Monday, December 29, 2008

Cottage CQ...Buttonhole Leaves

...and more leaves and more leaves!
I took a day off from the CottageCQ thinking I needed a break...but decided instead to bear down on my focus and just go for it. I don't even want to come up for air until this central section is embroidered, and that could easily be another week or two because the pace is s-l-o-w.

I know I've mentioned before that I think of these long term crazy quilt projects as my "novels". And as I stitch away, more often than not in silence, some wonderful thoughts and ideas bubble on through my mind. I'm not sure if this could happen for me if I worked in any other way.
When my attitude is right this kind of work is swiftly transformed from being boring to contemplative.
In fact, those rich inner experiences are really the goal...the stitched project is actually a by-product. (But a nice byproduct.)

I got the idea for the buttonhole leaves from Jo in New Zealand and Lisa in Arizona. Both have used them beautifully in their work.

The darker leaves are single strand silk floss and the lighter ones are double strand silk floss, both from Vicki Clayton's Hand-Dyed Fibers.

I still have about half again as many of these leaves to do, but you can begin to see their effect.

I finished up the rooflines, too.

And now it is back to the buttonholes... ;-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cottage CQ...Embroidering the Cottage 2

Is everyone still stuffed from Christmas treats?
I sure am!
There's one piece of baklava left......

We are still snowbound....

....including Chad, whose car you see here. But this fine 18 year old guy has been mellow hanging out on the hilltop with his parents for a whole week. Amazing!

There hasn't been much to do but eat and stitch and watch TV, and I have made some progress embroidering the cottage.

I've outlined the basic shapes on the cottage, minus the outer rooflines. They have to wait until the background tree embroidery is done. I've been working on that and if you click on the photo you can see it.
But my goodness it is b-o-r-i-n-g work.
I hadn't seen it up on the design wall in over a week, and wasn't sure if the embroidery on the house was working with the overall look.

There is some squaring up to do along the top edge (it will be covered by cording so that's not an issue)....but I was relieved to see all is coming together o.k.
Still I'm going to take a break and have my annual "go mad in the sewing room" week between Christmas and New Year's.

And....since I've managed to gain four pounds since the beginning of December.....

...our new weight bench looms as my immediate destiny.
My body builder son can't wait to make me suffer!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Felted Scarf Set for Esther

My son Max and his girlfriend Esther have already been and gone for their Christmas visit. Amazingly, they made it here to the Portland area and back to Seattle in the midst of this intense winter storm that's been ongoing. Those Greyhound bus drivers are fantastic.

I don't have many in-progress shots, but this is the present I made for Esther on the machine embellisher.

I purchased a lightweight polar fleece scarf, glove, and hat set.
First I felted little polka dots on it out of hand-dyed bamboo fiber. Then I went back and surrounded them all with this variegated rayon ribbon.
Felting on thin polar fleece is an absolute dream......

This was such a blast to do!

And she sure looks cute modeling them.

Now it is snowing hard again, so Chad, Robert, and I are hunkered down for a quiet and low key Christmas Eve and Day.........and here's some entertainment from our Jewish friends to help us celebrate Hanukkah as well....enjoy!

Wishing you all peace and joy, now and in the coming year.....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cottage CQ...Embroidering the Cottage

I hope everyone is snug and cuddled up in this wintry weather. We have had our share of it here in the Portland area. In fact, we are marooned on our hilltop as the driveway is iced and impassable, the car parked below buried in snow drifts...all in all, great Christmas weather!

So we keep on stitching in times like this, don't we?
I did move my "sewing station" to the TV Room, as that is where the action is while Max and Esther are here visiting.

I've started embroidering over the cottage itself, and can keep steady work going in the midst of the family doings (watching "House" and playing the XBox). It's fun. Oh, and if you want a better view of that crazy quilt on the wall behind the Christmas tree, look here. Click on the image and it will get bigger.

I can't "hoop" the cottage area for the embroidery, so I am using pins all the way around the printed image to stretch it taut.

Can you see the pins going all the way around the edge? This is working well.
I've begun embroidering with a single strand of cotton floss around the rooflines and windows. I want to anchor everything in place this way before starting on all the leaves behind the cottage. When doing house portraits like this, it is best for me to start in the background and finish up in the foreground.
This is careful work requiring a steady rhythm, but so far is going well.

Meanwhile....all the blogs probably have their snow stories and I have mine too...except it is about ice.
As in, it is covering the entire southfacing side of the house. Remember that fine view I posted a little while back?
It is gone. Robert decided that "desperate times call for desperate measures," so he took matters in hand.

Arming his squirtgun with hot water......

He blasted a hole in the ice squirting the hot water on it..... Esther could glimpse the view.

Here is how it looks this morning.....

