Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beauty contest

Hmmm, strip pieced fabric is a little dull and could use a little more life. Maybe a bit of orange might spark it. Some orange candidates for a thin strip. Down to three finalists with the ribbon sections. And the envelope please! The winner!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Supplies and more for Strip Piecing I & II

Though the supply list is complete, here are some little tidbits.

Some workshop participants brought printers for their photographs. Most just relied on their digital cameras' view screen. I don't remember anyone with a Polaroid.

All irons and ironing boards, no matter their source, are shared.

All the machines for rent are mechanical Berninas. The bobbins are easy to find. Fill multiple ones with a neutral thread – a mid-tone neutral works well. There's time on Sunday before dinner or Monday morning to handle this. Nancy prefers cotton and she does not change thread to match the fabric.

Rulers is on the supply list, but you'll need 24" one unless you're an experienced freehand cutter. For this workshop Nancy does allow you to rotary cut with a ruler.

A 4'x8' cut of flannel is adequate for the design wall. But you might want it larger.

Don’t forget to bring lots of thread, spare rotary blades, spare sewing machine needles, and packing tape.

Bring gallon size Ziplock bags for strips and ribbons when you pack up.

Nancy has a little store in the Barn. It's not always open, but if there's enough call for it, she will man it. If you forget anything, you can probably buy it there. It even carries bolts of fabrics – prints too.

If you can, get there for Sunday setup. See my previous post here about this. Do make it to the Sunday dinner too. You get to meet all the other participants – including those for the concurrent workshop downstairs - and the staff. Everyone gets to make a 30-second intro. Don't stress out over this. Basically name and where you live.

Don't stress out over the presentation of your work either. Not everyone does it. Just keep it short and sweet. It's great to see what other classmates have done and get a break from the frenetic workshop pace.

A few weeks before the workshop, Nancy will send out a list of participants and mark those looking for roommates. You can ask for contact info for roommates earlier too. A few neighbors will take boarders - she'll list them too. Last fall it was $50 for a bedroom and breakfast.

You almost have your own chef. No breakfasts but coffee and hot water is available at 8:30 am. Margaret Wolf cooks up fabulous lunches, afternoon snacks and dinner and handles the cleanup duties too. She's great about accommodating dietary restrictions or preferences. If you have a sweet tooth, she bakes awesome goodies. The dining room is open anytime you need a break. There's a never-ending bowl of chocolates if you need a fix. And Margaret is so sweet – she'll lend you an ear.

What more could you want?! Go! Just soak it all in. It'll be a great experience.

Fan deck

These are views of my fan deck described here previously.

So much fabric, so little time

How to make fabric work for you and save you workshop time - a continuation of hints and suggestions as a result of my experience at Nancy Crow's Strip-Piecing I & II in October 2008.

Wash the chemicals out. Do wash and iron your fabrics. If you're building a fan deck, cut a little ½" wide strip for your card and take measurements.

You will be cutting selvedge to selvedge with one fold. So fold fabric in half lengthwise – selvedges meet - and trim at least one end to square it up. This will save you an extra step and workshop time.

Make mini bolts. Place an 8x24 cardboard template at the uncut end and flip and fold to the other trimmed end. Pull the template out and fold in half. You will end up with an 8.5x11 bundle.

Folding this way will minimize handling and save workshop time when you cut strips. Just open up the last fold and flip out enough to cut.

Nancy wants your fabrics laid out with only one bulky fold showing rather than distractions of selvedges, cuts, or multiple folds. Stack fabrics with the single fold all facing the same way and save workshop time.

Organize your fabrics into color groups. Organize each color group by value, i.e. light to dark. Finding fabrics for the exercises would be easier this way. Stack fabrics this way to save workshop time.

At the workshop, Nancy may tell you to put them in value order regardless of color. DON'T DO IT. After everyone did this, Nancy gave us permission to not do it. Maintaining a handle on a 100 fabrics - even if organized by value – is difficult. Make the module smaller - organize into color groups.

Because you've used a template, the fabric bundles are similar in size and two tall stacks will fit nicely into a 17x11 box. To ship I lined boxes, which formerly held reams of paper, with a big plastic trash bag – then stacked a little beyond the brim. Even so they did crush down some. Update: FedEx no longer accepts boxes with separate lids, like the ones for reams of paper. Use boxes with the integral flaps that fold down.

During the workshop fabrics are flying. You have so many exercises and so limited time. Keeping a handle on fabrics will help.

When you cut from a fabric, put it on back on top of your stack. It'll be easier to repull a color you've already use. Plus you get a better sense of what and how much you've used so far. If you pulled out a color but don't cut from it, try to insert it back into its color group. You won't need your template to refold fabric at the workshop. Just follow the folds.

I think some limits on the palette will make the final quilt more cohesive. However, you don't want to use a color so much that you'd have none left after the workshop. You may want or need to duplicate the pieced fabric later.

