Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring CQ...Green Corners Begun

This has been so interesting of a process to me. It is rare that a new large-scale project unrolls so smoothly! This has just been peaceful, methodical, and easy...
The green arcs went on in a mid-value range...the four corners will be darker green.
All of this of course is background...the embellishments will be much more saturated and vivid in the foreground....
Piecing the greens was a great way to spend my birthday, in between phone calls and emails from loving family members....God is very good to me, and I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring CQ....more piecing progress

I am really enjoying working with these colors!
On my work table I've got a big yummy pile of green fabrics that are going to fill in the arcs in the four corners...merging fairly seamlessly with the purple, I hope, with the same kind of curved, semi-random piecing. ..
The center will come last, as per usual...determined by the direction the quilt has taken.

I decided to join all the blocks together from the beginning, rather than embroider them separately. I definitely want this quilt to evolve as a whole, not in units. It will be a little more cumbersome to work on but not too bad....certainly not as much of a wrestling match as the quilt shown below was...that one was 5' X 10'!

This is my friend KT's quilt, shown hanging in her bedroom. The blocks were worked on separately, but then a lot more embellishment was added after the quilt top was assembled. That was a workout.

In joining the central 9 blocks, I did piece in the blank muslin square just to keep everything stable and squared up. After the corners are pieced, I'll join them all up.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring CQ....further piecing progress

"Spring CQ" is a good enough working title!
Judy S. asked if I compose all my crazy quilts this way, and the answer is yes. I put all my muslin foundation blocks up on the design wall, then take them down and piece them one by one. Sometimes I will pin a partially pieced block back up on the wall to see what it "needs" next.

Here is one block in four stages of piecing...I'm not showing step by step, just the general idea of how it goes:

This block got started in the lower left corner, and I built it out from there.
Next, I sewed chunks together....

Here are the two main chunks, ready to get pieced to the foundation...

And here is the finished block.
Many of these fabrics are from a tie manufacturer in San Rafael, California. They had a storefront and a bunch of us at the Point Bonita quilt conference last January took a field trip to buy some of their fabric samples. I stuffed a grocery bag tightly with nicely sized silk squares and paid a whopping $5.00 for it. Such a deal!

Here is the quilt so far.
I have several ideas for what will go in the center, but it seems I alway decide that last when making a crazy quilt.
Weird, huh?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Project

After spending the winter months experimenting and doing many small projects, I decided it was time to work on a larger scale and in a longer time frame...
Plus, I miss working on a large crazy quilt...
So here goes on a project inspired by my Home in the Garden "warm-up". (And thank you, everyone, for your very nice comments on that!)
As usual, I have lots of amorphous ideas and a general thrust for the design, but most of it will happen as I go. I hope to be done with this by the end of July. That's the goal anyway!

At the moment, this is 50" X 50", but it will shrink to about 42" X 42".
So off we go!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Home in the Garden, Corners Embellished

Keeping in mind that this quilt is going to the Alliance for American Quilts' fund raising auction later this year, (which I believe will be on Ebay), I wanted to allude to traditional quilting motifs in this project. So I chose a symmetrical applique design for the corner triangles.

I used hand-dyed silk yarn, couched down, for the stems. The leaves are two colors of ultra-suede and also some felted wool/soy silk fabric that I ran off on the embellisher machine. If you click on the picture you can see that more closely. The embroidery thread is a variegated #12 cotton hand dyed by Laura Wasilowski at

To keep this from overwhelming the central image, I tried to keep the values consistent, as well as the design and materials. Hopefully, it is interesting but still secondary...

I am going to bead that blue lace just a bit. The binding will form the final boundary to finish off this quilt's design. Overall, I am quite happy with it, and am mulling doing another take with this concept, only using a much larger central image.

Meanwhile, here is the link to last year's auction quilts for the Alliance. The theme was "Put a Roof Over Our Head", and there are some really nice ones.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Home in the Garden, Corners Added

Getting these corner triangles exactly right was a bit taxing to my right-brained self, especially with my block on point and this piece having to measure precisely 15" square, finished.
However, somehow this came out o.k.!

The inner stitching line is 1/4" out from where my finished edge will be.
That blue cotton lace was the last of about 25 that were auditioned....but when I held it in place, I knew that was the one.
Now, to fill in those corners...something viney, I think.......

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Home in the Garden, Seam Treatments Finished

Well, for now those seam treatments are finished. They may need some tweaking later.

