Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reusable Grocery Bag with Birds for Christmas
I made my mom a reusable grocery bag for Christmas.  She LOVED it!  ...which makes my heart sing! Don't you just love that magic of giving a gift that someone likes and adores?  Yes, yes, yes!

It was made from my last sample of Ikea fabric, and some selections from my stash.  I also included a screen print of my blog address on the orange dot fabric.  I think it turned out well and I hope my mom will enjoy using this little bag for a long time. 

Meanwhile, now that I have the general idea of how to make these lovelies, I have ordered something that I have been coveting for quite some time.  It is Expensive, which is not my norm.  But sometimes you just have to go where your heart takes you...

I can't decide if I will make more shopping bags from whole pieces, or chop it up and mix it with some other fabrics?  hmm....

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the making of ...Cookie Cutter Condos
Step 1:
To make the blocks I used in this quilt, I first dyed some yardage, in about 11 different colors, and for each color I made a light, medium, and intense amounts of dye.  Then, I did a lot of batik stamping of a square block, and a circle inside it.  They were bleach discharged, and cut apart into individual units.  Then all the blocks were shuffled into new piles for a new layer of dye on top.  Then the wax was boiled off and the blocks were washed out.  A lot of work for each individual block, but resulting in a fabulous array of color choices!!  See original post here.  It also made a large number of blocks, and so I find it really fun to find new things to do with them!  Each block in this photo has had fusible ironed to the back and trimmed by hand with scissors into these rounded block shapes.  I then selected which blocks I wanted to use, and placed them in rows.
Then, the colored rows were pressed onto some dyed batting.  I think I had about 9 colors of dyed batting to choose from.  And though it looks so pretty here, most of this batting will not be visible in the end.  The only place it peeks through is in the center of the circles which will be cut out and hand stitched.  A white batting definitely shows, which can be either desirable or not.  I liked this so much, I almost decided not to trim off the dyed batting and just let it show.  Maybe next time?

The next step is to machine quilt each strip of blocks, and then satin stitch around the batik.  It adds another color to each block which I just love!  Here is my collection of shiny threads.  Thus requiring  a lot of thread changes, which is sort of a pain and a bit time consuming.

Then I carefully hand cut out the circles.  Here is a pile of them.  I keep thinking they will be used on another project, but with the exception of this quilt, I have not really used them much and am accumulating quite the collection!
Then, one by one, I select an embroidery thread that is either a compliment of the color of the block, or a contrast, and I hand stitch around the edges of the holes.  I also use a lot of different colors of embroidery floss.  Each block now has 2 colors of dye, and 2 different colors of thread.  More please!
Next, I make the background quilt.  All the little blocks on this will peek through the holes I just cut.  They are all hand-dyed fabrics and fused into place.  This section will be layered onto batting and a backing, and then pin basted.
I am not sure if you can see this, but the next step is to machine quilt the entire background.  It is almost like making two different quilts and then attaching one on top of the other.  I used white Masterpiece thread and just stitched in mostly straight vertical lines, very closely spaced.
Now comes the hard part.  The other parts are laborious, but not difficult.  This step is physically difficult and requires more skill.  I pin the strip of quilted, satin stitched, hole cut and hand stitched strips in place, one at a time.  I will satin stitch around EACH individual block.  This requires turning the entire quilt completely around under the very small neck of my Pfaff.  And avoid getting stuck by the pins.  And, I use yet another thread color for each block too.  This adds two more colors to our count of 4 because I have a new color of fabric in the hole, and a new thread color.
Now, repeat that for each strip.
When all that is completed....whew!...I get the quilt wet and pin it to a flat surface, in this case I place one of my design walls on the floor.  Then I set a fan on it and let it dry over night.  This 'blocks' the quilt in to a nice flat and square shape.  Sometimes the excessive sewing can distort the shape a bit.  This step corrects that.
On to the last steps....I apply a facing to all the outer raw edges and turn them under to the back side.  I hand stitch the facing in place.  Then I sew a hanging tube and sew it in place (by hand).  And, last, I hand craft a label with the quilt's new name and a few other details, and stitch in in place on the back.  All done!

