope!  Ended up with a very bubblegummy pink, so added just a smidge of navy to it to calm it down, and ended up with a strange brick-y red.  I will try again later today, once I have the stitching done on the piece.  Here are some of the pieces I dyed a couple of days ago.
My favourite is on the upper left.  The upper right is the same technique but left in the dye bath for almost 18 hours, compared to the other one, that was in for only about 2 hours.  The middle and bottom left are also the same technique, but the lower one was done over a previously dyed bit, and the background is almost a tan colour, under the navy.  On the bottom right, each one of those circles represents a button tied into the fabric before dyeing. Most of a days work.

Here are some I did yesterday.
As you can see, I've been experimenting with creating lines.  The grid pattern will be used for something other than the hanging I'm planning--not sure what--yet.  The hexagons are really neat, and I'm doing another that will be easier to use in the hanging.  Then I plan to overdye the hexagon piece with my next orange dye bath.  The red piece on the left is not really what I want, and I plan to re-do that one, too. I much prefer the lines created in that piece to the lines created in the grid ( a different stitch technique), but the piece just doesn't flow right. The piece on the lower right hasn't photographed very well, and, if I'm honest, wasn't stitched as well as it could have been.  It is very pretty, and will be fine used in smaller sections.

Obviously, I'm concentrating on the stitched resist patterns, although there is one pole-wrapped piece in the picture above. I've done more stitching in the past few days than over the past year.  There can be much more control with the stitched patterns, and I'm starting to find that I want that control.  Serendipity can be useful in creating art, but, in my opinion, reduces the artist to a technician, unless there is much more added to it, in creating a piece of art.  I feel comfortable saying that as I tend to use a lot of serendipity in my work, especially when painting and dyeing textiles. I have discovered that the ones with a bit more of intent behind tham are usually much better pieces.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big Day

Yesterday, my Shibori book finally arrived. ( "Shibori for Textile Artists"  by Janet Gunner.) I shouldn't say "finally" as it came from Britain, and actually arrived quite quickly, but, I had been waiting.  The dyes arrived last week and have been sitting  where I can see them every time  I walk into the studio.  So I jumped in with both feet and did three pieces yesterday, and plan to do a couple more today.  I made a fairly strong dye bath, and have kept it to see how long it actually stays viable.  Since I did a half metre of just plain fabric, along with the three pieces, it has done quite a bit so far. Today, I hope to get out to buy more fabric.  I'm using a good quality white muslin, which is light weight enough for these old finger to stitch through several layers.  It should be good quality for the price!  I would also like to get another pot to use for the dye bath.  I don't really need a deep pot, as I have the 5 gallon pail I used last time, for the pole-wrapped pieces.  But a second pot would be useful.

While I intend to concentrate on stitch-resist patterns, other methods should be fun, and they will work up much more quickly than the stitched ones.

This time I was very careful to use my rubber gloves, and started out with the pair I have that are gauntlets up to my elbow.  After working awhile I thought it felt wet and checked.  Sure enough--there was a hole in one glove and my right hand was completly navy blue--all the way to the elbow.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

creating nothing

While I have been very busy, lately, yesterday I realized that I am creating nothing but crap.  Very pretty crap, but designed around what would sell, not what is really in my heart.This realization came when I discovered myself debating whether or not to add something to a project based on the price I felt I could reasonabley charge for the finished piece.  In other words I have gone into production for sales, not into creating art.

Two years ago I  swore to never get caught in that trap again, but how easy it happens!  I have even avoided sales, just to remove the basis for that type of thinking. Years ago, sales were a way of reducing the number of finished items that I had cluttering up my studio, but somewhere along the way they became the rationale behind my work, and the quality of the work suffered.  My more recent goal has been to do whatever work I want without thinking about sales.  I need to get back to that way of thinking right now!

The dyes I ordered for Shibori have arrived, but I am nowhere near ready to use them.  Since I am concentrating on the stitched patterns, progess is being made very slowly.  While I'm sitting, stitching, I'm watching old episodes of Quilting Arts TV in hopes of finding other inspiration.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Here are the Shibori pieces that came from my weekend workshop.  One of them has been re-worked a bit.  Looking at them after getting home, I realized that two of them just didn't work. Surprisingly, both of them were pole wrapping, but I think the first dye bath just wasn't concentrated enough for the amount of fabric that was put in it.  I'm referring to the two lower pieces on the right side of the picture.  The piece on the upper right was also in the same turquoise dye bath, but was a stitched piece.  The original colour shows pale blue in the picture.  I decided to take a strip off after each dye bath so I could have a record of what happens.  The second dye bath was bright yellow, which gave the lime green colour.  The very middle is the only piece that went further.  I stitched the larger length, ( took about 6 hours)and clamped the original blue ( Should have been the lime gree, but what can I say?  It was late at the end of a very long day), and then put both of them in a burgundy dye bath.
This piece, which appears at the top left, of the larger picture, is also a stitched piece.  After stitching, it was placed in a purple/grey dye bath, then after releasing the stitching, was dyed fuschia.  I think this stitching pattern is my favourite--so far.
This piece was tied, rather than clamped--a more traditional method.  I used metal washers and put it first in a brick red dye bath.  Not only did I get very clear circles, but in places, the string used to tie it, resulted in a secondary pattern. After relase, I used a turquoise dye, which turned the brick red into a rich brown.