This was tricky, as I did not want to take away any focus from the scenic image in the center of the block...but the frame had to be developed and interesting too.
So I went with all one color in the embroidery--blue, to bring out the sky--and I kept my stitches simple and traditional...this was also to add a nostalgic cast to an already very sentimental project.

Now I am left with the four corner triangles to construct. Lots of options here, all fun to explore!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Crazy Quilt Frame for Embroidered Home Portrait

This was almost sinfully easy.
When I read an account of Marsha Michler's "topstich method" of creating crazy quilt blocks, I knew this was the technique for me for this framing of my embroidered scene.
I love curves and usually piece them...but this time I needed total control of my lay-out, making sure my scene was oriented perfectly and that my block would turn out exactly the shape I need for this quilt. Plus, the pieces are smaller than I ususally work with.
So this is what I did:

I just took it slowly, ironing and pinning--fine silk pins a preference--measuring with the ruler, rearranging...the block will be on point.

Sewing it down with a straight stitch and clear thread was a breeze, I am not kidding you.

The dimensions of this quilt when finished will be 15" X 15". (Remember, this is an entry for the Alliance for American Quilts annual contest. It is also technically a donation quilt as all the contest entries will be auctioned off to benefit the Alliance.) This leaves me those nice four corner triangles to play with...I wonder what will go in there? Fans, just maybe? I have some ideas, but first I will have a go at all those seams in the frame...and that will give me something to do during this HEINOUS weather.

Would you look at that pathetic cherry tree, all in bloom and getting hailed on this morning? It's a giant standard cherry and feeds a ton of birds later in the spring...hang in there, cherry!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Home in the Garden, Embroidery Completed

This was so much fun to do, I heartily encourage you to try it!
I know that garden so well that in some cases just a few little stitches were added to help "define" the plants, and I knew just where they should go. Plants include perennial sweet pea, santolina, sage, rosemary, borage and Veronica Blue annual salvia, nicotiana, daisies, lavender, and roses.
I did not use a hoop, but I did interface the cotton print with some woven fusible interfacing before I started stitching. I think this helped reduce "shrinkage" due to the stitching.

Now I am going to make the crazy quilt frame that is going to surround this image...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Printing On Fabric: One Woman's Tutorial

As I've said, I am no expert at this, but have figured out a method that works for my needs. However, I am currently taking an online class from Beth Wheeler, through QuiltersKeepLearning. It is a beginning Photoshop Elements class....Beth is such an expert at not just Elements but also fabric printing that I know I will get more articulate with my process. (She is really nice, too!)

O.K., with that disclaimer, here we go:

I always pre-treat my fabric with Bubble Jet Set 2000. This helps prevent the ink from dispursing too much and making a blurry-ish print. It is required for dye-based inkjet printers like those made by HP to make the ink bond permanently to the fiber. For pigment-based ink like my Epson CX6600 uses, technically this is not necessary, as the pigment is permanently adhered to the surface of the fabric.
But as I say, the Bubble Jet Set gives a consistenly superior print for me.
Here I am soaking my prepared for dyeing fabric--cotton sateen--for the required 5 minutes. After soaking the fabric I pour the leftover Bubble Jet Set liquid directly back into the bottle. It can be reused as often as one wants.

Then you lay the treated fabric out to dry. You are not supposed to wring it out but I obviously do. When it is damp I iron it the rest of the way dry and it flattens right out.

This is the only thing that consistently works for me to get my fabric through the printer with no jamming: I adhere it to full-size label paper, pressing it on by hand and then ironing it to get out any little bubbles. Freezer paper just doesn't cut it for me.

Then I trim it to the size of the label paper, which is the standard 8 1/2" X 11".

As extra insurance that my fabric will feed easily into the printer, I tape the edge with Scotch tape, and crease it sharply with my fingernail...I also clip the corners a bit, as shown.

Here is the image I am going to print.
Because the colors are not as vibrant on fabric when printed as they are on paper, I compensate by upping the saturation level in my digital image before printing it.
There are all kinds of color management techniques for getting "that perfect print" that I don't know, but I am counting on Beth to enlighten me on a few of them. For now, this works fine though.

And here is my print.
To get the label paper off, first I will slice off the taped edge with my rotary cutter and then I will iron this on the paper side....the heat loosens the grip of the adhesive and it peels off pretty easily.
Et Voila!

