Thursday, December 31, 2009

New year's blessing

Wish you a wonderfully creative and art-full year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The "quilt" artist

A quilt artist implies an artist whose medium is quilts. So that's the term I've used as opposed to art quilter. I think there's a difference though everyone else may not agree. Joanne Mattera feels an artist is an artist. No adjective needed. Read her well written posting here.

On one hand I agree with her. When people found out I painted, they'd ask with oils or acrylics? As if the medium mattered. As if those were the only two mediums. It's what I can create rather than what I use. So why have boundaries when there are none?

On the other hand I feel adjectives give definition. Don't you gather more information if I say I am an Oakland, CA rather than a Springfield, MO resident; a commercial rather than residential interior designer? So why not say I am a quilt artist?

The word quilt alone is fraught with implications: quilts for the bed; craft instead of art; devalued for being (mostly) women's work; patterns from repetition and symmetry; matching seams; coordinated fabrics, pretty. So much baggage.

Maybe I should just say I am an artist.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid-point status

In April after the Improvisations workshop and at the 2.0-year mark in my quilting life, I was lying. How could I claim to be a quilter with only one 9x12 journal quilt finished? Piecer, yes. Quilter, no. So I set up goals for the year. With the holiday season coming, I may be in my studio but crafting instead of quilting. So now at mid-point is a good time for evaluation.

□ UFOs: 4 out of 12 finished;
□ working with prints: 4 out of 4; and
□ workshop explorations: 1 out of 6.

A little off the mark but I'll continue working on these. Once over that holiday hurdle, I have three major goals before May:
□ finish at least one other quilt for the EBHQ's Voices in Cloth show in April;
□ homework for Nancy Crow's Sets and Variables workshops in May (yes, pre-workshop homework!); and
□ free motion quilting. I won't be coming up with 365 different designs like this quilter. I just want to get comfortable enough to FMQ a quilt and not feel like I have to hide it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leaping over hurdles

They're finished! Gosh, for once I am prepared in advance with grab bag gifts for a family Christmas exchange.
Mileage and firsts out of these:
□ started with found log-cabin blocks – recycle/reuse;
□ so the colors and prints were not of my choosing. My challenge was adding more prints - one of my goals for the year;
□ these were nos. 2 and 3 for machine quilting with a walking foot;
□ one was quilted with a twin needle - a first;
□ one I designed my own quilting lines - another first;
□ made and used freezer paper templates for circles and curves - first again;
□ used a variegated thread on one and a heavier thread weight on the other;

□ used Sharon Schamber's technique on one binding; and

Superior Threads fusible thread technique on the other. Both firsts.

These small projects were approachable and got me over a couple of big hurdles: machine quilting and finishing a project. Thanks to these, I was confident enough to quilt and finish a workshop piece now hanging in a guild show.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Back to the drawing board

After a wonderful four day respite in Yosemite with Dr. Phyl and two responses to my last post, I reapproached the bold workshop piece with a fresh outlook. Once again with Photoshop, I make a simple cut and rearrangement. This I like and the main figure stays! Many thanks to Wanda and Connie!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stuck in the middle

This top is on up on my design wall as I contemplate quilting lines.
From last spring's workshop - Nancy Crow's Improvisations – Let's Experiment! - it was the second assignment: make it BIG & BOLD. The almost centered spot certainly commands attention, so I've satisfied the exercise. If you've taken a workshop with Nancy, you know you don't have much time to tarry. Piece it and move on.

My eye is drawn and glued to that center. That bugged me - too strong a center. I tried moving the spot off center by adjusting the edges. Nah, didn't work. So a virtual but simple re-piece with Photoshop: It's not as bold but I move between the two sides rather than being stuck in the middle. With another teal strip or two, I'll get a more circulation around the composition. Then it'll be ready to quilt.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quilt therapy

My quilt mini-group has been meeting since July 2008 without a name. We finally came up with one in August. In our monthly meetings, we give each other hurrahs as well as tough love. Just like group therapy! And we all agree quilting is therapeutic. So we are now the Quilt Therapy Group!

A few months ago we started a group mystery quilt. One of us had the plan and directed the other nine. My turn was at toward the end. This is what I received:
My task: add half the borders and corner blocks. What to do?! Maybe containment and repetition. So here's what I passed on:
The top is done and we're sending out for quilting & binding. Then we're donating it to a charitable organization.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quilted for exhibition

I am co-curating another local guild exhibit which opens at the end of October and runs into January. My two co-curators will have quilts in the show. So why not me? Yes, why not? It is non-juried. I scrambled to find something to finish.