This is very hard to see, but the actual image is a series of paler blue dots at the bottom left ot middle of the image.  This comes from a wrapped rather than a stitched technique.  Obviously, better contrast between dye baths would have produced a better piece, but part of the skill is in planning for both colour density, and in colour development when using the multiple dye baths.

Overall, I was very pleased with the course, and certainly plan to do more of this type of work.  The stitched-resist patterns interest me, and I plan to research more of them to try. Of course, then comes the problem of what to do with all of the beautiful fabric I produce.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bad computer-bad--bad--

Had a bit of bother with the computer, where I lost access to all of my blogs, so was off line for several days.  Now I'm back again, but I'm up to my ears in the Shibori class that I was so excited about.  I'll try to get pictures of some of my pieces up in the next few days. 
What have I learned?  I've learned that things like clamping and pole wrapping are the flashy bits.  The real beauty takes a lot of work, most of it sewing by hand--not my strong suit.  It's still something that I may choose to explore more, but when I can set my own pace. The hand sewing, especially against resistance is just too hard on my hands.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I promised pictures of what I've accomplished in the last week  One piece was finished and I was taking a photo, when, viewing it through the camera, I realized that it was off square.  A quick look told me that it was beyond fixing.  I showed DH, who took a look and said--" I guess you want me to pull that apart and save the beads for you"  Yup!  That was the only thing to do with it. Here is "the Bad".

The Good, is a second piece that I finished and framed.  It started with a clean-up rag ( Always save your clean-up rags.  They can turn out to be the best pieces you did that day!)  White cotton with paint wipes all over it--some with fabric paint and some with acrylic.  I FMQ'd the white areas with Cobblestones pattern and the coloured areas with a grid, using a grey/white Sulky Blenadable.  Then I covered three FlexiFirm triangles with white Duipionni silk and added novelty beads.  I had been prepared to use a lot more beads, but by the time I got these larger ones on, it appeared to be just right.  I laced it onto foamcore and framed it.  I am quite pleased.

White Wedding--full view

White Wedding-close-up

The Ugly are some of the prints I did yesterday during the dyeing/painting day with my Ravenesque group.  Now, I refuse to take full responsibility for some of my disasters.  We were working in a parking lot, in high winds.  I didn't realize that the table was at an angle until I poured paint on the sheet of glass I wanted to use for pulling prints,  the paint ran right off and onto the ground.  I was using Seta-Color, diluted 50/50, as I usually do, but it was just too runny. The result is four prints of black and fuschia blobs.  Ugly! However, I didn't heat set them and ran them through the washing machine today.  The result is grey and pink blobs, but light enough that I can add more layers and, hopefully, save the pieces.  I'm starting to think that my best bet may be to cut the four of them in pieces and sew sew them back together in different places to make one large 24" by 24" piece.

 I then tried the paint full strength and used a breyer to spread it around.  This gave a better result, but was drying too fast.  I would spread my paint and embed leaves in it, and then pull a print.  Then I would take the leaves, and use the paint-y veined side to make a print on a piece of dry cloth.  This dry cloth had been low water immersion dyed, using light pink and blue  dye, then clamped between two round drink coasters, and dyed a dark navy.  The result was almost like a series of pale "moons" in a dark sky.  I did the leaf prints of some of the "moons" but not all.  I really, really like this piece, and very much want to refine the technique and try it again.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Coincidence?--I think not!

My small fibre art support group has planned a painting and dyeing day for the holiday on Monday.  One of the ladies and I had planned to try our  hands at Shibori type dyeing, and the dyeing that uses clamping ( Forgot the name, but it is a variation of Shibori).We're both also wanting to try some of the landscape painting that Mickey Lawler describes in her most recent book-"Skyquilts".  So I've been gathering fabric and clamps and shapes to use with the clamps, and reading up on techniques.  Imagine my surprise when I read about a course in this type of dyeing being offered locally!  And with a dyer I have taken courses from before, and respect.

So, of course, I had to sign up immediately.  Luckily, I received a cheque today for some items I had sold, it just about covers the cost of the course. However, I spent several hours trying to get my deposit in before the deadline.  This involved two trips to the bank , a road trip, and over 1/2 hour on the phone with PayPal trying to find out why they had frozen my account. But, I'm registered, and already getting excited.

