Friday, November 10, 2017

Not much progress around here

Maybe I'm in a creative slump. The little embroidery project is still troublesome, and the work slow, as I limit my work to about an hour a day.  It's on 36 count Aida fabric, and somewhat small for my current vision ( old age is a bitch)  Otherwise, I seem to be just procrastinating like a good thing.  I'm puddling along, working on small insignificant things.  Have made a good start on some ATC's that aren't needed until Dec 3rd.  Today I'll be putting the finishing touch on the last of the 3  large Christmas stockings I have made for charity, and have to be finished by Dec 14th.  I managed to pick up the ribbon I needed for the final bow on the cuff, that turns the last stocking into an very acceptable effort instead of a "ho-hum" thing.  I had to wait until Christmass-y stuff was in the stores.

There's lots of stuff on my "to do" list.  I have a night shirt to finish for my husband, which I hope to get done tomorrow.  Some of the thread I ordered for the new reliquary should arrive early next week, so the next thing will be more preparatory work on that.  I've always found December and January good months to work on charity quilts, as that is something I can pick up and put down fairly easily, when family or social events intrude on studio time.  Then there are the two serious exhibition quilts that are ready for sandwiching and machine quilting. The basting would be a full days work.

But--I just need to get down to it, and stop reading books and drinking coffee!


Friday, November 3, 2017

Waiting

I have several projects on the go, but have reached a point of waiting--for supplies, mainly, but also for enough free time, to actually get something done.  There are a couple of tv shows I like to watch, spending, at most about 2 hours in a day, one of which is dedicated to the news.  When I'm in front of the tv, I like to do a bit of hand stitching.  This is how I managed to baste the thousands of hexies that I have sewn together, and have stored in very large Zip-Loc bags in my closet. But now that I've vowed to never baste hexies again, I needed a hand stitching project.  At the same time, I allocate a few minutes every day to sort and cull the stash of quilting, embroidery and mixed media supplies that have accumulated in my life over the past 60 years. Wednesday, with my husbands help we ended up with two green garbage bags for the thrift store and one very full  bag for garbage.  In all of this I found a little beginner-type, inexpensive cross stitch embroidery kit.  Since it had been opened, and the first basic preparation steps taken, I decided to take a look at finishing it while I watched tv over the next few days.

Now, you must understand that I've been a dedicated embroiderer for many years--active in associations, and exhibiting my work all across the country. This petered out about 8 years ago when the arthritis in my hands made its presence known.  But the ability to do cross stitch remained, as that's basically a non-resistance exercise, and my pain is almost negligible when doing it.  I know embroidery, having taught most types of it, and having worked as a needlework finisher for many years.  But- you'd think I had never touched a needle before with this stupid little Christmas decoration!  I worked a bit last evening, and then this morning, then took that out, took it off the frame and started from scratch.  Then this afternoon, did more ripping out than actual sewing.  Does this mean you can't go back?  Not really, as I quickly got my two handed stitching technique back.  Thank Goodness!  But some very basic steps and routines have had to be learned over again.

But maybe life is built on challenges.  Or maybe I need to think so right now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Joining polyester batting

This is the method I use.  Others may do it differently.

I but the edges to be joined together, and start at the left end of the join.  I use a ve-e-r-y long double thread in a longer hand sewing needle.  A "darner" works well.  Using a Herring bone stitch, I take a stitch on one side of the butted together edges, and then on the other side.  I have a picture of my actual work, using a white thread with the white batting.  This is on 11oz polyester batting, but the techniques works on just about any weight.


I case the picture isn't clear, I did a little sampler using black thread.

On the reverse almost nothing can be seen.  This is the side I would put against the top of the quilt.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Finishing the hexie quilt

I've been asked if I could turn my finishing of the hexie quilt into a tutorial, for those of my students who follow this blog.  This is the first installment.

Before starting, you need to make a decision about whether or not to remove your basting stitches. I decided to leave them in except on the two edges of the quilt that needed further manipulation to create a seam allowance.  I also removed all of the papers I had used in making the quilt.

The first step is to finish the edges of the piece so as to create a minimum 1/4" seam allowance.  The edges are not all the same.  Two opposite sides will match, and the other two opposite sides will match each other, as well.

I set myself up on an ironing surface, -- my wide ironing board.  I added a good light source, and used my little Clover iron, as it is much easier to manipulate around the little corners.