Taking these measures does not necessarily mean you will not be working from 7am to 10:30pm.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On the wall

Look what's on the walls and ceilings of my family room/studio. Knotty pine paneling. Hanging flannel over this just won't work. This is my former design wall which now hangs over a loveseat. It's 60x48: two 30x48 stretched canvases screwed together, covered with white felt, and hung with picture wire. It just wasn't big enough. Here's the new design wall naked before I dressed it.
The East Bay Depot for Creative ReUse in Oakland is a treasure trove of materials for artists and crafters. Stock there changes quickly and everything is priced to move. Better waste management through re-use. I just love shopping there and have scored some great finds!

There I found six 40x30x1/2" foam core boards formerly used as signage at some medical convention. They were covered with heavy vinyl coated paper on one side and black construction paper on the other. Stacked them against my patio doors for a while and the two sheets warped - dang! To flatten, I peeled off the papers on both sides to expose the black foam core. You can't see these two sheets in the photo, they're on the bottom.

Halfway through joining them together, it hit me that I haven't figured out the logistics of handling and hanging the whole wall. It had to be a one-woman job.

Used my driveway to lay it out. But the whole thing couldn't fit through any door. Let alone stretch my arms wide enough to carry it. It got complicated. Won't go into details here.

Much later, after trips to the hardware store and many climbs up and down a step ladder, I have my wall. And can now pat myself on the back because I put it together all by myself! Yeah!

Here's my design wall looked like yesterday with my main project – the ribbon quilt from Nancy Crow fall workshop. The colorful ones on the left including four new ribbons made since I got this new wall up three weeks ago. Yeah! The ribbon I'm working on now in the middle. The strip pieces I will make into ribbons to the right - including that bossy green one. And all the neutral ribbons on the far right.

Building a deck

When I started this tack, I didn't think I'd be so verbose. I went to the Barn without much notion of what I was getting into. May your experience be less mysterious and more fruitful. Here's part 3: buying and tracking colors for Nancy Crow's Strip Piecing I & II workshop.

I don't dye fabrics. I buy commercially made fabrics from the local stores. Where I live there are a number of quilt shops and fabric stores within 25 miles. A few have a good selection of solids, most don't. So I get a smattering of colors from various places.

For online shopping a friend suggested equilter . They offer 189 Kona solids. With your order, they'd send a color printout – similar to their web page. I'm more bricks and mortar.

Shopping for solids can be daunting at the fabric store. Would this color look different in other light? Can I find one a little lighter, darker, brighter, duller, red-er, blue-r, yellow-er? And do they even make it? How does it compare to what I already have? How can I keep track of it all?

The human mind is capable of remembering about seven things. Darn impossible to remember a hundred colors. Even with good color memory. Try visual aids.

Mine is a deck of 3x4 index cards. If you build this, you could cut the card size in half. There's still plenty of room for information.

On one side of each card glue an actual 1/2" wide strip of the fabric along the edge for a visual match or comparison. The other side has information: when, where, what (manufacturer, color), and width and length. This helps when you want more.

I'm not good about noting the manufacturer and color when I'm buying the fabric. At least I can visually match it. If I bought it within the last year, there's a chance it's still available. In reality though, store stock changes.

Stack the cards by color group and in value order. Imagine dropping the deck and scattering them to kingdom come. That would be so embarrassing. Make it secure: punch a hole at one end and put it on a 2" ring. Watch for a photo post of my deck later.

At the store, I compare the bolt against my fan deck. I don't like to be conspicuous but this is not so easy, yet better than nothing. Since colors change on a continuum finding where it may fall in your deck takes time. Is this gold yellow or yellow-orange? Is this periwinkle blue-violet or purple?

If you see someone doing that - that might be me. Say hello. I now whip out a smaller (fewer cards) deck with colors to replenish.

Build your deck. Throw it into a Ziplock or your tote bag. Enjoy your color adventure.

Another installment tomorrow: preparing and packing your fabrics.


Addendum and correction to the last post regarding colors.

Yesterday I'd said I had cut into about 25 pieces of my solids collection. That was a very crude estimate. Way off.

In preparation for the next workshop, I'd pulled out all the fabrics that I'd used at the last workshop. Didn't want to pack them in case I'd still be working on my ribbon quilt. Make that will be still working. Already enough color variety - no new colors please.

That pile looked like a half box full. 100 fabrics, 2 boxes. 50 fabrics a box. Half a box must be 25. Right? Big oops! Didn't take into consideration that some of the fabric has already gone into the ribbons and stripped-pieced fabrics. Smaller pieces make a more compact pile.

This morning I counted - 52 different colors! Not including black, white and grays. I could have used fewer.

I feel you can have a very satisfactory experience and put together a beautiful quilt with a more limited selection.

But can you see how you can easily go beyond that with the myriad variations in colors, values, and saturations? Look at how many yellow paint chips can you collect at the paint store. Albeit fabric is more limiting, but color nuances can be nearly infinite. That's part of the fun and challenge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Culling all colors

Continuation of yesterday's post about the Nancy Crow workshop.

