Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Memories that Linger..." Part 4: "Building" the Cabins

The focus, heart and soul of this project for Camp Newaygo is the grouping of these three old cabins.  They are driving the entire piece, so I wanted to "build" them first.

Here are some of my construction tools!

 Spray adhesive, masking tape, marking tools, exacto knife, gluestick, rotary cutter, magnifier, remotes, scissors, ruler, cutting mat

I've been wanting a large lightbox for years, and this project was just the excuse I needed to finally buy one, from Amazon.
In the photo below I have placed the area of the large full scale drawing I wanted to trace, the cabin (#9) on the right, over the lighted surface.  Over it is a layer of muslin, which will be my foundation fabric.  Having the design traced on the muslin will help me orient placement of my cabin fabrics as I collage them into place.

 Muslin over pattern on lightbox, with photo nearby for reference as I trace.

The next step was to again trace the cabin design, but this time onto freezer paper.  I use this to sometimes cut out actual templates, sometimes for tracing a specific shape onto tracing paper for then cutting out a shape, and sometimes to help me place an element exactly on the collage.  

 Cabin #9 design traced onto freezer paper.

The big pieces go on first.  Everything has to be lined up as perfectly as I can get it.

Cabin #9, under construction.

After much trial and error, I learned that the best way to make those window frames was to cut them up from a single piece. Using the exacto knife made this possible. Because these frames are so delicate, the white fabric has been prepared with fusible web.  This prevents the fabric from fraying and also assures the frames will stay put when I have positioned them exactly where they need to be.

Cutting out the inside of the window frame, through the tracing paper.

Another helpful discovery was to use the holes from the windows cut from my freezer paper tracing to help me "register" their placement onto their background fabric.  (Alas, the lightbox could not shine through dark brown silk taffeta to help me see the tracing on the muslin.)  This worked really well.

Placement of three windows using the freezer paper.

The picture below shows Cabin #3 well underway.  (Sorry it is so blurry.) Some of the pieces are held in place with spray adhesive, others with fusible web, and others yet with gluestick.  It just depends on the situation.

Cabin #3, the collage underway. 

I was constantly referring to the printed photograph I am basing this composition upon, using that slick lighted magnifing glass to peer as closely as I could into the actual construction details, especially of the railings and the steps.  I really want this to read properly.  The eyes of my future viewers will catch anything false!

 Magnifying the steps on Cabin #1.

I learned so much while making my first Cabin #1, that by the time #2 and #3 were done, my original Cabin  #1 looked pretty rough in comparison, so I did it over. There will be trees added in the foreground in front of the cabins and behind them in the background, which will help seat them into place.  Right now they look like they are floating. Of course there will be the foreground area with the picnic table too, but that will be created last.  In landscape quilts I always work from back to front.

 Cabins #1, #2, and #3, collaged on muslin foundations and taped into place on full sized pattern.

This was painstaking work, but I really enjoyed it. 

The next step is to add the "leading", that is, the black outline, around all my shapes on these collages, because this commission is going to take the form of a stained glass quilt.  But I am going to let these rest for a day before tackling that--it, too, will be a demanding and painstaking process.

Then I'll be able to start in on the background woods. That will be much more spontaneous!

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Memories that Linger..." Part Three: Creating the Design

When I was asked to make a wall hanging for the newly refurbished and expanded lodge at Camp Newaygo, the first thing I had to know was where it would hang. I love site specific design very much, and my design process was going to be based on the location of my piece.

I traveled to Michigan and got to stay with my old friend Annie, and she took me to camp for a tour. Though I have years of happy camp memories from my youth, I had never been to Camp Newaygo.
I needed some real time visuals, not wanting to work from someone else's photos.

I also knew that I wanted the focus to be a very iconic image from camp.  The lakefront with the dock and all the canoes?  A campfire? The path through their wetlands?
All good but had to be the cabins, the oldest ones there, built when the camp was founded in the late 1920s.
These are cabins #1, #2, and #3.

Cabins, #1, #2, and #3, Camp Newaygo, Michigan
When I think of the hundreds and hundreds of girls who have called these cabins home, in that special girl-power reality that is camp...all the friendships, the fun, the longing inherent in those adolescent years, (and the concomitant endearing and exquisite dramas)--and most of all, when I remember my own growth and happiness within the rustic outdoor world that made camp so special....I just knew this was my scene.

Then it was on to the lodge to pick a spot.

One of the large spaces in Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo, Michigan

The large rooms in the lodge have walls of windows and are full of light--a very great thing but not so great for textile wall-hangings, (fading is the issue) not to mention the special events held in these spaces that would require my wall-hanging to be moved often.  So I kept looking and recognized the perfect spot as soon as I saw it.

Stairs down to the new lower floor, Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo, Michigan

That wall above the stairs is perfect.  It gets no direct sunlight, and will be a nice large area to fill with color, memory, and meaning....that's the plan, anyways!
My design could be very large, about 62" X 78".

I did use my photograph of the cabins to develop my drawing.

Edge detection from cabins photo

I confess to having flunked Photoshop the three times I tried to learn it, but I can handle a freeware program called Irfanview.  I used it to get this edge detection from my cabins photo.

Then I took the edge detection jpeg and ran it through a program I like so much that I pay for it every year, called Rapid Resizer.  I was able to enlarge my edge detection and print it up to a 14" X 18" image, and traced my design off of it.  The only change I made was scooting cabin #9 toward the center just a little bit, for compositional purposes.