Two of your sides might not need any further work, if you, while you were joining the hexies, you extended your stitches along the seam allowance about 1/4".



The other edges will appear somewhat ragged.  The folded bits will need to be straightened out and thoroughly pressed. You may find that your hand stitching has accidentally caught some of the seam allowance.  Some times just a gentle tug will loosen it without the stitching being torn out, and sometimes you may have to remove a little bit of the stitching and re-stitch the joining.  In pressing the edges straight, I used just a quick spritz of Best Press, but a quick spritz of water would probably work just as well.


After the edges are all straightened, give the over all quilt a quick press as well.

Next you need to cut your batting,and backing to size. I don't have a really good table to do this on.  Depending on the size of the quilt, a double bed might work just fine.  First I spread my batting on the table, lining one side up with one edge of the table.  Then I placed the pressed quilt top on top of the batting, allowing at least 2" of batting beyond the edge of the quilt.  


Then I carefully cut off the excess batting, maintaining that 2" extra on all sides of the quilt.  


I try to keep the excess batting in as large pieces as possible, as I can later machine stitch them together for another project.  But this will only work with a flatter cotton type batting.  The more common polyester batting has to be stitched together by hand using a large herringbone stitch.  More on that later.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Waiting

The orange twisted cord mentioned in my last post has inspired the design for a new reliquary, but the core perle cotton was quite limited, so I've had to order more through the local embroidery store.  This will be awhile coming in, so in the meantime, I've been working on a couple of more traditional pieces.

The first one is a very traditional quilt that I started as a teaching piece when I was involved with a basic quilting group at the local seniors' centre.  It's a pattern that I found on the internet, and I have no idea to who to credit with the design.  I found it in a box with all of the pieces cut and some scribbled instructions telling me that there were 16 squares.  Okay, I thought, just about the right size for a charity quilt, and got to work.  However by the time it was finished, I had 24 squares, and a quilt big enough to cover our twin size spare bed.  There is no way I can quilt this in my very limited work area, so I'm going to have to find a long armer that I trust, as the one I've used for years has retired.  Sorry, but for some reason the picture is sideways. The quilt is 86" by 58 1/2", but, unfortunately, not quite square.  I don't think I'm going to worry about that.



The second one is one that I've mentioned before.  After over a year of work, I've finally got my hand pieced hexie quilt to the size I want.  there are still a couple of fill-ins needed for the edge but the bulk of it is done.  I'm glad to see the end of it, but now the question will be whether I can mange to quilt this in my work space.  It's a little larger than any I've done before, but I'm thinking of entering it in a judged show, so would prefer that it all be my own work.  It's about 48 by 65 inches, a nice lap quilt size, but big enough for the category I'm looking at.


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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Practising

Today, between more demanding projects, I have been practicing making wrapped cords, with FMQ'g.  Recently I purchased the book "Stitch and Structure", by Jean Draper.  It was not what I had expected, but was absolutely a "good" purchase, as it was full of inspiration, mostly in directions I had never considered for my work. 



While I would like to experiment with some of the techniques in the book, I knew that I needed to brush up on some basic skills first.  At the same time I had been "culling" the huge amount of perle cotton in my stash, and saw an opportunity to use some of the excess in producing wrapped cord.

So I spent most of the day at my machine.  The base of the wrapped cord is several strands of the perle cotton, the number of strands, and size of the perle cotton determining the actual size of the finished cord.  I experimented with size #5 in both 8 and 12 strands of thread, and #3 in 8 thread strands.  All the threads had to be twisted as they went through the machine-tricky!  I used a free motion zig-zag, with the free motion zig-zag foot that came with the machine.



The machine was threaded with various threads, but for each cord the top and bottom thread was the same.  I used various types of thread, including an entirely mysterious shiny white polyester, Superior Threads Fantasico  #5002, # 5024, # 5027 ( My favoutite thread for any number of different projects--love it!), Fantastico # 5009, and a Coats and Clark variegated  40wt. rayon, machine embroidery thread.

The trick with this technique is to pull the twisted threads through the machine with a smooth and steady pace.  This is easier said than done, and the skill I spent the day practicing.  

Normally, I use a push button start and stop, but this technique is definitely one that requires a foot pedal.

I ended up with several cords, in different sizes.  My favourite is the red/orange/purple one, worked over a #3 burnt orange perle, with the Fantasico #5027.