I have just about finished two pieces for the sale in July.  Should be able to get pictures up tomorrow, or Sunday.  The rest of the weekend will be taken up with packing a fair chunk of my studio to take with me for the dyeing day--even if it is a little redundant now.

Monday, May 14, 2012


In an effort to jump-start my creativity, I've been going through my stash, seeing if anything could be used, and came across a bunch of mono-prints that I did last December.  Most of them were done with acrylic paint, which certainly changes the "hand" of the fabric, but not to the point that it was too stiff for the sewing machine.  Since I'm also building stock for a sale in July, I decided to turn the prints into small purses.  I would have preferred to make them into 12 by 12 wall hangings, but the prints were only 11 inches wide.  All I did was quilt them and sew them up. ( "all" that quilting took three days!)What a neat result!  The colours  are bright and vibrant and each of them is "one-of-a-kind".
purses from mono-prints
These were made using a technique described by Melani Testa, but I did draft my own pattern and make some changes in the technique itself.  The quilting patterns were determined by the print, itself.  My favourite is the one on the upper left, where the print had a pattern made from bubble wrap, and the quilting pattern used was round circles, placed over the circles of the bubble wrap.  Where there were no circles to work from, I used a fine FMQ'd grid.

The next project is to make some of those 12 by 12's, but I may actually have to make some more prints for that. I found three potential fabrics in my stash, but only one of them appears to be working out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cleaning up the studio

This is sort of a general putter and often involves finishing UFO's.  One was a fantastic response to the most recent Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, so was quickly finished as the challenge deadline was noon yesterday.  The piece called "Water World' evolved from my first experiment with Lutradur. I coloured the Lutradur with Tee-Juice markers in a lovely acqua, but discovered that the colour faded out when the Lutradur was backed with navy fabric.  So I layered the Lutradur with a second layer of itself and cut out the pattern with an electric needle. Then each small piece was fused down and appliqued with a narrow zig-zag stitch.  The piece was machine quilted in fairly close echo quilting, inspired by an article in Quilting Arts e-magazine, "In Stitches 6". The piece is about 16" by 16".

Water World close-up

Water World

While "water World" had been considered as a possible replacement for my "Waterfall", I also managed to finally finish a replacement piece I am more comfortable with.  If you remember, "Waterfall" was planned for a show in the fall, and deadlines loomed.  The new piece is a soft sculpture box titled "Subtle Seas".

As  some of you may know, I recently went through a lengthy period of creative block.  Since last August, when I discovered an allergy to coffee, my creativity has returned.  I have ideas, and, of course, want to get at them all right now!  This is such a wonderful feeling after the dispair that I often felt during darker times.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Yesterday, I was in the audience of a panel discussion titled "What is Art".  As someone who has emerged from the craft world, I'm often exposed to the de-valuing of my work, because of my medium.  None of the three panelists made any distinction between the two worlds during their formal presentations, one going so far as to say that art can be created with any medium.  All of them included technology-based creations and performance  in their definition of art.  They had been asked to bring three examples of "art" and three examples of "not art", but all of them qualified the definitions a bit, two providing examples of "good art" and "bad art", and one who referred to "art that makes me exhale" and "art that annoys me".  Only after the presentations, did an audience member ask directly about the distinction between "art" and "craft", and again, none of the panelists would acknowledge a distinction, each stating that craft can be art.  One audience member even quoted Wikipedia definitions of each, which, generally, state that craft requires skill and art doesn't.

There was discussion about the purpose of art, and all of the usuall suspects were mentioned--provide beauty, evoke emotion, encourage dialogue/pass a message, or have a purpose such as encouraging social change.  When the issue of art not having function was brought up, all three of the panelists disageed, pointing out that more and more commonly in today's society, art is created for a social or political purpose/function.  One went so far as to say that the issue of the function of craft was simply being used to discourage acceptance of art created from other than traditional media.

The one issue that has given me pause for thought is that art today is  often created based on  a thought, idea, or message.  My art is based on the pleasure I find in line, shape and, most of all, colour.  I'm not trying to influence people's thought or ideas, the way much younger artists do.  Maybe it's a function of my age nad the comfort I find in living life day-to-day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Problem Solving

The problem of what to enter in an upcoming show remains.  The "Waterfall" has been de-constructed.  I finished a UFO that would have been okay, but I want better than "okay".  So, I've started a box.  Haven't made a box in a couple of years, ever since the box-making course I was to teach at a national conference was cancelled.  There are a couple of different construction methods I use, with one being for a functional container and the other for a box as a soft sculpture.  Choosing the soft sculpture method, meant that I had to relearn some of the steps.  Funny how things drop out of my memory.  Too much junk in there I guess.