Each little block is actually a pocket!  I am pleased with the results! 
And, if you have visited my blog before you will recognize this method of working from several other quilts I have made.
Windows, which won 2nd place in Houston this year!
Park Place, which is touring with IQA in the Tactile Architecture exhibit.
High Rise, which will be heading to Art Quilt Elements 2014 from March 21, 2014 to May 3, 2014 at the Wayne Art Center in Philadelphia!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cookie Cutter Condo
38" x 26"
This one is quickly becoming one of my all time favorites!  What does not show in the photo, is the wonderful texture to go with all the marvelous colors!  This is the other new art quilt that I have hanging at the Gallery at the J, up until Jan 12, 2013.  Hope you get a chance to see it while it is there, because there is a small chance that I might have a buyer for it!
Next time, I will show the process involved in the making, but today I wanted to tell you about why my art quilts are so...um....pricey.  Eek, not a fun discussion.  First, off the top, if I sell my work, I do need to pay the government their fair share.  Okay, maybe not fair, but it comes in around 20% to 30% of my net income.  There are also commission fees to be paid to the venue, which are around 20% to 50%.  So, before I get too ahead of myself with the lofty asking price of $2,400 for this piece, I am already averaging about 1/2 or LESS of the sales price that I get to keep, if it sells.

Next the cost of supplies:
This is difficult for me to calculate, there are so many variables.  I have at least 45 different spools of thread.  I used quilting threads, embroidery threads, and shiny threads for the satin stitching. I don't know how much I use of each one, but the variety of colors is important to my work.  Thread is expensive, and yes, it can be used on multiple projects, which makes the calculation more difficult.  I also use a lot of different colors of dye (about $2 - $3/ounce + shipping), a BIG bucketload of water in the batik and dyeing process, and the cost of the wax.  About the water....in Austin, (maybe because of our drought?), the more water you use, the higher your rate.  And in this piece, I used a lot of different combinations of dye which add significantly to the labor, and costs involved in making the fabric.  Now add the cost of the yardage of fabric used and the cost of the batting (which I usually buy on sale). 

The cost of labor involved:
This piece took about a month to create, start to finish.  If I get a $1000 profit from the sale of this piece, and I could maintain this level of productivity and profit for a whole year, every year, it comes out to $12000/year.  Poverty.  I think this is what my momma meant when she said that ART doesn't PAY. It is also why I really, really appreciate winning a monetary award at a quilt show!  Meanwhile, I have a sneaky suspicion that the developers who create these multi-story condo units are netting a LOT more than that!  Maybe I picked the wrong profession?  Can you imagine what those real condo units would like if I had been the architect?  Ha!

The cost of equipment:
And, I can't make the art without the tools.  The costs of the capital outlay include....sewing machines (I have 2), irons (I have used and killed many of them), ironing board, tables and chairs, a good camera, the computer, design walls, lights, shelving and containers (and this is only the dry studio for sewing, not the batik studio for batik and dyeing and printing).

Many of the artists in my field who find a way to support themselves write books, write for magazines, travel to give lectures, teach workshops, make fabric lines, create patterns of their work, and try to sell some art.  However, if you are juggling so many different things to stay afloat, it is really difficult to find time to make ART.  And the more you juggle (in my experience), the harder it is to connect with the muse that allows you that beautiful place to listen to your soul.

Meanwhile, regardless of the sales, or the lack of, it is extremely rewarding to have my work hanging in public, getting to be seen at by the admiring public, and sharing the joy of creating here with you. As always, thanks so much for stopping by!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Just Around the Corner
24" x 24" x 6"

I had such a GREAT time at the opening of my first exhibit in Austin!  It was called Inspirations in Fiber Art, with Barb Forrister at the Gallery at the J.  The art committee put together a wonderful event with wine and snacks and a delightful flutist, Kenzie Slottow, who composed her own fantastic compositions that set a perfect tone to go with our exhibit!  Thank you so much!

And now an opportunity to reveal one of the two pieces I made this fall to go with my other works.
This piece is wrapped around a 1 1/2" deep canvas.  It makes it easy to hang, and it can be easily rotated into different orientations.  This is both fun and functional.  Each direction gives a different feeling to the piece.  And over the years, if the buildings start to sag, because of gravity, it can easily be rotated another direction.  LOVE it! And, I love the background, part black and part white.  It sets a very modern feeling to the work.
My two characters (Guatemalan worry dolls) are staged to meet each other 'just around the corner'.  Their path is traced through the spaces between the buildings, much like our own meandering paths, with large stitches of embroidery floss....
which is apparently difficult to capture in a photo, but wonderfully apparent if standing in front of the piece!
And a few process photos, just in case you wondered...
Here's an audition of building placements before they were stuffed.  At this point, they are merely stitched into cube shapes and turned right side out.  They stand pretty well like this, unless a cat happens to jump onto the table.  In this arrangement, I have the tall buildings at opposite and diagonal corners with the short buildings forming a valley (of sorts).  I like it, but did not choose it.
This is a photo of the stack forming as I fill each shape with an individually cut piece of ethafoam to fit.
Once I determine how many buildings I will need, I often place them in a grid, and slowly fill it in.  Then I don't need to keep count.  I love this photo though.  The buildings looks so lovely, and the color is so concentrated.  It sings of blue.
This is the quilt with the corners stitched to fit around the canvas frame.  I painted a grid of dots to help with the placement of the buildings.  This is one line stitched on.  A start...with many more to go.
Many people have asked, how do I attach the buildings and what do I do to get them to stand out from the surface.  Well, I hand sew around the edges of the buildings.  If the fabric is tightly stretched, it works pretty well.  It is difficult to pin the buildings in the correct place, as they tend to resist the pinning process.  And if you pin too many, you will get a lot of pokes while attempting to sew them on. 
As I add more and more buildings.  I love seeing the quilt bent in various hilly shapes as I work.  It is mesmerizing and so rewarding.  And, it sends my mind into a creative whirling vortex.  This looks pretty cool, yes?