I plan to link this with Nina-Marie Sayre's "Off the Wall Friday".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pictures

I didn't have pictures for my last post, but took a couple this morning.  First the Christmas stockings.  Each is about 20" long and 9" wide, at the top. I admit that I was thinking more of boys than women, when making them, and, as mentioned in the last post, having no Christmas fabric in my stash complicated the whole thing. 



This one is not quite finished, and yes, those are hand basted hexies, machine sewn to batting.  I hope to find some sort of plaid or checkerboard blue-ish ribbon to add a bow in the cuff.  The original pattern seemed to call for a loose cuff, but I decided that, technically, it just wasn't feasible--for me.


This one is a very nice slightly off-white cotton twill, and a LWI-dyed blue cotton.  I was experimenting with some programmed machine stitches for the embroidered band.  I added snow flakes to each blue square, in a effort to make it a little more Christmass-y.



Then, again in the previous post, I spoke of finding some ufo's that could, maybe, work as mandalas.  Here is the first one, a Shibori dyed piece that would finish to about 14" in diameter.  Not sure about this one, but it might be fun to play with.



These two were originally planned as mandalas, but the painted image was thought to be too faint to work successfully. Having now finished 6 mandalas, and received some very positive feedback on both the concept and the result, I want to take another look at them.  The actual image can be seen but is not a consistent image across the whole piece.  My plan is to photocopy the original ceiling medallion they were created with, and trace the actual image onto the piece, using my jerry-rigged light box, and then quilt it with mono-poly, creating almost a ghost image, which would then be beaded and finished.



All together this is starting to sound like a week or more of experimentation, and creative fun.

I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Priorities


The last week was spent making Christmas stockings to be filled, and  given to residents of a woman's shelter and, and any children involved.  There is no Christmas fabric in my stash, and I don't like to have to purchase anything for my charity work, so they have turned out red and purple, blue and while, and scrappy blue. ( The charity work is definitely aimed at stash reduction) The pattern we had been given, without instructions, was a technical challenge, but I figured if it had been super important that they be made in a specific way, we would have been told, so I did the best I could.  But each still took about 6 hours of steady work, with the last one being finished last evening.  Sorry no picture.

Lately, it seems like I've been working my heart out, in the studio, with little to show for it.  The mandalas are now all finished, backed, and labelled.  Two are being saved for the gallery show in November, and the other four are committed to a boutique sale during the quilt show in April.  So much of my time over the last year has been devoted to that November gallery show, that now that I'm ready, I felt the need to develop a concrete plan for my studio work over the next while.  I now have a list, of about 11 potential projects.  Then, today, while giving some thought to those future projects, I found three more pieces that will make up very nicely into beaded mandalas, so they go on my list, since I have a least one potential outlet for them.

I have also wanted to make another reliquary, even to the point of assembling the fabric, braid, thread, and beads for three of them.  So today I took a look at this stock pile, and selected one colour-way to pursue. The reliquaries feed my creative soul, and I usually try to make about one per year.  I say "try", but maybe the word should be "need"?

But the priority for the immediate future is some actual dress-making, something I haven't done in years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Mandalas

The quilting is now finished on the four hand painted mandalas I posted about earlier. I'm quite pleased.

This one and the other blue/grey one will likely become a formal piece with two components.  So I have quilted both of them in quite similar patterns, using a twisted thread that reads as almost a metallic "gunmetal", but I have no idea where it came from.  Perhaps Marathon threads?









This one have been quilted with  variegated yellow/orange Fantasico from Superior Threads.  The working title for this is "Here Comes the Sun".  Titles are difficult for me.  I have a piece in a gallery show right now, that has the title "Shattered Dreams".  An acquaintance, whose opinion I trust, saw it and remarked on how joyful the piece was.  Once he said that, I could see the joy in it.  Guess I'm going to have to change the title.


I showed you the quilting on this one previously, but I've now got a good start on the beading, using Miyuki #10 crystal beads.



I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread Network

Future Perspective

Assuming that no news is good news, I have decided to post some photos of the piece Future Perspective, which I've made for the November show that has a theme of Prairie Perspective.

First is the whole view.  (Please ignore the strange background-I did the best I could)The piece is 36" by  24".  The statement to accompany it is that from the mountains and deserts of Alberta to the Canadian Shield in Eastern Manitoba, we need to look to the North, the "Land of the Midnight Sun" for future growth and prosperity.  All of the fabrics, except the dark red of the sun, are my own hand dyes.  