This ice will eventually fall off in sheets with marvelous crashes down below when it finally starts to warm up.
Meanwhile, stay safe and warm everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cottage CQ...Surgery

It's funny how design decisions will reveal themselves slowly on a long-term (and experimental) project like this.
There was one section on the grassy area that didn't feel right to me, and hasn't for awhile, but I wasn't sure what it was or what to do about it.
Then this morning, bingo, there it all was in my head, so I decided to act on it right away.

It's the light colored grasses with the bullion seedheads. They stick out too far to the right.

I put a piece of tracing paper in place to see if the solution was to straighten out that edge and instantly thought, "Oh yes that's it".

I pinned the new fabric patches in place and whipstitched them on, right over what was under it.

After carrying over the French knotted flower motif from the patch to the right, I decided the background fabric was too light. Prismacolor pencil to the rescue.

Then some yarn got couched along the new seams, creating some more of those "seam driven motifs" I've been trying out with this project.
Surgery complete!

I did add the same couched yarn treatment to the other side.

I like how this reads so much better. Those vertical seams forming the oval will eventually have cording couched over them to define them...

Nothing like designing on the fly. But it's getting there.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cottage CQ...Hydrangea Shrubs

AveryClaire asked on my last post what inkAid is.
It is a coating that you brush onto fabric--and then you let it dry--before running it through your printer. My experimental goal for this treatment was to get sharper, more saturated imagery on the fabric than would have been possible with it untreated.
I found this to be the case. The detail is in high focus and the colors are vivid. But the stuff makes the fabric stiff and each push of the needle requires much more pressure than normal. My fingertips are actually quite perforated these days.

So that is why the moaning and groaning over the inkAid. I do think it's great, just not for stitching through.

Fortunately, I didn't have to on my last bout of motif stitching.

I used an idea from Helen M. Steven's Embroidered Landscapes for my hydrangea shrubs.

However, as I got going on this the temperature outside plummeted, and my sewing room became too cold to work in.

That is snow comin' down outside. This room has lots of windows and just a little space heater, and I can't get it above about 50 degrees F on days like this...too cold for my fingers to work properly!
So I set up a card table and moved on into the living room where my guys hang out on their computers.

May likes to hang out here too, looking out the window right next to me. She also attacks my threads if she gets a chance.
(That is "Summer Lake Day" hanging to the left there.)

So back to the hydrangeas...

I made one on each side. This shows how one of them looked before the silk ribbon leaves and French knot flowers went on.

And here is a finished shrub....

I may add to them to fill them out a little more, but for now I've had enough!

Here you can see them "in situ". A line of something wonderful is going to have to go between them to "ground" that section. My guess is it will be rocks and lucky glass...actually, if you enlarge the picture above that has "Summer Lake Day" in it, you can see the rocks that were sewn on that Lake Michigan quilt. I do love sewing rocks.
I posted a tutorial on that here, on another little cottage piece.

But that is going to have to wait for several days, as I have to seriously get my Christmas preparations underway.
Hoping you all are getting in the spirit of the season!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cottage CQ...Tree Stitching

There has been a technical issue that I finally attended to over the last few days.

The large areas in the trees section that are printed using the inkAid needed to be secured to the foundation fabric. They were puffy, not lying flat (and you know I hate that), and needed some texture anyways to blend in with all the stitching going on around these large "patches".

This view of the back illustrates the tactic I took to fix this. You can see all those lines of stitching in the plain white areas. I may have to add more, but this was enough for now.
On the front it looks like this:

I didn't want the stitching to stand out too much, so I matched it to the background. This is all backstitching.

I decided there was no need to outline both sides of the branches and trunks....this stitching is essentially acting as quilting; it isn't there as a design element so much.

In the pine tree sections I just made little stitches to blend in and hold the fabric down.

Frankly, this was boring work and that inkAid is a beast to stitch through. But I had to see if this would work. It's a good thing it did, because once you make a needle hole in this treated fabric, that hole is there for keeps.

I will say that on normally photoprinted fabric that is soft, stiching over it to augment the image is really fun and so much easier than you might think. It is just like painting by numbers, and is a most forgiving technique.
I'm glad the cottage isn't printed on inkAid!
But I'm not ready for it yet.....think I'll play with some bushes and little flowers as my reward for all this scut work.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cottage CQ...Beach Grasses, Continued

I'm so appreciative of your comments and am glad you are enjoying following along. Thanks!

Two days of making teeny tiny detached chain stitches and straight stitches using sewing machine thread have resulted in the left hand beach grass section being completed.

But first I put a row of ribbon across the top of the section like the row on the right side.

Very fine silk pins are good for this. I stitched the ruffles in place with little detached chains, taking the pins out as I went along.
Pat Winter dyed this "woodlands" ribbon for me and its colors are just perfect. She not only is a great stitcher, but her dyeing work is superb, too. And she is quite familiar with the colors surrounding Lake Michigan!

This beach photograph was taken from much farther away than the one on the right (see previous post), so to stay true to scale, I had to make everything much finer.
Looking at the quilt as a whole, I don't think this will actually "read" as a completely different vantage point, however. But that's o.k.
Things are confusing enough without that!