I picked a top created last spring in Nancy Crow's Improvisations workshop, previously shown here. Now it's quilted. Yeh! Another tally toward the goals! You can see this and others from the fabulous East Bay Heritage Quilters at:

Alameda County Arts Commission 2009 EBHQ Quilt Exhibit
Alameda County Administration Building
Tax Gallery, 1st floor & Board of Supervisors Gallery, 5th floor
1221 Oak St., Oakland CA
October 26, 2009 to January 14 , 2010, Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm

A tasty tidbit before of the guild's bi-annual show, Voices in Cloth, April 10-11, 2010.

Mastering the vanishing act

My least favorite part of any sewing project is basting. It gives better results but I don't like pulling seams apart nor picking threads out. In a quest for better – read easier – techniques, I tried out Superior Threads Vanish-Lite, a water soluble thread.

This sandwich was basted with it in the bobbin and Aurifil 50 wt Cotton Mako on the top side. You can just barely make out these light lines on the back. I spray misted the back side just like their blog. It got wet enough to shrink up the cottons and seep through to the front side. From the front I pulled out the top basting thread. Yahoo! They came out very easily. Then I left it to dry overnight.

Next morning I ran my hand over it and felt sharp little beads, formed by dried bits of Vanish, along my basting lines. Grrrrh! Didn't want to wet the whole thing again, so I picked these little nubs out. Hmm, must be a better way.

Not ready to give up yet on water soluble thread, I set out to improve my vanishing act. I like a challenge. This time I'm asking for it - I'd basted a piece twice as large.I loosened the tension a bit so the basting thread wouldn't be so buried into a valley. Since the stitching lines didn't get wet enough with misting, this time I used a brush to apply water directly on the stitches. It was soon apparent that that the brush would have to be really wet and I'd have to flood the entire line with water. Else those dang little nubs will once again show up.

What if instead of trying to dissolve the entire line of thread, I leave segments long enough to pick out easily? Working on the same sandwich, I dabbed with a wet small stubby brush at roughly 3" intervals - enough to release the thread on the other side. I easily picked off what was left of Vanish Lite. That the tension was a bit loose helped too. Look ma, no nubbies!

In conclusion, my recommendations:
1. When basting, loosen the thread tension.
2. To remove basting, use a brush to spot apply water at least 3" apart. Those with good eyes can see the Vanish-Lite dissolve.
3. Pull out regular basting thread and pick off remaining water soluable thread segments.
This leaves a quilt sandwich with very few nubbies and keeps it dry.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Road to recovery

Ever been away from something so long you forget how? After that exhausting August, no problem threading the Janome but mis-threaded the bobbin winder. Twice wound up a tangled mess. Goes to show the last thing learned is the first thing forgotten.

To jump start back into quilting, I took another terrific EBHQ workshop at the end of August. Valerie Goodwin gave map making lessons in Map Maker Make Me a Map. Not quite up to speed so I didn't get very far on either of two maps: first Why-o-Y City
Then a map of the Japanese Tea Garden. Don't see it? What about a bird on the back of a pig?

For another boost of creativity another workshop at the end of September: Painting with Machine Embroidery with Carol Shinn . The room full of sewing machines brought me back to much younger days spent at the sweat shop where my mother worked. Those weren't good times but the drone was soothingly meditative as I free-motion embroidered. First: embroidery over painted canvas which started as a rectangle.

Second: embroidery over iron-on image transfer which created a heavily plasticized surface.

For I used my Bernina 830 - no, not the arm-and-leg one, the original - to sew these. In the weekend between tried this out on my Janome 6600P: What a difference! The old Bernina was so easy to use whereas I really had to study the Janome manual to get the settings right for freemotion.

I tried out a stiff non-woven material - truth be told, weed blocker fabric. The image is a freebie from Dover Publications (sign up for their free weekly samples). It'd probably distort more with additional stitching. See Carol's new book Freestyle Machine Embroidery: Techniques and Inspiration for Fiber Art for more information about the distortion. Or take her workshops - she's a terrific instructor.