While it may look quite plain in an overall view, most of the detail and colour comes from the free motion, contour quilting, that covers the whole thing, with lines less than 1/8" apart. this was done with variegated thread, mainly Superior King Tut or Fantasico, but there are a couple of Sulky Blendables, that provided the colour I wanted. I tend to want to add white center line to the highway, but the proportions are just too bizarre, if I do.




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




Monday, September 11, 2017

New work

Over the last couple of weeks, I've finished a new larger hanging, intending to enter it in my fibre art group's November show at a local gallery.  Knowing that it might be shown, I've not posted any pictures of it.  By Thursday I'll know if new constraints on entries will result in it being disqualified.  To have new constraints imposed at this late date has left me PO'd, to say the least.  I'll hold off posting anything until the matter is clarified, at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, I've painted four more mandala images over bas relief sculptures.  I got the first one FMQ'd today, ready for beading. This is the largest of the 4 pieces, being just over 12" in diameter.  The colours are paler than most of my mandalas, but a pretty good representation of the  misty, moody dawn light.  I have opted to do the FMQ'g  with clear mono-poly thread to maintain that atmosphere. Here is a full view and close up, of both front and back, as I think the quilting shows up so much better on the back.








I plan to link this with The Needle and Thread network

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Another bit of navel gazing

working on experimental fibre art usually results in a lot of either failures to re-purpose, or left-overs.  Often these end up in small projects, such as one-of-a-kind purses and such that, in the past, have done well at craft shows.  For the past three years, while addressing some health issues, there have been no craft shows, but this summer  I was encouraged to try again, which I did, last Sunday.  Did not sell a single thing. We were set up early, and after the first half hour of the sale, knew that it would probably be a bust. 

In the past such sales have contributed a bit to replenishing my supplies, and we have missed that tiny bit of income,  ( So tiny that neither the provincial nor federal governments require me to report the income or collect sales tax.)  Since we had so much time on our hands during the sale, we spent some time analyzing the problem.  Here are a few things we thought about.

1. Our prices were high for the audience.  I calculate the actual cost of supplies in making items, and price for a small profit ( less than a dollar an hour).  Additionally, I am proud of my technical skills and  believe that there is quality and value for money in my products.  At this sale I was competing with  a lady selling off her personal jewelry at far less than cost , "just to get it out of the house".  There was a man selling jewelry made from the pony beads that are sold at dollar stores, and selling for an appropriate price  for that product--mainly less than $5.00. This was what the audience was expecting.

2. I had been mislead  about the type of sale it was to be.  Evidently it has been exactly what it was, in the past, but the organizers had wanted to create a higher quality presentation. While they tried to attract more up-scale vendors, they knew their market would be expecting food, and filled most of the booths with food vendors, who did well.  At the same time, they were charging a healthy admission fee.  

3. I was treated well, by the organizers, and wish them well in future, but I won't be there.

4. In the back of  my mind, I know that many craft items are faddish.  Since it's been awhile for me, maybe my type of item has gone out of style.  Hate to think so, as I sometimes need the pleasure of making something other than fibre art.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

And now for something entirely different.

After many years, (too many years.  I took my first dyeing workshop in the early 1980's), of fabric dyeing, I recently did my first "parfait" dyeing. Since I had only a vague recollection of what people have told me about the process, I just went my merry way. Here is the result.
This is my first dye bath, in order of layer.  First grey dye with a bit of yellow
 Second, add a bit more yellow

Third, add a bit of fuchsia


Fourth, add a little more fuchsia, and a bit of grey


The second dye bath also started with a little grey, but the first layer did not come out well, at all.  There were just a few bluish spots, but it was mainly white.  ( No picture-yet) Next time I'll know to put a lot more ice over the top layer. 

For the second layer I added a bit of fuchsia and olive green

Then I added more fuchsia for the third layer
And finally more fuchsia and a little blue

When all was said and done, I had a lot of mixed dye left in each container, so I mixed them together and added the failed first layer from the second dye bath, and got this pretty piece.

These pieces are all, at least, 20 inches in one direction and sometimes more in the other.  I'm not really sure what they will become, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

It's been awhile

Then reason I've been quiet is that the current piece is somewhat experimental.  If it works, then it's slated for the gallery show in November, if not, then it may never be seen---ever.

