Thursday, May 31, 2007

A New Crazy Quilt Project Begins....

For the last month I have been mostly working on something I can't share with you sister and I are developing a little business idea that is far from ready for the public eye...but after all that work I am taking a breather and am embarking on a small new crazy quilt which has me very excited!
What happened to my Fan Quilt, well underway as it is? It is sleeping until winter comes. I found that I just didn't want to be working with those rich warm colors at this time of year. Spring and summer around here mean I just couldn't resist a new little project using my computer printed florals. We have to go where the Muse leads us, for sure.
Another reason for this little project is I have a Decorating Need. This quilt is actually being designed for a specific spot in my home...o.k. so it is my newly remodeled guest bathroom. You can never, never know how happy I am about this new bathroom. The old one was so scary!

See that inviting blank space next to the medicine cabinet? I purposefully chose a small cabinet to leave room for a quilt on this wall. After all, what would anyone rather look at, their own self naked or a beautiful quilt? If you are my age, this is a no brainer....

Here are the fabrics I have printed and pulled so far. I also dug out my collection of vintage hankies, thinking their prints would be a nice contrast to the photographs.

These hand-embroidered squares are from Assisi, Italy. A friend went there on pilgrimage a few years back and brought them home to me. I have been saving them....for just this occasion! In my sewing room I have a Santo from New Mexico of Santa Clara--Claire--who is the patron saint of embroiders and of course lived in Assisi herself. I love Claire.

Here is a close up of the printed fabrics next to some of the hankies. The two dogwoods next to each other is my kind of pun....
This is going to be a 9 Patch, about 28" square. I am going to start in on piecing the blocks this morning. What joy!!!

Thank you, Claire....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Meeting Sonji Hunt

She talks just like she writes!
You know her from Sonji Says, a blog I've been following with great delight since I joined the textile blogging community two years ago. She is a painter and textile artist who paints all her fabrics and then cuts, sews, and embroiders them into amazing abstract constructions for the wall...

And she is also hysterical.

She flew out to Eugene from her home state of Wisconsin for the installation and opening of her show at the Maud Kerns Art Center. I bussed on down there (two hours), met her, took in the show, and then we drove back up the Willamette Valley to my home in Washougal, where she spent the night. She drove off in her rental van this morning to the Portland airport to fly on home...and I was so sad to say good-bye!
She is honest and sharp and real and kind and wickedly funny. We talked about a whole lot of stuff besides art (although I loved hearing her talk about that; she knows so much more about it than I do.) It was really a treat to have even this little snatch of time with the one and only Sonji.

This picture, part of the exhibit, in no way does justice to the vibrancy and energy of these pieces. We've seen them on her blog, but it is nothing like getting the full impact "in person".

"The Tongues"...(not the official name) favorite.

I took loads of detail shots for my own pleasure, and there were so many to choose from. Framing them in the camera was fun.

I love these little loopies...

The famous Sonji bundles (the photo does NOT do the colors justice)....

And what is this?
There were two large blank walls in the space adjacent to where Sonji's work was hung, so she asked the gallery people if she could paint on fill the space and tie it in with her work. Evidently, this is what painters do (!)....She was finishing up some details while I was there when a young family walked in. The little girl was intrigued, so without batting an eye Sonji asked her if she wanted to join her in painting.
What transpired was almost an hour of magic. Sonji is a gifted art teacher as well as a deep lover of children. She guided this child and turned her loose at the same time...and somehow not a drop of paint was spilled or smudged. The girl left just flying, her parents I think were blown away, and young Ezra had fun watching his big sister too.
Sonji dear, I was as impressed by this scene as I was by your wonderful work...but it all is of a piece.
Thanks for sharing your trip, your time, and your incomparable Sonji-ness with me!!!

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Glass Garden

Terry Albright is of the ladies who made a block for the Purple Heart Crazy Quilt. Her block was exquisite...but her true medium is glass. She makes beautiful beads, unique icicles, and jewelry. As a thank you for my work assembling the crazy quilt, she sent me two gorgeous necklace/earrings sets, reducing me to tears as I opened my mail that day!
I haven't been able to take them off for very long since, and wanted to share them with you.