But that did it. Once again in the habit of going into my studio from 9 to 11pm. And clear headed enough to make visual decisions.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two more toward goals

I've made progess toward two of my goals: quilting and working with prints. Added borders to the two found log cabins squares: Quilted. Lighter one with Superior Threads Rainbows variegated thread, color 805 Inca Pink using a 2mm twin needle. I don't know how you'd turn corners with twin needles so straight lines from edge to edge. The back shows the bobbin thread pulled between the two top lines. Not the most attractive but they won't show since they'd be inside the pillow cover.
Quilted darker one with Superior Threads Perfect Quilter, a heavier weight cotton, color 093 Redwork. They recommend a size 100/16 needle, but I managed with a 90/14 quilting needle. To develop the quilting pattern, I sketched on tracing paper which layed over the top. Then I drew circles and arcs with a compass on freezer paper, cut them out, ironed them on, and stitched around the edges. Here's the back before the basting stitches were removed: These decorative threads are all goodies from my Superior Threads Home Machine Quilting Sampler Set. A terrific deal! Sure you don't get to choose the colors. I wouldn't have chosen the ones I got. Online colors are not very true anyway. But, wow, you never know what'd work! If you don't want the mixed bag set, you can also get one-sies Try Me Specials .

Their newsletter said Perfect Quilter will be discontinued. Whatever they have left is priced at half-off. Too bad – about the discontinuation I mean, not the half-off. I really like the bolder quilt line. It's a thicker thread than their other 30-wts. Heavier cotton thread is difficult to find. Especially in solids. Their alternative would be Poly Quilter, a polyester thread developed for long arms. But only variegated. And only in 2000-yd. spools.

Now that I've overcome the initial hurdle, I am on to quilt something bigger.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Working non-creatively

When I can't think creatively to save my life, at least I could cleanup and reorganize. Added shelves to the closet for supplies.I love Snapware - great for storage and for carting items to a workshop. But not so great for day-to-day access with all the unsnapping and snapping. The more frequently used items moved into cart drawers for easier accessibility.

The studio may always be in perpetual disarray. Multiple in-progress projects and UFOs don't help. I hid them all in a basket under a chair:
Added more fabric for my next Nancy Crow workshop in the spring. My collection now: Nearly every color stacked to the top. I can quit shopping and concentrate on getting projects done.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lost weeks

Several weeks have been simply devoured by demanding issues on multiple fronts. Whew! Enuff said. Now where was I?

Just before that crazed and exhausting spell, I added borders around those found log cabin squares.

I also made a little bag to hold my camera and a tiny sketchbook using quilted double-sided commercial fabric. My camera is snug as a bug in a rug.
Now that things have quieted down some, I am clearing my cobwebs and getting back to quilting.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

30th anniversary

In another week, it'll be the 30th anniversary of my 29th year.

I started celebrating a month in advance. By getting essentials: new shoes and underwear. By indulging in yummy guilty pleasures: fried chicken sandwich from Bakesale Betty's, barbeque ribs from Bo's BBQ, crunchy Cheetos and Haagen-Dazs' dulce de leche. No - not all in one sitting!

I've treated myself to more quilting stuff: books and fabric. And thread! My quest for thread led me to Superior Threads. Threw in the Home Machine Quilting Sampler Set to my basic four-spool-order of blacks, white and water soluble threads. That arrived so quickly and oooo-weee! What a luscious riot of colors! And what fun I'll have with these.

Sunday I'm going to a production of Wicked and taking the Monday off from work. After that it'll be back to (more austere) business as usual.

Another year and I will no longer be able to say I'm 50-something. I feel old and yet still young at the same time. I really can't complain. As long as I still feel young some ways some days, it's all good!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Building blocks

Playing with my ready-made log cabin blocks, I considered combinations of the selected stash fabrics - shown previously here – for borders and bindings. What worked alone with the block did not mean it'd play well with others.

This combination just didn't look very exciting: Yech! to this combination:
So I started with a process of elimination because what didn't work was more obvious. After that, it was a matter of nuance. These are my selections: If I stand far back enough, the print mooshes into a color. But unlike solids, up closer, I must deal with the visual texture and scale. After several more similar exercises maybe this will get easier.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The front garden

When I'm not in the studio, you might find me in the garden.

When I moved into this fixer upper in 2000, it needed fixing both inside and outside. I took on the responsibility of garden planning and plantings. Gone now is the old camellia that dropped thousands of tiny blooms and required many hours of pickup. Gone now is the weedy Bermuda grass lawn.