I developed the center grassy section a little more, too.

That's more of Pat's ribbon along the bottom. Isn't it perfect?
I deliberately made this little triangular area line up with the roof peak of the cottage....

Here's the middle of the quilt so you can see that.
It was just my attempt to subtly line things up compositionally...these two points directly line up with the sun overhead too, though you can't see that in this picture. I was trying to structure a little order in amidst the randomness of the piecing in the trees.

Next I want do something with the large printed tree sections that so far have nothing on them. I can't just leave them "bare".....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cottage CQ...Beach Grasses

The section on the right between the woods and the beach was the object of my attention this week-end.
Embroidering over photos is such a forgiving process....the imagery guides the thread and stitch choices, and then acts to blend them as well.

This area gave me the chance to test out how well the "representational" stitchery of the grasses combines with traditional CQ seam treatments. (The seams above the grasses are grass colored but made of cretan and detached chain stitch.)
I think the jury is still out on this, but I will carry this concept on throughout the whole piece.

Now I'll do the grasses section on the left side of the quilt. The scale will be quite different--the view is from farther away, so the grasses will be smaller--so there is some extremely fine straight stitching in my immediate future...

Meanwhile....we are still harvesting! The maritime Northwest climate is still generous in December....

Along with our homegrown potatoes and herbs, this made for a nice soup yesterday.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cottage CQ...More Trees

Back to work on what I've come to think of it as a hybrid between a crazy quilt and a landscape quilt....

It may be hard to tell, but I've added some more pine trees to either side of the cottage, extending them down into the midground area.
More grasses and bushes coming next.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Fan 3....Finished

This one is for my cousin Tracy, the rancher from New Mexico.
Allow me to introduce you...

This picture has a story....
Tracy was at a rodeo where some Western clothing company was snagging "authentic cowgirls" and asking them to model their clothes for some photos. Tracy said yes...but first they had to iron the shirt and jeans or she wasn't putting them on. Then they asked her to smile, and she said she doesn't do smiles in photos. So then they asked her to look mean, and she said, "Oh I can do that!"

The thing about Tracy is that she the funniest, most giving, warm hearted, and talented gal I know. I just would never mess with her!

She is the one who got me started quilting in the early 1970's. She's good at everything she does, especially artistically, and was a professional illustrator for many years.
Now she concentrates on creating pine needle baskets using traditional Native American techniques.

Please note the rattlesnake rattles sewn around the rim of the large basket in the center!

This one has an arrowhead, applique, and beading...
They are sold in galleries in Jackson Hole and other fancy places. She told me she's just glad they "go away"...her zeal is in the making of them. I own one and it is a prize possession.

So I made Mz. Tracy a fan for Christmas.

I really enjoyed this one the most of the three, I must admit.

The Christmas tree just "happened". First I chainstitched over the black "branches", then the sequins came out. And you know how sequins are...they like to travel in large groups!
The little bead on top is from RibbonSmyth many years ago. I'd been saving it for just the right place, and the top of Tracy's tree is definitely it!
I'm going to visit her in March and just can't wait.

And now it really is back to the Cottage CQ....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Fan 2....Finished

What? Another fan?
Oh yes, I am definitely in "playing hooky" mode at this point, leaving the serious work of the Cottage CQ for more holiday fun. And we all know I have a thing for fans...

So here is the second one, for my sweet and elegant cousin. I tried to make this according to her taste, using my sparkly Kreinik threads.
The lace is handmade by the Lace Ladies in Southern India. You can read their inspirational story here. I felt it to be a huge privilege to work with this exquisite lace.

Here is a closer view. Click on the picture for an even better look. Made by hand!!!! I find this astonishing and humbling in the extreme.

Once this fan was completed I started thinking about another favorite cousin. She lives on a ranch in New Mexico in an adobe house that's a few hundred years the colors need to be vintage Old West....turkey red and olive green would suit her. So I pieced the fan last night.

Not having light coming through the window for my usual impromptu lightbox (for getting the curve symmetrical), I had a mini-flash of inspiration.

I pulled up a "new document" on Word to get that white on my laptop screen, and I was good to go! Not pressing hard on the screen, of course....this worked like a charm for tracing one side of the curve off of the other side.

Here's the foundation muslin all marked and ready to piece.

Now I'm ready to stitch on it. Hooky is a good thing!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Fan....Finished

That stitching on the fan ornament sure felt good.

This measures 6" high and 8" wide.
I tried out my new Pfaff machine's decorative stitching on the red ribbon....kinda neat!
It's for a friend of mine....

Now it is back to the Cottage CQ, as I am all refreshed by this old timey stitching.....

In answer to a commentor's question, I did finish this "envelope" style, leaving a gap in the curve. For my second fan I decided to have the gap along the side instead, as the straight edge is easier to turn and whipstitch closed by hand.