Found a piece of hand dyed fabric in my stash that is exactly big enough for the box body and lining--not half an inch to spare.  Have a title "Subtle Seas"--yes, it is water-related.  The box body is finished, and I'm now working on the embellishment.  Sewing the shape together is the last step and must be done by hand.  I've given myself a deadline of May 7th, when my Ravenesque Fibre Art Support Group next meets, so that I can ask them for feedback.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wow! Quite a response!

Obviously my last post struck a nerve with quite a few people.  All of the feedback was both wanted and needed. Thank you.

 Many of you responded with comments on this blog, and others e-mailed me directly.  Most of the e-mailed comments were from people who had insights into the situation based on their own experiences, with this Guild.  None of them disagreed with any of my comments. Some of  them offered their own experiences, and these experiences only served to support the idea that this particular guild is steeped in tradition, and determined to maintain the "status quo".

Some, who have taught at the Guild, found many individual members very enthusiastic about more creative quilt-making, and very skilled at putting creative ideas into their designs. As someone who has taught there, this echoes my experiences. They appear to be "closet" art quilters.

One lady, in her e-mail, used the term "Quilt Mafia".  I like this term, and have her permission to use it.  "Quilt Police" are open and obvious with their comments about what should and should not be done ( we've all met them!).  "Quilt Mafia" are more insidious, and covert, in their efforts to control what we think, and what we do, in our quilts.

Many of you had suggestions for dealing with the situation. Some thought that a forthright response would be to stand up at a meeting and bring the situation out into the open.  Others suggested that I put my energy into organizing a second local Guild that openly encourages art quilters as members.  Many of you were concerned that I, as a individual, make sure that I have some local source of support and encouragement.

I have spent over 10 years on the Executive Committee of this Guild, and 8 years on the Major Workshop committee.  I have been associated with the Guild since it was formed almost 30 years ago.  I brought the first set of by-laws to the floor, and, unfortunately, I also had to bring a very unpleasant, and disentious financial situation to the floor. Talk about standing up with or without a flame proof suit!  During the same time I put in 23 years on the executive of the local Embroiderers' Guild.  I'm old and tired.

On a much brighter side, there is a small fibre art support group locally.  I love these women!  They make me crazy. When I come home from a meeting, I am so inspired and enthustiastic that it  takes hours for me to calm down enough to sleep. At the same time I belong to the regional group, The Fibre Art Network  ( Look us up This is where my energy will be going for the next little while.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Home from the quilt show

with some very mixed feelings. 

It all started when I was filling out my forms, to enter those pieces that I felt were good enough. Imagine my disappointment when, upon reading the judging criteria, I realized that none of my pieces were eligible for entry!  After calming down and thinking about it for a couple of days, I recognized that they had the option of setting any criteria they wanted for their show, and I had the option of choosing whether or not I would enter. Since it would have meant starting from scratch and creating pieces specifically for the show--pieces that it would be unlikely I could use anywhere else--and that would have to be created under a very demanding deadline ( 2 weeks), I reluctantly decided not to enter.

But that didn't stop me from volunteering!  I was very involved in the supervision of a travelling art quilt exhibit, that had been invited to exhibit in conjunction with the larger show.  There were a few glitches, but the show was hung and was very well received-- by the public.  How gratifying it was to hear all of the comments!  We even managed to sell a piece.  But at the same time, there were comments made by show committee members, and other Guild members, that made me wonder if we were only there on sufferance,--subtle comments, that left you wondering if you had actually heard correctly. 

I attended the banquet associated with the show, and the guest speaker left no doubt about her feeling regarding the "Modern" quilt movement.  She has no use for it, or anyone else, that made other that very traditonal quilts.  When the prizes were awarded, as they always are at such banquets, I was shocked when it was announced that, because there were few art quilts entered, the prizes had been moved to a different category.  Not that there weren't quilts worthy of the prizes, (there were) but just that there hadn't been enough entered--after they had provided criteria so rigid that it was almost impossible to enter any art quilt.

Later, in conversation with someone in a position to be knowledgeable about such things, I was told that the show critera and the judging classes had deliberately been set up to minimize the participation of art quilters. This person thought that the whole thing had been a planned strategy to prevent art quilters from taking any prizes, and to discourage art quilters from becoming involved with the Guild. Some of this may have been in response to an art quilt taking Best of Show at the a previous show, but that quilt was actually a wonderful example of hand applique--however, done by a recognized "art"quilter!

If it is really true that this was a strategy aimed at discouraging art quilters from participation in guild activities, it was a successful one.  I have been a member for over 30 years, and have particpated at every level, serving many years on the executive, and having been awarded a life membership, but I don't think they are going to see much of me in the future.

