Sunday, February 28, 2010

In my creative zone

I have been in my creative zone most of the weekend.  Thread painting the robin and some leaves took most of yesterday afternoon.  I decided to try the leaves on fabric and pattern maker web.  Much easier and better results I think.  
 I  decided to at least get the threads off the floor today and straighten up the sewing room.  Oh boy, I needed a shovel not a vacuum to get them up.  I have 3 trashcans and 2 thread catcher bags and there was more thread on the floor than in all of them combined!  
I quickly finished up 2 tool cases I had cut and started to donate to our boutique at the quilt show this fall.    I love the tool case I did for me.  I can keep it with my featherweight and have a small cutting mat and cutter and ruler right there.  And it is a great way to use up miscellanous fabrics.
Then I decided to at least pick out fabrics for the "Irish Landscape" class.  An hour later I am drowning in fabrics and bins of scraps, when Russ walks in and starts talking.  After he walked out, I realized I had been in my zone and had no idea what he said.   And I am usually the one who complains he never hears me.  I think I need to fix a nice dinner to apologize.....after I finish sorting fabric. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thread painting again

I am still thinking Spring.   I finally finished up the first section for the Thread Painting class at Learning Fiber Arts--the robin and pussy willow branches,    Insight This is not as easy as it looks. It involves picking the right color of threads to learning to blend the stitches and takes practice.   The second section is on leaves, so I will be getting a lot more practice.                                 

Friday, February 26, 2010

A bag for Spring

A new bag for spring...
This is a first try, test version.  I love a bag with an outside pocket and hate flaps, and wanted a single strap.  This one is  different from many  patterns I have seen.    The idea is not original to me.     I saw a similar bag on this blog out of Romania.   I measured a bag I had to get the size I wanted to try.  For the pocket piece, I just took a folded piece of paper, placed it on top of the old bag at the center front, and then drew a curve about 1 1/2 inches from the center front top to the side seam.  I thought it looked about right---so it became my pattern piece for the pocket.  The blue floral is heavily quilted and creates the outer pocket on the front side.  I used a bias strip to  finish the edge of the pocket after quilting.   I made the single strap a bit wider than I normally do--about   1 1/2 inches.  The top edge is finished with a band and top stitched down.  I added Velcro for a closure.   On the inside I added a double pocket.  The size is about 10 inches across by 10 1/2 inches high. 
So, even if the weather isn't cooperating, I am thinking Spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

French Braid Quilt

I started piecing this quilt about 5 months ago.  It has been on the design wall in strips and pieces since then.   I managed to get very side-tracked onto other projects--generally smaller ones--and put off finishing the piecing on it.   I ended up piecing strips of several fabrics for the inner dividing bands  that are between the black.  I just felt like a single fabric drew the eye to the strips and not the braid.   The fabric used as the outer border is not in the braid at all, but it picks up the main colors.  Luckily I bought all that was left on the bolt at the Cotton company at Christmas and  have just enough for the binding too.  It is 76 inches by 66 inches right now.
I just realized that the top photo is the inverted position that I had originally planned.  So here is a shot of the original plan.  Now I can't decide which direction I like best.      A few words of caution about this pattern.  Press carefully--and in this case the less you handle and press the better.  The bias edges seem to stretch if you look at them wrong.  I cut the outer border on the length of grain so it would not stretch, and measured and pinned carefully to ease in any fullness.  I will plan the quilting--especially in the center bands--to take up any fullness there.  Loops and swirls will probably be the best technique for that....straight lines would only cause ripples and roping.
I also want to do this pattern in florals and really blend it....only in a smaller version.  But first I think my fingers need a rest, so no cutting or stitching tonight.  Just  a dose of aspirin.
Happy stitching!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Research and focus

In my last post I name my theme for the art quilt study group as England: a country I want to explore.  Since I not able to hop a plane and  explore in person, I used the Internet and found a wonderful site, that is sub titled "exploring England through pictures".  Wow...the very same phrasing and  I knew I was on the right track.
The first thing I decided to do was look for the places that the pen and ink sketches depicted.   It was amazing to locate photos showing them.  The Knaresborough Bridge has a lot of photos and we could actually figure out where his great uncle must have sat to draw the sketch we have.  The ruins of Fountains Abbey  was more difficult to decipher, but I think we found a photo of the view he sketched.   St. Williams College in York is huge and  we could not figure out which entry way he drew. 