Hope this has been of some use to you....

On another note, Bev asked in a comment yesterday where those pincushions came from shown in the last picture of my post. They were made by a great gal named Shirley Greenhoe. You can read about her here (scroll down to the second artist). She always brings them to sell at the quilt conference we both attend every year at Point Bonita. But you may be able to track her down via the webpage and get her to sell you one. I LOVE mine..they help me keep all my different sized needles within easy access!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Home in the Garden, Embrodiery Continued

I so appreciate your kind comments about this piece and the lovely place I live! I have felt so lucky and grateful to be here since the day we moved in....
Southwest Washington state is indeed beautiful in the summer. If you could see it now, it is gray and cold and working on this image is lifting my spirits!

This section shows a detail I added yesterday...very slow work, this is.
A perennial sweetpea vine wants to take over this whole area of the garden...

Progress as of this morning...I am currently filling in the tree area that is below the garden in front of the house. You can see I start with the darkest value and will build outward from there with lighter and lighter greens.

I have GOT to untangle that floss one of these days!
I thought you might get a smile out of the chaos of my work table....

Some of you have asked for a description of how I go about printing my fabric. I am no expert, but I will write a tutorial about how I do it in my next post....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Home in the Garden

What else could "My Quilts/Our History" be about for me personally?
My entry for this contest is going to have a portrait of the home I have lived in for the past 16 years, framed by the garden and the hills, set into a border embellished with flowers.

Certainly this place has been the inspiration for all of my quilts since we moved here....

This photograph was taken four years ago, before the deer fence changed the view of the garden...I have printed it onto cotton sateen and am now embroidering it. This is really a "paint by numbers" kind of deal...
It is really fun to try to find the right colors, weights of thread, and stitches to enhance the image, although some of the stitching is awfully teeny-tiny!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Alliance for American Quilts

The Alliance for American Quilts
is an umbrella organization for many fine organizations and endeavors aimed at

bringing together quilt makers and designers, the quilt industry, quilt scholars and teachers, and quilt collectors in the cause of documenting, preserving, and sharing our great American quilt heritage. We are committed to collecting the rich stories that historic and contemporary quilts tell about the nation's diverse people and communities.

Their many projects include making available oral histories relating to quilts, access to quilt scholarship resources, documentation of quilt-related ephemera, a huge quilt index with loads of information pertaining to each quilt, an online forum for discussion....too many projects to list here, but click on the above link and you will see. The Alliance has formed formal partnerships with regional institutions of quilt scholarship and is currently forming a relationship with the Center for American History at the University of Texas, the recent recipient of Joyce Gross's extensive and famous collection of quilts.
These are the heavyweights in the quilt world in terms of scholarship, preservation, and also celebration of the future of quilting.

One of the projects of the Alliance, The Center for the Quilt Online, is holding a contest to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Alliance. It is called "My Quilts/Our History".
Entries are to reflect one's personal history as a quilt maker. All the entries must be 15" X 15" and will be donated for an auction benefiting the Alliance. Voting will be conducted by all Alliance members (one can join here. There is a $50.00 fee which of course supports the organization.) There are some prizes....

My next project is going to be my entry for this contest. You don't have to be a member to enter, but creating a special personal quilt for them is a fine and fitting way to support their efforts. I think it is going to be fun! I hope some of you will think about entering, too...

And about that quilt index...if you want to look at crazy quilts for hours, check this out...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April Take It Further.....Finished

What I enjoyed most about this project, to be honest, was getting back to crazy quilting. I thought I had burned out on it a little bit, but this piecing and stitching and beading felt really good.

Here is the fan on the left side. Those cute little brass leaves were a gift from Pat Winter last summer. She gets them from Artful Market on Etsy.

And here is the fan on the right. I had to keep the embellishments pretty simple to reflect that this is about boys. No waste canvas this time around, but I did use one of Carole Samples' templates for the wavy lines. (Read about them here.)

My Lovely, Lovely Boys
15" X 15"

The title is a line from my favorite made-for-TV movie, Smiley's People. The character Connie Sacks is sadly referring to the young men she used to work with in British Intelligence, in her role as chief Russian analyst, before she got literally sacked (by the mole who was making her look bad, of course).
But with all the guys in my family--my two boys, my sister's three, and my brother's one, all born within 5 years of each other--"my lovely, lovely boys" as been in the family lexicon for years. And yes, I have lost least a little bit, so I share some of Connie's regret.