Friday, April 6, 2012

new work

Here is a full view and close-up of the piece "Too Far Away", that has gone off to the Fibre Art Network exhibit "From Away", which is being shown in conjunction with Quilt Canada in Halifax in May.  Later the show will travel for about two years.  the piece is free motion quilted, painted with silver acrylic paint, and then hand beaded.  The piece is 36" by 16".

This is a small beaded piece that I've been playing with lately.  It will finish at 12" by 12" before framing.  I used hand dyed cotton, hand made straw beads, and Flexi-firm shapes that had been either painted, or covered with the same cotton fabric,but a different section of the fabric in a slightly different colour.  There is mainly hand stitching, and all of the beads are stitched by hand. I'm currently working on a companion piece using the same hand dyed fabric.

And what happened to "Waterfall" you ask?  Well, my support group had several suggestions for "fixing" it.  I tried a couple of them, and then my husband and I agreed that it was beyond fixing.  Quite a disappointment, but I won't display work I'm not proud of publically.  so, I'm not sure what to do.  I will certainly re-make it, in a different design, but I don't think it will be done in time to enter into the show that I had originally made it for. There is another show about a year from now, that it may suit.  I have another piece in mind for the pending show, but I will take it to my support group on Monday for an opinion.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Posting re-considered

I'm feeling very sorry for myself, full of self-doubt, and was going to post about it.  After all, this is the main function of the blog--posting about my never-ending journey as an artist, and the thoughts a feelings associated with the journey. But, very recently, while out in the car I saw one of those silly messages on a church sign.  It said " Don't bother advertising your troubles, there is no market for them".  Very true, even when taken out of the context of religion.

So, while I won't be starting the new "Waterfall" until I speak with my support group, the planning has started.  But recent conversations in my head have confirmed my ideas about the direction of my art.  The decision I made, and the one I must live with, is that I am going to continue working on pieces and images that my soul tells me I need to.  When I get in trouble, it's because I'm trying to force an image that I am uncomfortable with, to meet an external challenge. I enjoy the exhibitions, and realize that they are the only way in which my work will ever be seen by others, but it is not in me to deal with deadlines.  This means accepting that others may be very focussed on taking their work, and career in a different direction. There are different measures of success, depending on the individual goals we set for ourselves, and my measures of success are important only to me.  I need to do the best work I can, and be satisfied within my heart that what I put out there to be seen really is "the best work  I can (do)".

Saturday, March 24, 2012


To help make the decision about re-designing my "Waterfall", I went out today to see if I could find more of the organza ribbon that I rusched to use as foam.  No point in starting over if there was no more ribbon!  Yep, they had it and it was on sale!  She never questioned why I wanted 30 metres of white organza ribbon, though.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Second thoughts

My "Waterfall" has been hanging on the wall where I can see it whenever I'm using my laptop or watching tv.  The more I look at it, the more doubts I have about entering it in the exhibition, as had been planned.  I have no reservations about the actual workmanship, or the the concept behind the design but the design itself appears faulty.  I think my proportions are wrong in the waterfall, termoil at the bottom of the falls and the stream flowing away from the falls.

A week Monday is the monthly meeting of my fibre art support group, Ravenesque, and I plan to take it for, what I hope will be, an honest critique.  This will probably mean re-doing the whole thing.  My new idea is for a series of rapids rather than a high falls, and a landscape rather than a portrait presentation.

I guess that, if I'm already planning the new version, the decision is probably made.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back in business

I am still using the functional little splint that I liked so much.  The OT talked to the Plastics Resident, and they decided that, as long as I'm comfortable with it, I can continue to use it. But the finger must be immobilized until the end of April.

My machine is back, so I started back to work on my latest exhibition project today.  Two sides are contoured and needed to be faced and two aren't. So I planned, and plotted, and cut fabric, and tried to figure out how to do it. Finally, I realized that there was nothing preventing me from facing the whole thing in an "envelope'"technique.  ( sew a fabric over the front, right sides together, slit the fabric and turn the whole thing right side out, close the slit) It worked!!  So much easier than how I had been planning to do it.  So 'tis done, and hanging on the wall.  And I'm well ahead of the June deadline.

On to the "next".  Well, I don't have a "next" planned, so I'm going to finish up a couple of UFOs, and maybe do some playing with odds and ends.  I've been experimenting with a very nice piece of hand dyed fabric, but the project only started to come together yesterday,  It will require quite a lot of hand stitching, but there are a couple of events coming up where hand stitching will be allowed.  Sorting out this project sent me to my stash of "threads".  I'm amazed at what sort of things I have accumulated over the years.  I found a large skein of Silk Mori that is exactly the right colour for the project, and a spool of  Trebizond that works as well.  Why I've held onto them over the years, I'l never know, but for today, I'm glad I did.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Overwhelmed with beads!