The first project deals with perspective (ugh!) using one or more of the principles  from the second chapter.  So this needs to be a fairly simple  subject.  After looking through some of the photos, I saw common themes emerge that say  England.  Stonework--walls, walks, fences, posts, gates, steep steps, streets.  Arches--windows, doors, gates, buildings, signposts, roofs.    Gates and fences--every cottage seems to have a small gate of some sort.  Bright spots of color--flowers in pots, growing up the walls, tumbling over the gates,  window boxes, wisteria over the doors.  Narrow streets and lanes, unique thatched roofs, ancient ruins, lamp posts, hand painted signs......lots of things to focus on.
 This is really tougher that I thought it would be.  I am a quilter, not an artist or painter.   But I  have selected a couple of images to work from....not reproduce.   I will use a controlled color palette for unity throughout this series.   As for the first subject.....think ancient ruins.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finally back to the French Braid

I finally got back to the french braid that has been on my design wall for 2 months!   And it is looking good.
I needed to trim the edges and add the inner border strips of black.  I did not follow the directions exactly---which said to trim the edges after marking and then add the strips.   That would leave me with bias edges to stitch to.  So I marked the jagged edges with the new green marking pencil (  the ceramic type--worked great even on dark fabrics) and then stitched the black strips to the run.  I then cut off the jagged edge and pressed.  I had next to no stretching and everything seems to be flat.  Yea! 

I grabbed the new gadget and added New Pages to the blog a couple of days ago.  I still have a couple of photos to upload of free motion quilting to put on that page.  Thumbs up--great idea for a gadget.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Too many ideas....

The art quilt group met today for our first discussion on Chapter 1 and to get to know each other better.  I still have not decided on a theme for my projects.  I think I am trying to focus too close on one thing rather than a general theme.  Jaylyn made an excellent point to look at what you collect, or have a lot of around you, or maybe a foreign country.
So I looked around.  I have a collection of old advertising tins,  a collection of botanical prints, old keys that I collected and framed, a small collection of pottery and teapots.  Nothing clicked. 
Over dinner I mentioned all this to Russ....and then I said foreign country.  Two places  I would love to visit are Greece and England.  I looked around and remembered the three prints that I have framed in the dining room .  They are pen and ink sketches down by Russ' great-uncle in England from the 1930's .  And there is  a small watercolor of an English thatch roof cottage, too that I had framed.  Light bulb theme was right in front of me.    Theme:  England, a place I want to explore.
Now, I can sleep well tonight and tackle the next chapter tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waste Not and Scrappy Mountains

Finally a complete picture of Scrappy Mountains, bound and labeled.  I really love this one.  I think it is the movement and rhythm of the pattern and color that appeal to me.  This pattern goes together so quickly and is dramatic too.  It is definitely a keeper and I will make it again, probably in florals...what else!

The second photo is Waste Not....just lots of leftover squares made up into a split 9 patch pattern.  I sorted the squares into lights and darks only.  I will use the medium values in another one.  The lights come together to form the cross pattern.  There are so many layouts using the split 9 patch that I could stay busy just making them for a year. 
This will go to Habitat for Humanity this year.
I am so glad to have my big computer back up and running again. Russ spent 2 days at the computer shop troubleshooting it.  Problem found:  automatic update for Windows blocked the re-boot.   At least all is safe and  I can get everything backed up again. 
Our Art Quilt group meets tomorrow to get started on the workbook and projects and I have a thread painting class to get caught up on.   So, time to get busy.  Happy stitching.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snowy Day

It started snowing late yesterday while we were loading Deana's cabinet into the van.  We awoke to bright sunshine and 5 inches on the ground. We won't attempt to go to Charlotte afterall.  For South Caroline that much snow means everything shuts down.  At least it wasn't all ice.  It  will be a good day to stay in and stay warm and sew some more.
I finished up  the binding on Scrappy Mountains last night.  I was really happy with the quilting on this one.  I used the Isacord thread that I picked up in Asheville on it.  Not once did the thread break or fray on this!!!  I will be using Isacord for free motion quilting from now on.  Here's a close up view of the quilting.  The feather effect is done with the stacked  teardrop.  For the border I used the same feathers and a large "mitosis" pattern in the corner.