Nancy Crow asks for lots of fabric for the Strip Piecing I & II workshop. 60 to 100 different solids. More if you count neutrals and non-solids. If you are considering her workshop, you'd say Holy Moly! do I really need that much?

Out of more than 100 solids, including the neutrals, I actually cut into maybe 25. So did I really need them all? I could have gotten by with fewer blues and reds. Hardly used. Mostly yellows, oranges, greens, purples and black. A sprinkling of other colors. I used five out of the six yards of black. I didn't decide in advance what my palette would be. That's just what turned out.

Some got by with a more restrictive selection. If that were so, then that's what I would've worked with. Some chose a more restrictive palette. If that were so, then that's what I would've brought. Maybe either would've been easier and quicker – meaning less thought required. Because while you're there, you are busy doing. Mulling over choices is a luxury.

For a few exercises Nancy would ask for a particular color. Blue for example. But she doesn't specify a particular blue – choose any blue that'll work. For most exercises, it was my choice. So I'd pull out a piece of fabric– because it's on top, because it was on the bottom, because it caught my eye, because I've used it before, because I haven't used it yet, because I wanted to use that color, because I wanted to use that value, because I wanted to use that saturation, because I have a particular combination in mind, because . . . just because.

Then I'd pull out other colors to work with it. Here's where thought and time comes in. Sometimes the combination comes together quickly. Sometimes I'd really have to work to make it come together. Sometimes I couldn't make it work quick enough and started again. Sometimes I'm not happy with the combination, but it would just have to do because I don't have time to fuss more.

I was glad I had so many choices because I love playing with color. I could have gotten more done if I didn't love the color play so much. Love can be a liability.

So did I really need them all? Probably not. That's easier to say now after I've gone through the workshop. So what do you really need?

A full spectrum of colors. By that I mean the color wheel with primary, secondary and tertiary hues: i.e. yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, red-violet, violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green and yellow-green. If you bring a minimum of five in each of these six groups, that'd be 30. The minimum. Of these five in the group, it is important to cover the full range of values from light to dark and cover the full range of saturation from bright to dull (or Nancy calls it warm and cool).

Some exercises called for a wide value range of a color. Try to have at least seven values of gray and seven values of at least one color. These seven values should work as a pleasing progression of a color set. For example a blue-gray would stand out in a group of warm grays, even though its value may be correct. A red-orange may clash within a group of red-violets.

The off-whites, beiges and tans could be low saturation variations of a color family. They may be a very neutral yellow, orange or red. Just be sure you do have some.

Bring the non-solids but don't worry too much about them. Exercises using them are at the end. Unless you are speedy, you may not get to them.

If you find your choices lacking during the workshop, you may rely on the generosity of your fellow classmates for giving / trading / selling you a strip or two.

These last two posts got long! I'll continue tomorrow about shopping for fabrics.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being there

How timely.

A friend had good questions about going to a Nancy Crow workshop. I was thinking about the hints and suggestions I gave her - things Nancy does not spell out in her information packet or supply list. Shall I put them on here on my blog?

Then I got my twice weekly letter from Robert Genn. He wrote about Irwin Greenberg and listed 100 thoughts for artists to live by. Among them: Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share it.

With that (green) light, based on my experience at the Strip Piecing I & II workshop last fall, here are my thoughts about getting and being there.

The closest airport (CMH) is Columbus, OH. The big chain lodging options closest to the Barn are in Reynoldsburg and Pickerington. An easy drive from the airport.

If you have time to explore Columbus, check out the Short North - a great neighborhood - and the Northstar Café. Last fall I spent one night at the Short North B&B (wonderful hostess and great breakfast), walked to Goodale Park and explored the area.

Nancy names a lodging of choice which offers the lowest price for workshop participants because she entered a contract with them. It was the Country Inn and Suites in Reynoldsburg. They set aside a limited number of rooms for the Barn rate. Breakfast included. Some complained about it being noisy and less than clean. I can't say because I haven't stayed there.

The Holiday Inn Express is in Pickerington. Room was clean, comfortable and quiet. Breakfast included with room, but nothing to write home about. They offer a pay-in-full rate available up to two weeks in advance. This rate competes with Country Inn rate, but is non-refundable. It applies to a limited number of rooms so they could have booked all of the rooms with the configuration you want.

Both of these lodging options are surrounded by big-box stores including an alternative for breakfast: Cracker Barrel.

For a non big-box experience and a little longer drive to Lancaster, Shaw's Inn includes many full breakfast choices in the dining room which opens at 7am. Early starters can request a box breakfast to go. However, my roommate and I decided we needed to be at the workshop as early as possible and found the box breakfast unsatisfactory. We didn't feel justified in spending more to stay there when we couldn't partake in their wonderful breakfasts. Management was very understanding. So after 3 nights there, we moved to the Holiday Inn.

From anywhere it's an easy drive to the Barn. I need a map. Mostly two lane roads fairly well marked. Commute with other workshop participants if schedule meshes. Yes, you do need a car or a roommate with a car. In comparison to California, driving in Ohio is easy-peasy.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the workshop, fabric and supplies.