Bought some beads in Fargo yesterday.  I believed that I needed some unusual beads to round out my collection, and found some, on sale.Then I spent last evening putting them away.  Boy, do I ever have a lot of beads!  The down side of this is that I will never have an excuse to buy beads again.

Now, I must start planning projects to use them all up.  I have promised my Ravenesque group first dibs on my stash, when I go, and I don't want those ladies to start fighting over the stuff! So, while in bed, last night, I had all these wonderful ideas running through my head.  I should have written them down, but didn't.

Part of the impetus to buy them was the need for the right colour of bead for a project I started awhile ago.  I should have taken the fabric with me, because I didn't do well matching the colours, and still don't have the beads I want for the project.  This same project had me painting shapes of Flexi-firm before I went away.  Getting the right colour was a real problem there as well, and the results were so poor that I need to start over.  I may try using the same shapes and just covering them with acrylic paint, rather than using fabric paint combined with acrylic (Bad Idea!!  Do not try this at home! Since the fabric paint is acrylic-based I had thought that it might work, but the actual acrylic paint is heavier in weight and sank down through the Flexi-Firm, so that one side is the colour of the fabric paint and the other is the colour of the acrylic paint.) 

Lots to keep me busy.  My sewing machine had to go in for servicing, so I'm limited to hand work for the next little while, and I was a little concerned aobut what I might end up doing.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I promised a picture.  This is a close-up of my latest in the Milky Way series.  Since it's for a show, I can't post the full view.

The spirit is willing, but----

Ruptured a tendon on my right hand a couple of weeks ago.  Have been wearing a splint on the finger ever since--the smallest cutest little thing-- that gives me a fair bit of function.  I have been seen by "Plastics" who referred me to an Occupational Therapist, who wanted to make a much more intrusive splint, but I convinced her to leave me with the one I like.  I have a bad feeling that when I go back to the Plastic surgeon, he will insist on the more intrusive splint, as with this one, I can use the hand almost as though there was no problem.

In anticipation of this, I have been working my fingers to the bone trying to get all of the intensive hand work done on my latest project.  Well, the hand work was finished late this afternoon and now it just needs to be FMQ'd and faced ( rather than bound).

My camera has also been repaired, and now I may be able to add a couple of pictures, when ever I can.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inspiration and encouragement

Yesterday was the monthly meeting of my fibre art support group--Ravenesque.  One of our members had taped three episodes of the documentary "Why quilts Matter", and we watched those. We also discussed our individual reactions to the shwows, and one of our members shared wonderful news in that she has obtained a "One Woman Show", in a local gallery.
Reviewing the evening later, brought to mind the absoute need for this sort of support in the lifestyle we have chosen as artists.  How would we ever carry on without the encouragement, inspiration and general fellowship of like-minded people?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I had another beading class yesterday, this one with 11 students, more than I've taught before--and they limited it to 3 hours.  So I had to re-organize the class.  I cut it down a bit by giving them instructions for the Peyote Stitch, but not teaching it.  I never use the stitch with fabric, and don't like it.  It also takes 30to 45 minutes of class time to teach.  So I broke the class into two sections and I demonstrated to one half while the other half worked on their samples.  It worked quite well, but meant that I was actively teaching for the entire three hours.  Since we had to drive 4 hours to get there and then 3 1/2 hours to get home,it made for a very long day.
But very satisfying.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

what am I up to?

I firmly believe that every skill used in fibre art must be maintained throught practise.  The major piece I'm working on needed a few days for oil paint stick work to dry, so I took some scraps and made up a piece to practise free motion quilting, especially feathers.

Now, feathers are an element that is designed to fill space, no matter what size or shape that space might be.  The feathers need to be able to twist and turn to fill the space.  This is how I approached the whole piece--twisting and turning the feather to fill whatever space it was in.  Then I filled the negative space with very  close (1/16 to 1/8") echo quilting.  When I finished and looked at the piece, as a whole, instead of concentrating on the small area where I was working, I realized I had made a big mistake.  The feathers showed beautifully in the areas where there was enough negative space to contrast with their fullness.  In the areas where there was little negative space and the feathers very close together, they were at a significant disadvantage. 