Anyway, I am fairly happy with this piece though the technical glitches are what I learned the most from. I really should have been much more careful lining up the photos...I should have pieced the whole block and then appliqued the felted linens, and then appliqued the photos. I would have had better control that way. That they are crooked truly bugs me.
I would have been able to achieve a flatter surface with the photos if I had done that, too. It is o.k. that they puff out, but I would have preferred them flat in this case. Chad wouldn't look quite as weird as a one year old if I had done that.
I loved all your comments on this piece...thanks!!!

Anyway, it is done, it was fun....and the sun is out. We need to be out there digging and making ready for these:

My husband is taking the tomatoes quite seriously this year......

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Take It Further, April...Day 2

Adding the embellishments to a naked block is always so much fun.

Above is a detail shot of the center of the block...

...and an overall view. (Please pardon the pins.)
When it goes over foam core I should be able to get everything square and aligned right. It looks a bit crooked at the moment.
More stitching today...but tomorrow when the sun is supposed to finally show up, all bets are off!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Take It Further, April...Day 1

The Take it Further challenge for April, as described by Sharon Boggon here, asks us how we view change...Sharon also gave us a color palette to work that, like last month's, reflects the coming of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. (Hey Sharon, it is spring up here, you know!...)

I decided to address the change that is most important in my life these days....that of the attaining of adulthood in my children. This year Max is 21 and Chad is 18, two landmark ages in becoming adult.

No one tells us at the beginning of the experience of motherhood that we will have to stay very light on our feet during the transition period of "letting go". While we will always be moms and always give unconditional love to our children, we sure have to change the way we behave towards them, and what we expect from them too, as they become independent. We have to relearn some of our own independence as well...I am no longer tied to my kids in the same way anymore. This was hard for me to understand at first, but I am making great progress, especially because my guys are doing so well in their lives and are both genuinely happy. ( A special thank you to Esther on that score!)

So, my little piece reflects all this musing....

I started by felting some hand-dyed soy silk onto a couple of vintage linen napkins that Pam Kellogg so generously shared with me.

The boys at ages 4 and 1.....

...and today.
It is an extremely sentimental setting for them, but this is as much about me as about it their feminine mom showcasing them in her love!

I kept to the palette pretty well except for using blue instead of green. It reflects their masculinity well.
I will square this all up when the stitching is done... for today, I will address those fan blades with some blue embroidery!
The square is 12" X 12"...on point it is 17" X 17".

A few notes to commenters....Cherry asked for more info about finishing a piece with foam core. The next issue of CQMagOnline will have a how-to article by me on that subject, so please look for it online at the end of this month.

Kim asked what I do with all the things I make....I am thinking about setting up an Etsy shop to give some of them new homes. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Literay Aside....

I'm going to post about my April TIF Challenge later, but first this....

I love Emerson. Of all the Americans in history I would love to meet, Ralph Waldo Emerson is number one. He is The Man.

I've read lots and lots about him, as well as his own writings. He opens up the inner and outer worlds larger and more beautifully to me than any other American. Here are two books I was deeply in the middle of, for the second time through....until a little book review caught my eye which sent me scurrying to my One Click at Amazon so I could order it immediately.
It came and I finally caught up on some sleep last night as I barely slept the two nights previous due to reading non stop. It was THAT good, and I felt I had to recommend it to you:

For those of us who grew up with these three....and you definitely know who you will not believe how much fun, and how satisfying this group portrait is. As social history, it is very good as well. So stop what you are doing right now and order this book.
Then I'll see you in about three days when you come up for air.

And now with a deep is back to Emerson. But I wish I could hang out with Carly, Joan, and Carole a little longer...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Embellisher Experiment #8, Finished

I went out on a limb with the frame for this piece.
I am very slow to pick up on the myriad of new materials textile bloggers are using (Stephanie Novatski is a great example of a fearless and experimental artist in this regard)...but I bit the bullet and decided to try out some angelina in the frame's inner border.
I'm going to stretch this over foam core, so it is technically not finished, but my work on it is done....I think.

The angelina is warm and glittery, and overall I like it. It just doesn't quite seem finished, somehow. Maybe it needs a little more stitching on it.
I will let it rest for now, as I am out of foam core anyway...