Here are photos of what it looked like in 2006 and what it looks like now:

I love the way this part of my front yard turned out. The fresh smell of lemon verbena and resinous smell of Russian sage. Feather reed grass dancing with the breeze. Textures and colors galore: spiky orange and green libertia, furry red kangaroo paws, bronzy red flax, round bright yellow-green leaves of the smoke tree, fuzzy gray-green leaves and fuzzy purple flower plumes of Russian sage, and tall buff seed heads of the reed grass.

If I'm not down in the studio, I can look out the window at this.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Test prints

Half the work is done. I've sewn the sets together, but someone else put together the combinations in these ready-made log cabin blocks. Now my challenge is to add more - which goes toward my goal of getting comfortable with prints. Only way to get there is by doing, seeing, editing. I've whittled down the selections from my stash to these: Do they work? I think so.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Curatorial experience

In June EBHQ had quilts hung at the Lakeview branch of the Oakland library. I helped curate – my first experience. And wrote about it for the guild newsletter:

Tale from a Virgin Curator

cu•rate (kyoor′-āt′) To act as a curator – as a person in charge of an exhibition.

Like a student waving her hand at the teacher because she finally knows the answer, I jumped in when Jennie Aldrich asked for volunteer curators for the Oakland Lakeview Library show. So did Sandy Ellison and Pati Fried. Since we three volunteers were without curatorial experience, we were the students and Jennie our teacher.

Unlike an institution like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, we did not have a cadre of curatorial assistants. We did it all.

First task was to collect and store the quilts. Pati and Sandy manned a table at the May general meeting to collect quilts. Both of them and Jennie were especially persuasive convincing others to participate. Responsibilities included getting the forms completed and signed, checking for a label and a hanging sleeve, and keeping track of all the quilts collected.

A week before the exhibition, the four of us met to review the submissions and lay out the display. We reviewed all the quilts and started grouping them. Some quilts just sung with one another and begged to be together. We were challenged to identify specific wall locations to fit each group. Thankfully, Jennie had measurements of the display spaces. Sometimes we had to shift quilts around but tried to create a cohesive visual display. In the end we found display space for all 33 quilts submitted.

Then we documented the quilts and their locations with photos and notes. Otherwise we would've been lost on the hanging date. Hanging them was only a week later but you know how that is! Before packing up the quilts, we prep them for hanging and made notes to get more supplies.

On Monday, June 1st we hung the quilts. Jennie was on the ladder and the rest of us were the ground crew. Other than a scramble halfway through the hanging, we fell into a rhythm – two to hang and two to prepare. We made a great team!

Jennie and Sandy had to leave for the EBHQ board meeting. But they left only one wall for Pati and me to finish on our own.

On the ladder, I realize how adept Jennie is at hanging. I knocked off the picture moulding hooks several times for each of the three quilts. I'm sorry, Pati! As my ground crew, she was fishing among the books stacks for the hooks that flew off. I was so close to the quilts, I couldn't see the display and depended on her help to adjust them. Going it alone would've meant getting up and down the ladder constantly. That would've saved me a gym workout, but also would've resulted in noodle thighs!

Looking around the two rooms after we were done, I took pleasure in having a role in brightening and transforming the library. I hope you'll have a chance to visit this library and see the quilts whether you have one hanging there or not.

A lot of credit goes to Jennie for the curatorial lessons. What I learned was well worth the few hours I put in. My three co-curators were all fantastic and cooperative co-workers. And I got close looks at all the quilts. What a fabulous experience all around!

How about you - would you like to curate a show? Perhaps your very own show someday? Start small, start with experienced help, and start here. Volunteer for the Oakland Lakeview Library exhibition next time. Or some other EBHQ show. It'll be an excellent opportunity.

Ellen who's no longer a virgin curator

Fav haunt

Every teacher's first stop and every artist's second home. The East Bay Center for Creative Reuse is a non-profit store that depends on donations. I never know what I'll find there. I found half-inch thick foam core boards for my design wall there. And added many fabrics to my stash.

A recent find were two sets of four log cabin blocks: I'd sewn them together. Someone else did a great job of mixing prints and colors. No sense dwelling on why were they were discarded. My mission: add more. I'm auditioning additions from my stash to each set.

More finds: ikats.
They feel like fine Egyptian cotton. They'd make great quilt backs but I'm not sure I want them hidden. I don't want to cut into them either – they're so beautiful just as they are. Precious bargains.

These three ikats and some other fabrics, scraps and stuff filled a shopping basket –all for $10. Such a deal! Keeps me coming back for more! This place has become a regular haunt. The fun is in the treasure hunt.