I had totally forgotten to consider the need for adequate negative space to accent an image.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feeding the soul

Yesterday my small fibre art support group, Ravenesque, met at the home of a new member.  She works with fibre, but is better described as a multi-media artist.  Yes--someone who works with music and video tape, as well as introducing some aspects of performance art.  She showed us one of her recent video's, which has been juried into a national film festival.  This was a very different meeting of the group, as seeing her work and the discussions we had around it were far deeper than our normal conversation.  She explores the traditional roles of women in society, and the effect that the restrictions of those roles might have on the lives women lead.  But there is also a thread of concern about how abandoning those roles might negatively affect society and life in gnereal.  Overall, a very thought provoking day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New work

I have started my next exhibition piece.  The original concept was quite simple, and more traditional than others I've recently done.  A simple waterfall, with pieced rocks on either side.  The rocks were to be hand appliqued in place, the water FMQ'd, and the edge faced.  Piecing the rocks went well, they were cut out, hand basted, and the first side hand appliqued. But then I realized that the water would have to be added and quilted, before the rocks on the second side were added.  Since I had planned a little turbulance at the base of the falls, there would have to be rocks there as well.  Had to make more rocks, and the water had to be pieced to attach the rocks. If there was turbulance, then there would be spray on the rocks.  Okay, need to add a little paint, but the spray could also be stitched using bobbin stitching technique. Well, tried that on the Janome, and it just wouldn't work.  So had to haul out the old Pfaff--does bobbin work beautifully. But I had been told that the Janome would do bobbin work, and on the internet, ladies have spoken of using a special bobbin case to do bobbin work on the Janome. So off to the Janome store to ask about the special bobbin case.No-one there knew anything about it. We did find a bobbin case for machine quilting and "looks like hand done" machine quilting, but I wasn't going to buy it unless I knew it would work.

 Driving home I got to thinking.  The " looks like hand done" technique requires that the lower tension would be totally over-ridden by the upper tension, so that the bobbin thread is pulled to the top.  It's accomplished by adjusting the upper tension to maximum, but if the upper tension were left at normal and the lower tension reduced to minimum, would not that accomplish the same thing? And for bobbin work, the lower tension must be signifiacntly reduced, or eliminated altogether.  So this bobbin case may actually be what I'm looking for, but I still think I want to try it out to be sure.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wonderful eye candy

Today I delivered the Fibre Art Network show, Canadian Content, to the gallery in Neepawa, and hung around to help hang the show.  I had seen this show once before,when it was hung in Narramatta, but this time I was able to see every piece up close and for as long as I had wanted.  This is the only way to really see a fibre art show.  I think that when you walk into a gallery, all of the pieces can result in a visual overload, that can prevent you from really, really looking and seeing.  Since I had to describe many of the techniques involved, to the gallery staff and a passing newspaper reporter, so that they can  communicate the show to vieweres and  readers, I had to take a really good look at the pieces myself.  I learned so much!

Perhaps this is why fibre artists are the biggest fans of fibre art!  You have to understand the compexity of what you are seeing, because the end result of the process often appears as such elegant simplicty

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Broke the cycle

Yes, I've moved beyond the little quiltlets, and started to work on my entry for the next FAN show.  This one involves rocks.  I've been saving pictures of rocks and pictures of quilts showing rocks for several years and I'm finally going to put them to work.  I wanted to use a technique called "poverty piecing" which involves sewing hundreds of tiny scraps of fabric together , every which way.  But I didn't have any fabric scraps--so just cut up fabric to make scraps. This meant that my scraps were a little larger than necessary, but the technique worked very well, and I now have all of the rocks cut up, ready to baste into place.  Does this sound like I'm reverting to more traditional work?  Yep, you guessed it, for this piece, at least.  The rocks will be hand appliqued to a base fabric, something I haven't done in years.  With my sore hands, this may take awhile, so I'm starting now, even though the deadline isn't until August.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

new challenge

Last evening was the monthly get together of my small fibre art group, Ravenesque. We had a guest who brought 59 hats, that came from the estate of an elderly lady. It was explained that this is the beginning of a new community arts program.  The hats are being given to various artists with the instruction that they should do whatever they want to change it, but that the final result should reflect something about the artists's own life. Naturally, just about everyone in the group took at least one hat. Mine is actually a very nice royal blue felt one, styled exactly like the one worn by Walt disney's Pinocchio.  I know this because there is a label inside stating so.  I hope to find some way of transferring the label to the outside, during the transformation.  We have until September to have them finished, but I will work on it as soon as I can.  I hate deadlines.

Otherwise work continues on my little 12" by 12" quiltlets.  I finished one yesterday, but wasn't sure about what I had.  I showed it to the group and got a positive reaction, so I'm very re-assured. The group can be counted on to give and honest critique!  This one included a triple spiral, but is basically a fairly subdued and quiet piece.  I tried to take a picture, but my camera is not behaving and I believe it needs to go for repairs.  I now have about 8 of the little quiltets, and should stop, but I'm still having so much fun!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back to Lee Valley

got more bead containers, but we also went a little further and bought a second hand office chair to use in the studio. My old one was bought many years ago at a garage sale for $25, but is now quite broken and really quite dangerous.  We went to a reputable store that specializes in used office furniture and paid a good price for this, but it is by a well-known reputable manufacturer.  Since I broke myshoulder last winter, I've had trouble working for any period of time on my sewing machine, mainly because of the height of the table amd machine combined.  With a height adjustable chair one again, the problem should be solved.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Beads