I have so appreciated your kind comments as this piece progressed. Thank you so much!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Embellisher Experiment #8, continued: Sequins, Beads, and Branches

The details are just about completed now.

French knots, using some "Light Effects" thread by DMC; little flower beads with seed bead centers, lots of different silk ribbon petal-like stitches, and little 2mm sequins with various seed beads securing them...all of these went on. Then I decided I needed some finer branches, so I embroidered those with some DMC linen floss. My goal was to create an overall unified effect using lots of different materials. I thought that would make the whole more interesting.

I added some herbage to the grassy foreground area, too. There will be a bit more to add there....Then I just have to frame this and I auditioned many, many fabrics toward that end. The one that won is going to be a lot of fun to use, something different for sure.
When that is done I will start on the Take It Further challenge for April. An idea has arrived full-blown in my mind...this does not often happen!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Embellisher Experiment #8, continued: More Detail

The idea all along with the felted landscapes was to add the detail with handwork on top of the felted background. This is what has gone since yesterday....

Oh yes, those are dandelions!
This still has a ways to go.....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

An Embellisher Teacher comes to Call

Catherine Smith teaches the embellisher class at Portland's premier sewing center, Montavilla. She found me via the blog here and we have been corresponding for awhile...and yesterday she came to visit for the day, bearing knowledge and inspiration! She brought lots of different materials for felting for me to examine, including different kinds of silk and wool roving, angelina fibers, tools I hadn't heard of, books and magazines that were new to me...just a born teacher, she is. We ate cookies and talked, ohhed and ahhed for about 6 hours. It was such a treat.

She wouldn't let me take her picture which was a shame because she is very pretty! But I could photograph the angelina flowers on her shirt...these were made with a sheet of angelina and her embroidery machine.

And while we are on the subject of angelina--which I had never used before, and which by the way you can purchase at this great website, DesignsByDawn--here is a butterfly Catherine made, also with her embroidery machine and angelina.

More butterflies made with angelina and her embroidery machine...these she gave to me! Aren't they obvious candidates for a crazy quilt?

She made this bowl with her embroidery machine and angelina...I think it is absolutely stunning. She used metallic thread in both the top and the bobbin. (Different machines handle the various makes of metallic threads differently, and Catherine knows them all. When I go to her house she is going to help me really nail metallic sewing with my humble Brother machine.)

Catherine brought a whole palette of angelina fibers, both the fusible and non fusible kind, and let me choose my palette and create my own sheet to use in future projects. So here is my first angelina!

OK, on to the felting.
Catherine brought several of her projects to show me how different felting techniques and materials can be used.

This piece uses many of them. Some of the silk is just barely "tacked" on the surface with the embellisher, while the base behind it is felted to make a smooth surface. The fuzzy yarns were hand couched, to preserve their fuzziness, but yarns can be felted into place as well. The purple base is commercial felt, and she uses a cotton batting as a foundation. Beads were added last.

If you have already beaded your piece but there is more felting you want to add, Catherine showed me a great new tool by Clover that is just the thing:

Click on this picture so you can really see it. This little gizmo has three felting needles and you can very articulately felt in fiber right alongside your beading (or whatever). This is a must buy, I think.

This is a felting base, also made by Clover. You put your hand felting onto it and punch into the bristles...instead of into your hand or lap. This little item is spendy, about $20, so I think I will find an alternative solution. Styrofoam, for example...

Indeed, felting has so taken off that the business world has recognized a receptive market for new products...such as this blank woolen totebag that is already felted and ready to decorate. She bought it at Fabric Depot in Portland for about $15.00. It was made in Nepal.

This is a sample that Catherine left with me that really intrigued me. Some of the fibers are totally blended into the background with the embellisher, and then they get progressively looser, to the point where they need to be couched on by hand. This concept has so many possbilities, especially for nature type scenes.

Finally, Catherine brought the latest copy of Jenny Haskins' Creative Expressions magazine, which I had never seen before. You can purchase it here. This sweater was created by the Japanese fabric artist Nobuko Ema, and the magazine has detailed instructions for how to create the gorgeous embellishment on it. The look is simply to die for, in my humble opinion.
Thank you, Catherine, for a lovely day!

Switching gears entirely, here is a link my brother just sent to me, from the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art. (I am not making this up.) As my brother said, "It's not just the intersection of science and art, it's the intersection of science and fabric art! You are part of an amazing, demented, brilliant community, my dear!"
Isn't it so?