Terry desrcribed these in an email to me:

I have some of my icicles and some earrings on but most of the necklace sets I sell to folks who see them in person...or someone else sees it and they want to see what's available. The swirly drips are colored glass encased in clear and then cooled and the hooks made. It's actually borosilicate which is a form of Pyrex. Because the necklaces sets are one of a kind, I don't put them on the website because I'd have to change it so often as they sold.
I hope you will visit her website to see her beautiful work, and ask her to make a set for you too!

Thanks so much, Terry......

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Floral Tote, Take 2

The whole time I was working on this, I thought of it as my Chinese Take-Out Tote. The colors, the dragon brocades, the shape....I don't know.
It is definitely different!
This time I used my printed collaged floral fabric as a center panel, rather than cut up in crazy piecing. This particular print has a story I can't tell you!...someday I will.
Anyway, it is Happy Tote...

Again, I am slightly dubious about this one... But I bet it would get a lot of attention out there in the world, full of farmer's market produce....

More like "Nutty"....I just got Kumiko Sudo's book about origami fabric flowers with a twist of silk ribbon added. Maybe a 3-D attempt will be next....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crazy Pieced Floral Totebag

A couple of rainy days, the family all away for the week-end...what better time than this to make a little project? I have made a gazillion totebags over the years so this was pretty much a no brainer in terms of construction...instead, what was of interest to me was how to integrate the floral fabrics that I created on the computer.
This came out looking a little differently than I had envisioned, for a few reasons. I used a very large scale print, for one, which made this pretty old-fashioned looking, not at all contemporary. Also, because the focal print is on cotton, it is not as vibrant as I had thought it would be.
See what you think...

Here is my pile of fabrics, waiting for their auditions.

Here is the tote pieced, before being trimmed, the handles put on, sewn to the lining and turned right side out, and quilted. I am skipping those photos as this isn't a tutorial...

I made this little beaded covered button for it last night while I watched Girl TV (which happens when my guys are away.) Robin Atkins taught me these in a workshop a few years ago..they are fun to do.

The finished tote. I am tempted to try another vision was more flashy than this...At first I wasn't real pleased with it, but it is growing on me....

I am ready for it to stop raining now, anyway!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Great Flower Garden Experience

My husband Robert trained under the great horticulturalist Alan Chadwick at the Round Valley Garden Project in Northern California in the 1970's. As a result, Robert has awesome productive capacities in the garden. He can make the prettiest seedbed of anyone I ever met, as well, which is one reason I fell for him.
Last year his interest was in corn, potatoes, and winter squash, and we had to buy a freezer just to store his prodigious yields. And he was barely trying.
THIS year I have managed to convince him that he should focus that skill of his on flower least a little.

He is lining out the beds and paths here. My flower beds are all planted there above the line of leeks. Those divits in the bed in the foreground are potatoes just planted...(Otherwise all the beds are smooth, flat, and precise like a table top.)
I do not even rate the appelation of "apprentice" (that's what all the students at the Garden Project were called)...but I am out there too, most days lately...but this post is textile related, honest!
I'm thinking more and more about printing little bits of floral fabric...and I need a palette for that, don't I? I should be well swamped with flowers to work with in a couple months...I'll update the above view as the summer goes along.

Robert has to go to work this week-end and it is supposed to rain...I think I will have some fun and make a totebag out of my printing experiments...nothing is more agreeable to me than a quick totebag project!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flower Fabric

So now I've started printing these things up with the idea of cutting them up later and putting them into my next crazy quilt....
I'm obviously not spending as much time with needle in hand these has been more like the wheelbarrow, garden fork, and hose....but the weather is supposed to get cool and rainy this week-end, so I'll have the excuse to stay inside and sew.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yellow Floral Mandala Quilts...finished!

What an interesting exercise this turned out to be.
The same set of photographs produced two very different quilts. The silk satin and the silk broadcloth gave me such varied prints. The former had sharper edges and more saturated colors than the later.
But because the broadcloth print was so indistinct, I decided to play with it awhile (try and salvage it, to be honest). This led to some pleasant discoveries.
I was primed to experiment after reading Sharon B's post of May 13th about how she builds up her imagery in layers, no matter what medium she is working in. I figured this indistinct and rather washed out version of the yellow mandala quilt needed some development, one "layer" at a time.
It ended up with several:
--the photo and print
--the pastel "enhancement" of the print on fabric
--the close machine quilting
--hand embroidery with hand-dyed silk floss and silk ribbon, lace, and a few (just a few) beads
--Prismacolor pencil work directly on the fabric to bring out the colors a little more, and even to make some of the embroidery stand out a bit more.