Drove across the city to buy more containers for beads. Bought 3 times as many as I had thought I might need. I get them at Lee Valley and find that the price is right and they fit and work well together.  Got the left over beads put away, including the ones in the shoe box. That took a couple of hours as there were four slightly different colours of seed beads that needed to be sorted.  After getting everything in the corner cabinet ( 6 feet high and 24 inches wide and FULL of beads), I discovered yet another shoe box full of beads!  I must have been out of my mind when I bought or acquired all those damn beads!  Anyway, this means yet another trip to Lee Valley--but not today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No title yet

I finished the most recent "quiltlet".  This is the piece that drove me crazy with tieing off and burying the ends of the machine quilting.  I ended up putting two hanging rings on the back as it turned out more rectangular than square.  This started as a gelatin mono-print, which was cut apart and pieced back together again, including the curve of red.  Every line is machine quilted with invisible thread, some machine embellishment and then the beads.  It isn't bound but has been finished off with satin stitch.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Order out of Chaos

The beads are all safely put back in the corner cupboard.  I won't say they are sorted because I approached it a different way.  Since I usually work in colour families, I put all the glass beads within one family together in a huge bead soup.  The chip beads were stacked together in my stackable containers, again with one colour family per stack. I was stunned to find out how many different chip beads I have in shades of green.  The number of colour families was a surprize as well.  Blue quickly separated itself into two very distinct families--darker royal blues and the more teal ones.  While gold a silver were pretty easy to tame, I also found orange, red, pink, purple, black and white families.  Another surprize was the stack of seed beads containers in metallic colours other than gold and silver.  The biggest surprize was a large colour family in yellows, beiges and browns. These worked very well together, so ended up in the same bag, and just looking at them and fondling the bag has sent my creativity soaring.

The work took part of yesterday and most of today.  Once finished, I took a nap, then came to sweep the floor ( yeah, some of them got away during the sorting).  What did I find while cleaning up, -- a large shoe box full of containers of beads that had been completely missed in the sorting--a whole new colour family--and I can't even give it a name.  Grey/green/khaki?? Sounds awful, but it's one I really enjoy working with, and have couple of projects on the go using it--which is why they were segregated in another part of the studio. 

Well, nothing more will be done until I can buy more containers.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Today I decided to find the bead soup I will need to use to assemble some kits for my beading class at the end of the February.  I like to have everything ready ahead of time, in case I have to buy something, especially if I might have to buy it over the internet. Well, one thing led to another and this is the result.  Not only is the table covered, but the sruface behind the ironing board and the bottom shelves of the corner cupboard as well.  Maybe the whole thing just needs a complete clean-out.  My Ravenesque group will be meeting next week and maybe I can take the discards there, or save them for my grandaughter--my daughter would love that!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Doubts are back

After my complaining the other day about having to tie off and bury hundreds of thread ends, the question was raised " Why do you bother?"  Since then I've been questioning myself about why it's so important for me to demonstrate attention to detail and technical skill.  During my musings I found out that a quilter, known to me, with many undeveloped technical skills, has had work juried into a high profile show. Then, today the latest Quilting Arts Magazine arrived,complete with Robbie Joy Eklow's column, The Goddess of the Last Minute.  Amongst other things she mentions some newer and younger quilters who may not pay a lot of attention to detail because they really don't care.  (To be charitable, I would like to think that they don't care about technique because they are getting such a thrill out of the creative experience.)

So back to the original question--why do I care about detail and workmanship?  Is it because I believe in my heart that this is all I have to offer?  Is it because when my work receives attention and even sells, it is the pieces into which I have put the most effort, both creative and technical?  Is it because, as a former quilt judge, this is how I evaluate all work? Or is it maybe because that is all that I can control.  The creativity is a gift that is to be enjoyed and shared, but is not something that I have developed for myself.  When it shows up, it is a gift.

Today I finished the beading on my newest piece--number 2 in the Milky Way series--titled "Too Far Away".  This has taken five weeks of almost daily work to do.  Every bead larger than a seed bead is stitched twice, and the beading is solid for about 40 inches and about 3 inches wide.  Do I really think anyone will notice, or care?  Thank  Goodness, I know that this is the stage of every piece when my doubts kick in.  When the basic work is done, and only the finishing remains.  This is when I measure my original vision with the finished result, and because I've been so close to it for so long, it seldom measures up.   Probably a good example of "familiarity breeds contempt"  (Since this is for exhibition, I can't post any pictures--sorry)

But this also means that I can move onto another piece.  I have several in mind, and the drive to make my visions come to life, never fades, even in the face of perpetual doubt.