I asked Anne and Ellen to choose a phrase that would be meaningful to everyone connected with camp.  I like words on quilts.  After what I am told was a serious and protracted family discussion, they chose a phrase from a favorite camp song, "Witchcraft".  We used to sing that same song at Camp Arbutus. Memories that linger/Constant and true was their most excellent choice.

As I was working with my design, I had some trouble with the lay-out.  I messaged my Facebook friend Ginny Maxam, a graphic and card designer whose compositions always are so pleasing to me.  She steered me in the right direction, suggesting the central image be an oval with the phrases surrounding it like a hug.  Thank you, Ginny!

Working drawing, "Memories that Linger"

Above the central scene will be a twinkly night sky, and below some of the wildflowers that grow at camp. Some of the details and the font may change, but this is pretty much it.

I'll be assembling my scene collage style on a muslin foundation. Because I took such care to get the proportions of the cabins right, I wanted to blow up my drawing to actual size so I could make actual freezer paper templates for cutting out my fabrics.  

So my next stop was FedEx/Kinko's, and their sweet wide format printer. 

Full scale pattern, "Memories that Linger"

And here is the pattern, ready to work with, up on my design wall.
The next step is to build my cabins, the subject of Part 4 in this series.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Memories that Linger"....Part 2: A Warm Up Exercise

In Michigan, camp takes place in the woods. 

I live in the Pacific Northwest now, and though this is indeed tree country out here, the feel is obviously very different, especially in scale.
So I did a little warm up piece to start to get myself back into the Michigan woods like those above.

I started with a background, needlefelting hand dyed silk fibers from Treenway Silks and bits of silk and wool fabrics onto a base of printed cotton.

 6" X 11" background prepared with felting

Then, because the hand was still so easy to stitch through, I developed two representative trees...just to start thinking about them as I embroidered....

"Conifer and Deciduous" Copyright Allison Aller 2018

Because my wallhanging will be 5' X 6', I don't think I'll be able to go into this much detail....but one thing leads to another.....

"Memories that Linger", a Commision for Camp Newaygo, Part 1: Introduction

I am embarking on a highly personal journey with this project. It interweaves deep themes of friendship, girlhood, family, memory, and love of place (This last is especially important to a Taurus like me.) It's the most meaningful artistic challenge I've undertaken in my life. I intend to blog about the creation of the wall-hanging I am to make for Camp Newaygo and where it takes me--both inwardly in my heart, and outwardly in the sewing room.

"Memories that Linger.." is such an apt title. (It's a phrase from a favorite camp song.)  This journey is about the memories we make, and how we deliberately refine them as we age...It's about the ones we want to keep and nurture, and the ones we need to nuke into oblivion. It's about how we can choose how memories linger.....Do they rule us or do they sustain us? Do they define us? Do they propel us forward or hold us back?

But don't worry, this will not be À la recherche du temps perdu....just simply a story of growing up, told in fabric and in thoughts, and how "you can take the girl out of the Mitten, but you can't take the Mitten out of the girl...."


Annie, one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her sister Ellen commissioned me to make a wall-hanging for the newly renovated and expanded lodge at Camp Newaygo, in Newaygo County, Western Michigan, near where we grew up.

 The mitten

The newly renovated and expanded Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo.

Camp is very important and dear to Annie and Ellen--all the women and girls in their family for three generations have gone there. Thousands of girls who have attended since its founding in 1927 feel the same strong love and gratitude for camp as they do.

I myself went to a similar camp north of Newaygo, called Camp Arbutus. This cabin, Slide Inn, was my perch above the lake as a complicated 12 year old who found peace in the woods, and also as a much more complicated college-aged counselor at age 19.  Camp was my refuge from family drama back home; it was my joy in being outside and up north; it was where my heart got broken by mean girls but mended by sweet ones. Camp was also where I learned to sail, tie knots, shoot arrows, sing in 4 part harmony, and sneak cigarettes in the outhouse.  But I digress....

 Slide Inn, Camp Arbutus, Mayfield, Michigan   photo copyright Don Harrison

Camp Newaygo has reinvented itself over the last 20 years or so, becoming a year round conference, event, and community center, as well as maintaining its girls' camp programs in the summer.  

Aerial view of Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo

Until Annie and Ellen hired me for the commission, I was oblivious as to how this reinvention of Camp Newaygo was made possible. I certainly didn't know how much it involved my own father.
Nor did I anticipate how my old friendship with Annie would be reinvigorated with such beautiful love by this place and this project.

This plot is indeed a thick one!....

Friday, January 12, 2018

Examples of the Glue Applique Method for Stained Glass Quilts

One of the techniques from my book, Allie Aller's Stained Glass Quilts Reimagined, is called the "Glue Applique Method".  I'll be teaching it at Road to California next week, and have been busy making new quilts to showcase the versatility of this technique.

Here it is in solid fabrics, really a fun kid's quilt:

Then I tried it in wool and cotton flannel.  This functional quilt is nice and heavy and warm.
Here it is up on the design wall.
Below is a detail of the center section.

Then I wanted to try using a vintage Dresden block and mixing some vintage fabrics in with contemporary and hand dyed fabrics too, to create an unusual piece:

It's not quilted yet...I really like it because it is so different!

Then I made a very simple quilt as a "class sample", to show my students how big a bang graphically they could achieve with very simple sewing.

If you look at each of these quilts, you can detect the common block design, right?

Here it is in (mostly) batiks:

And then there is the quilt that started it all, "Windy Sunshine", a project in my stained glass quilting book.  Here is a detail:

Different leading techniques are used in the quilts in this post, (all covered in the book), and I think they do stretch the idea of what a stained glass quilt can be.
Pretty fun!