The recent preponderance of "matchstick" machine quilting has bothered me, a little.  If it's well done, there is little evidence of "the hand of the maker".  If it's not well done, it's just messy.  In the past I've done close parallel lines of machine stitching, in small irregular shaped areas, and I've done it free motion. I love the process, but find hours spent machine quilting parallel lines is both boring, and exhausting, without any sense of accomplishment--IMHO.  I know others love this type of work.

At the same time, I've taken some time to look closely at the art of  Hundertwasser, and finding some similarities, there, to Panamanian, San Blas Molas. I also took another look at the Melanie Testa , 2009 book, "Inspired to Quilt", where I first noticed what is now called "matchstick Quilting". The only way I could see of translating Hundertwasser's techniques into fibre work, would involve very intricate reverse applique, which would then be echo quilted with very dark colour thread.  There maybe other options, but I couldn't, yet, visualize any of them. (I can now, but that's for the next project.) Still, I like the parallel contour lines in his work.

So--what if--- I were to make a fairly simple applique design, and heavily augment it with close, parallel echo quilting, done with free motion.  This quilting would, IMHO, require colour, to create any sort of impact.

So, over the past few weeks, that's what I've been doing.  I wasn't terribly happy with the result, and spent some time trying to figure. out how I could save the piece. Last night, I realized that the contour quilting just wasn't doing what it should, and was far less prominent that it could be. So today, I started FMQ'g again, between the lines I had previously quilted.  This is a section where the design places a bit of desert.  While this may not be the solution to my problem, I certainly think it's part of the solution.  This is worked over a piece of rusted fabric.  I can't really recommend that you do this, unless you're a bit of a masochist.  Never again!



Just for a giggle, I took a picture of all of the various threads I'm using during this process.




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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A chance to play

Visiting the hardware store can be a great prompt to your creativity.  There are many wonderful things there that a fibre artist, with a little imagination, can re-purpose.  I didn't have long there today but I came home with two finds.

First was something that, I'm told, fits into a vent opening, but I see the perfect device for some Shibori Pole wrapping. Not only is it free standing, but it will also fit nicely into the big plastic pail I use for preparing a dye bath when doing this sort of thing.  The tube is about 8" in diameter.  I have a much smaller one of PVC pipe, but have always wanted a larger one, as I really don't like having to fold my fabric to much, as it changes the dye pattern.


The second thing I found was another ceiling medallion.  This was more of a challenge, as I asked for directions when I first went in and was directed to one side of the big box store, when actually I had to go all the way to the other side. and it took awhile to find someone who could answer my questions, correctly.  This isn't a good thing for my poor knees and hips. 

This medallion is smaller than the first one, and, because of the depth of the relief, I have a hunch that only a smaller part of it will print well.  Since I was looking for a smaller medallion in the first place, I'm happy.  





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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Finish some, start some

This has been a week of finishes.  Today I finished "Tiara II".  The same basic design as "Tiara", but in a different colour way.  The crystal beads I had bought for both just weren't right, so I ended up using a smaller silver bead, for "Tiara II".  This meant that I could also change the beading patter, to a certain extent.

Here is the finished piece, and a close-up.




Now, while most of my work can only be termed"Fibre Art,  I have a guilty secret--I still love more the traditional, and indulge myself once in awhile.  This mean that I have an accumulation of finished projects sitting in my studio.  So, after a long break, I've decided to dip my feet into the Craft Sale circuit over the next few months.  A good friend, who is seriously into the circuit, and actually ekes out a living with it, has told me that well made baby quilts sell fairly well, provided they are priced reasonably.  So, as well as my stock of "Pouches, Purses, and Bags", I'm going to try taking two baby quilts.  I have one in more masculine colours, and need one in pink.  Having finished the "arty" stuff for now, this pile of pink fabric is ready for me to get my act together. All of this, except two long quarters, has come from my stash.


There is a more basic reason that I have lots of stock.  At the urging of my family, I have been trying to reduce my "stash".  Once I'm gone, I figure that they are more likely to be able to sell or gift finished items, than scraps of fabric.  Meanwhile, I get the pleasure of making things. It's the making, not the finishing, that keeps me going.  The craft sales usually ask for a donation of goods for a silent auction fund raiser, as well as a fee for table rental.  So, over the past week I have used painted fabric, from the stash, to make some simple tote bags to use for this sort of donation. There were four big pieces, for which I haven't been able to find a use, in the past 6  years. I stamped them, on a whim, and put them together fairly quickly, without using anything that hadn't been in my stash.


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