And, the exhibit is up through Jan 12, 2014.  So if you weren't able to make it to the opening last night, you still have a chance to swing by to see it!






Thursday, December 05, 2013

Earth Stories

Last year, about this time, (maybe, a tad earlier?), I got the news that my proposal had been accepted for Earth Stories, an exhibit by SAQA.  Normally, when I enter my work into a juried show, I am so excited to find out that it got in!  This time was different.  I was selected based on my past work, and I would be making something entirely new for this exhibit.  There is a certain amount of stress and pressure to live up to expectations and I felt anxiety. 

The theme of the show was to make a work that celebrates some one or some project that is making a positive difference on the earth.  I selected Annie Leonard who put together a website and animated videos called The Story of Stuff.

I made an art quilt in 2011 based on one of her videos and I called it Planned Obsolescence.  Here is a photo of that little quilt.  It is currently on exhibit at the Gallery at the J, Austin, TX.  You can read the story about this quilt here.
Back to the Earth Stories project... I was visiting Annie's website (www.storyofstuff.org), and saw a new video!  It is the Story of Bottled Water.  A new concept emerges....manufactured demand.
It tells of the role of advertising to make consumers believe that they need items.  I don't believe there are any real villains here.  Someone creates a novel idea, they want to sell it, advertisers help them, and the consumer buys it, and if they like it, they will keep buying it.

The only thing is that sometimes I feel like I am drowning in too much stuff.  I feel resentful about the amount of time it takes to put stuff away, or get rid of old stuff, or find some lost item in all the stuff that is neatly stuffed into little pockets of space, drawers and closets.  I started to wonder how much stuff do I have?  And, do I really want to know?  I fear the answer.  And I fear the process of finding out the answer.

I wondered how much 'manufactured demand' plays in my consumer habits.  So I launched into Phase one of a whole new game plan, count all the stuff.  And then I would use the information to create an art quilt for this project.  And, I am curious that if I actually know how much stuff I have, will it influence my buying habits?  And, I have, on more than one occasion, regretted submitting this proposal. This has been yet another example of wishing the creative muse would just be quiet so that I could do fun stuff instead.  Because counting all my stuff....was not fun.  Not even close to it.  And, almost every one that I told about the project thought I was nuts.  This didn't help.

Meanwhile, I thought I would share my project with you. Now.  During this holiday season.  It is a perfect time to consider the intention behind the frenzied determination to get and give more stuff.  And, I LOVE Christmas, but now that the year has passed, and I finished counting all my stuff, and I know how much stuff I have, I really don't want any more of it.  I have emerged from the piles of stuff, a changed person.  It was transformative.
My perfect Christmas?  More time with the people I love.  Real.  Simple.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

p.s.  I hope you will continue to visit, as I continue to blog about my Earth Stories project. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Radical Elements

I meant to post this months ago, but I got delayed.  Back in January, I sent out a request for bra straps to several art quilting list-serves.  It is an unusual request, to be sure, and of an intimate nature.  But, I felt rather strongly about the whole theme of breast cancer, and it's early detection, and I just knew that I wanted some bra straps from real people to add to the work.  I got 6 responses.  And one of those was Lisa Quintana. She had been battling Stage 4 breast cancer for many years and graciously sent me a number of her old bra straps.  It was early October of this year when she lost her battle with breast cancer and died. My heart just aches for her family and friends.  She and I had visited multiple times via email, but I had never met her.  You can get a sense of what a wonderful and generous spirit she had by visiting her blog.  Meanwhile, I am left still grieving and numb, not quite knowing what to say or where to go from here.  One thing is for sure, it is never easy to lose a friend.

The quilt.

It doesn't look like a quilt to me.  And, it doesn't feel like a quilt either.   It is supposed to be the definition of a quilt, 3 layers, held together with stitching.  However, the call for consideration stated:
As the second part of the Radical Elements theme, the artists will also be asked to move quilting beyond the usual materials of fabric and thread, exploring the function and decorative properties of different surfaces and stitching materials. This exhibit is the first to embrace the newly expanded definition of an art quilt and will be a signature exhibition for SAQA.
And, from my previous posts, you can see that I am sticking with that concept fairly well.  Today, I will reveal a bit more, but not all.  We are supposed to keep images of the entire quilt until the opening of the exhibit, which I believe is in May 2014. 