I worked on the pastel signature quilt top for our guild President too this week.  It went together so quickly.  I was a little worried when I first started it because of all the pastel fabrics.  I was afraid it would be very washed out and  boring.  Wrong!   It is delightful and fresh.  I will get it pressed today and add an inner border strip of the medium tones that are leftover.  I have 4 fat quarters of very light batiks that were donated that I think I will use as the outer border.   That combination should make the center area float...I hope. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blooms and another insight

Some sunshine and blue skies this morning.  And I spotted the first crocus in the garden out front.  So I know  that Spring will arrive eventually.  I love the beautiful golden color of these.  This photo might be a good inspiration for an art quilt....who knows.
 I really like the label I came up with for the circle challenge for the Zen Garden.   I used my greeting card program and found a neat black and white graphic with a tree and cardinal.  Ah....I had no cardinal on the front, so he could go on the back!    But as a regular black and white image, I thought it was too much and overwhelming.  So I played around with the color format and discovered by changing the black to a very light grey the image appeared faded like a watermark.   Kind of like a hidden surprise, I think.
I took a close up photo to show the quilting on Zen Garden.  It is very hard to see because it is black on black, but the ripples and curves between the zentangles is the free motion quilting.  I stitched a curved  line and then followed it back and forth to echo the original line.  I stitched 5 or 6  echo lines and then changed direction and created another curved line to echo.  I worked from the center out to the edge, trying to blend the curves together.  This takes a lot of thread and makes the piece stiffer than a quilt should be, but I love the effect.   
So, I am adding another insight to my list.
What I thought was a lack of inspiration was really just a time out, a delay, a slow down and wait.  The creative process is not a straight line, and I have to look around the next curve sometimes!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Finished 2!

Finally...a finished project in 2010!  Actually, I finished up 2 today.  Both challenges are done and the labels are made and will be stitched on tonight.  I got to cross 2 things off my lists....satisfaction in finishing.
 I began machine quilting the Scrappy Mountains quilt and decided to try using the Isacord thread  that Leah Day recommends.  Wow, I am impressed with it.  No skipped stitches, no breaks and it sinks into the fabric like I prefer.  I will definitely get more of it.  I am using the color "oyster" that I found in Asheville.  It is a pearly grey tone and blends well. 
It is raining again here.  We may just float away.  Not complaining... after our years of drought, just wishing for some sun for a few days. 
Happy stitching.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A little machine time

I got in a little machine time Tuesday during Remy's nap, and I made a lot of headway on the Bee challenge.   Then late yesterday I put on Rod Stewart's  The Great American Songbook, and quilted it.  The old classics were a perfect tempo for the close stippling.   I think I need to pick up some more CDs to use just for quilting time!  Anyway, it is now ready for the binding and to name it too.
Oh, and using the versadisk to sit on while quilting at the machine was wonderful!  It helped position me just a tad bit higher..ergonomically correct...and took the pressure off my spine. 
And soon as I put the vaccum cleaner away, I am off to stitch some more. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bee Challenge--a fiasco and insights!

Since it was icy over the weekend, I decided to tackle the Bee Challenge.  Ugh!  I like the projects suggested but  HATE the technique for applique.  Freezer paper and a glue stick are not  for me.  My fingers no longer bend and grip like they once did, and I was gluing things to myself and everything else in sight.  So after a couple of hours, I caved in and threw the entire mess in the trash.....sorry, Shelia.  I instead pulled out the heat and bond and fused my applique in place.  I am doing a small table runner instead of a wall hanging, and mixed the floral designs from a couple of suggested  projects.   
So, as always, this too is a lesson to learn, and insight gained. 

Insight 1:   Applique for me is an accent, and not the focal point. 
Insight 2:   I am happiest when I put my twist on a design/layout. 
Insight 3:   Stick with what I do best.  Just because a technique is out there, it doesn't mean I have to try every one of them. 
I also worked on the flowers in the sunshine art quilt from Delia's blog.  My paint did not work very well, and is blotchy.  I think it was too watery.  But decided to go ahead anyway and see how it turns out.
So, I now have 4 projects ready for the machine.  The guild Challenge --zen banner-- to quilt, scrappy mountains to quilt, and the bee challenge to machine applique and thread paint, and the flowers in the sunshine to stitch down. 
I am still watching Remy this week, but hopefully will get machine  time by Thursday.  
Till then, happy stitching.
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