I have never put a lot of handwork on a quilted surface. I don't see it done that often in a way that appeals to me...but beyond that, I was hung up on not "messing up the back" of the quilt with all those extra knots and threads that come from embroidery. This was a result of entering too many quilts in too many "sane" quilt shows.
Finally I just said "the heck with it" and messed up my back anyway. I wasn't going to bury all those knots and threads, that's for sure.

Really, this felt good. Eventually I just used the "envelope" method to finish this quilt, so now nothing shows on the back at all.

Heavily quilted, close-weave cotton--referring to the backing here--isn't that much fun to stitch through, but in spite of myself I like the look of this.

Here's a little detail. If you look closely you can see the green pencil marks I made between the light green fly stitches...just to give more contrast. A neat new little trick....

Here is the silk satin mandala, just quilted in the ditch, which took all of ten minutes. The photographs of the flowers do all the work, and pretty nicely too, in this one, but the other one gave me more to think about.....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yellow Mandala Quilt, Quilted

Machine quilting is not my thing, but I had to see how it would look on the yellow mandala quilt.
Personally, I think it makes the flower shapes look blobby, (which is my quilting's fault, probably) although if you look at it standing about 6 feet back, the flowers come into better focus. Up close it is not appealing to me.
Still, even though I have long believed that heavily quilted surfaces and embellishments don't go together, I will have a go at dolling this quilted thing up a little.
The silk satin mandala I think I will just embellish, foregoing the quilting because I want a comparison, and also because it has been too long since I've done any handwork! Enough of this sane quilting already!

Here they are side by side; this picture was taken from about five feet away.

I am just not thrilled with this. But maybe it is because I don't enjoy doing it that much.

But as I came into my sewing room this morning to wrestle with these burning issues, look what I found waiting for me on my worktable! My guys came through big time today...Thanks, Robert, and thanks Chad!!!

They know I love Oregon chai....and roses...and sweet cards...and chocolate.

Robert addressed the envelope to look like a crazy quilt, with a little spider beneath the "A" and to the left (in case you can't tell). Can you beat that? ;-)
Happy Mother's Day to all of you with nurturing hearts....

Friday, May 11, 2007

Garden Time!!!!

First I have to tell you about the best thing that has happened to me in years in the garden: a new deer fence! Those of you who have seen devastation arrive in the person of Bambi's mother, who have had all your hopeful buds decapitated, your dreams dashed--as I have, in my rose garden, for the last 15 years--will understand my euphoria at an effective and aesthetically acceptable solution to those 4 footed agents of despair.

My garden is behind a 6 foot retaining wall, terraced above my house. I never wanted to fence in the whole thing because it would wreck the view from the house, but this year I finally listened to my husband and fenced in the side the deer have had access to. The front, where the wall is, I left open because deer will not vault up into an area they can't see.

Here us a side view so you can see what I mean. You can't even see the black plastic mesh fence, but it works. There were two deer out there when I went out to take this picture!
But for areas that can't be fenced in, like my entryway, I've discovered this little product, which so far has been effective. It makes the air smell very stinky like rotten eggs for a few minutes, but it affects the taste of the plants for weeks. I cautiously recommend it.

Nothing ruins my ladylike use of language like those $#%^&*()#$%^ deer.

So the rose garden, now deemed "Allie's Playpen", is my territory. Robert is in charge of PRODUCTION, and grows the food in his garden, and a few things for me. He is a much better gardener than I am so I do not mess with his plot, except to do menial chores at his direction. When I am feeling nice.

His blank slate, newly tilled two days ago. Those are last year's uneaten leeks in the upper left corner.

I scanned his plan so you could see what he thinks about what I want him to grow for me...he would much rather grow corn, as you can also see.

A friend of mine from Point Bonita is a seed physiologist for one of the biggest commercial seed growers in the world. When she is done testing the seed they are by law supposed to dispose of the leftovers. She brought 4 giant boxes filled with seed with her to Point Bonita last January so I partook mightily of her offer to take whatever I wanted. These are what will go in my section of Robert's an experiment: we are just going to sow them like wildflowers. We'll see what comes up.

There are never enough flowers, we know this!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

7 Things Meme

sharon b has tagged me for the 7 Things About Me meme....I enjoy reading these when other people post them, so I'm willing to take a turn too...In case you have any interest, here goes...

1) I collect boxes and store little memorablia from throughout my life in them.
2) I love to go barefoot and have extremely tough feet.
3) I own about 12 green Tshirts...I collect those too...and wear them all summer. My sisters laugh at me about this.
4) I am a sucker for espionage stories. I love John LeCarre's and Alan Furst's books. (Historical espionage is the actual genre.)
5) I cannot crochet for the life of me.
6) My favorite place in the world is Lake Michigan, and I am so happy to be going there in July!
7) This is the only one that is important, really: I have practiced kriya yoga meditation as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda for the last 30 years. It is the source of all that is good in my life.

OK! We are supposed to tag 7 more bloggers, so now I am tagging...Debra, Rian, Barbara, Marty, Fran, Elizabeth, and Stephanie. Only if you want to, of course, ladies...but I hope you do!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Yellow Floral Mandala progress

Okay, laugh, all you perfect piecers!
I thought it would be interesting to try a lay-out a bit more complex than the simple 9 patch I have been using for these little quilts. But as soon as I got into triangles I remembered quickly why I love the randomness of crazy piecing. Humph!
But it gave me a chance to use my nifty new seam-ripper, which was recommended to me by Willa Fuller after it had been recommended to her by the great Carole Samples herself. It is fabulous, and I did need it.

Even so my corner points got nipped off. I am thinking I will go back to 9 patches!
Anyway, I sewed up my two different sets of print outs to see which one I liked best. I actually won't really know which one I prefer until I "work them up" with machine quilting and some handwork too.
In the meantime, here they are:

Here is the silk satin one. I am so glad my seams are going to be hidden by embellishment. Sheesh! What lace and trim can't cure....

Here is the silk broadcloth with the pastels, and to my big surprise I like this one better, at least so far. Maybe it is that little "human touch" of the hand-drawn makes the image a little more intriguing.
This was a fun puzzle.....

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Fabric Printing Success

Lots of trial and error going on here, but I have made a few strides in my quest for a clear, color-true image of the flower pictures printed on fabric.
I narrowed down my choices to print on to silk satin and silk broadcloth. The satin was shinier and a brighter white; the broadcloth had a nice tight weave, more of a matte finish, and was just slightly off-white.
For both sets of prints I set both the digital photo and the printer saturation levels above normal by a bit. For the satin set I also upped the would have made a difference in the broadcloth but I had forgotten to do it.
The satin was my favorite...but because the broadcloth came out so muted, I tried defining the flowers and bringing out their color with some NeoColor Wax Pastels. You draw right on the fabric and then iron it to make it permanent. These "crayon" looking lines gave a different feel to the prints which I'm not sure, but I might kind of like....

This is the silk satin print set.

Here are the pastels...

And here is the pastel-enhanced silk broadcloth print. You will probably need to click on this to see the effect of the drawing.
All I can think is, "Hmmmmmmm....."

Now, if those dang roses would hurry up and start blooming!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Teach a Child to Ply a Needle!

When I was five years old, my Aunt Kitty taught me how to knit. I remember the experience vividly, because she was the one who opened the door for me........ for a love of fiber and needlework that has grown and grown for decades since, giving me untold satisfaction and joy.
So last month when I went to see my five year old niece, Qwen, I knew it was time to pay back the favor.
She was so excited to learn to sew! I started her out with a blunt needle, loosely woven wool in a hoop, and threads and beads to choose from. This child got down to business right away and concentrated.

What a good student she was!

She knew exactly what she wanted to do.....

I don't know who was more thrilled with the finished design, Qwen or me.
Give yourself a thrill, too, and teach a child to ply a needle!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Floral Mock-Ups

As you can see, I am just starting to go off the deep end here, a place I dearly love to be.
These are paper mock-ups I am playing with.

Over at Thinking Out Loud, Barbara Curiel has been making some wonderful quilts from a book called Sew One and You're Done: Making a Quilt from a Single Block by Evelyn Sloppy. I am thinking that concept could work with all these floral units I am generating.
But it is too soon to tell. This could go anywhere.....

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Designing With Flowers

The picture below captures some of what has been happening over the last week...and I feel like I am just getting going here with the possibilities for this concept.
I stroll through my garden and tell all the buds to "Hurry up, already!" Azaleas, rhodies, and lilacs have been my mainstay but there are lots of roses just waiting for the sun to come out...