I decided to use a black screen to hold all the components in place.  I also am using recycled plastic milk bottles.  I cut many, many circles, all by hand.  They will be used for 2 different purposes.  And, last I decided that the top "layer" of the quilt would be plastic baby bottle nipples.  I love all the symbolism back to mammary glands for this project!


I took the original drawing with all the circles and placed it under the screen, then stamped the placement of the circles with white paint.  The circles that required the LED's got an additional white center placement paint mark.  You can see the LED stuck through the screen here, with it's own little special resistor.
Here are all the LED's on a large portion of the black screen, correctly wired as evidenced by the fact that the lights are glowing with the switch flipped to the "on" position.  Yay!
On the back I used one of the plastic milk jug circles for each LED.  This protected the black screen from my heat gun when I applied the shrink wrap to the electrical connections.
You can also see that the wires stick up rather high, these will be bent to a flat position later.  On the front side, the LED lights are hidden by a clear nipple that has a smaller white plastic milk jug disc inserted inside of it.  While the lights are off, the LED's stay hidden, and when the lights are on, they shine right through the white plastic disc, a perfect translucency.  And it demonstrates the ability to see a tumor through high density breast tissue (possible with the MBI, but not with the mammogram.)
The nipples were fairly easy to sew by hand with a giant doll needle and embroidery floss.  The hard part was that the thread keep getting twisted around and stuck on the other nipples.  On the back, it now looks like this:
I used one plastic milk jug disc for each nipple, even if it didn't have a circuit component.  It helped all the nipples look the same from the front, and it added some stability to the structural components.
And, with the lights on?
Perfecto!

Last, here is an in process shot of the placement of the bra straps, before all the nipples were sewn on.
Thanks to everyone who helped me with this project!  I will be super happy to add your name if you desire, just send me a note, or leave a comment.  





Friday, November 22, 2013

Inspirations in Fiber Art
Coming Soon! 

I am so excited to have this exhibit at the Gallery at the J! Hope you can make it to the opening on December 12!  I am looking forward to having some of my favorite pieces at the show, but also two new works that have not been seen before! 



Monday, November 18, 2013

Grocery Shopping Bag, Part 2

Okay, here is my second attempt.  I like the size, I like the construction, and the fabric is pretty appealing to me.  You may remember the little quilt I made from this fabric (see here)?

Here's a close up of the quilting. It is a PERFECT opportunity to practice machine quilting before tackling a larger project!
This bag is two sided, which I also LOVE!  The fabric from IKEA is a very large scale fabric, so I can use the same fabric and get a different motif for the back.
And now that I am happy with the prototypes, all that is left is trying to decide how to put my blog name on the bag.  Something like this?
In addition to having a very useful and reusable grocery bag... I want to encourage a few new viewers to my blog each time I go shopping.  However, this one was done in photoshop.  Now I need to do something to apply the text to the real thing....I will have to get back to you on this one, but am open to your ideas!!  Thanks for stopping by!



Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to Make a Prize Winning Quilt?
p.s.  I haven't a clue....   :)

I have won awards on quilts that I thought were outstanding, and I have won an award on at least one quilt that I wasn't even sure if it deserved to be juried into the show.  It often feels like a lottery to me, but you can't play if you don't enter!  There is no telling how wonderful your competition will be, nor who your judges will be or what will appeal to them.  I love winning prizes, but I also love to have my soul filled with inspiration of seeing the quilts.  And, my favorites are not necessarily the ones that win a prize.  So, I appreciate everyone who makes and enters their work!

1.  Work from your heart.  There is work that needs to be made.  Listen to your heart, it will tell you what to do.  It is impossible to second guess a quilt judge, so don't go there.  If your work makes YOUR heart sing, you are well on your way.  And, regardless if you win a prize or not, you will be doing what you need to do. 

2.  Pay attention to your craftsmanship.  Do the best quality work that you can.  Improve your skills. If you need to rip out a quilting line and do it again, YES, do that!  This is not a race, so take your time.  I have had MANY comments from judges about being able to see the stops and starts of my quilting lines.  This has NEVER been listed as a feature to be judged (see #3 below) on any judge's critique form.  But, apparently, it really bothers, a LOT of judges.  So, one year, I took the extra time, to make my stops and starts practically invisible.  I left long tails of thread on every beginning and ending of quilting lines and then used a needle to bury them in the quilt.  It was time consuming, tedious, and sucked the joy out of the construction of the quilt. That quilt won a first place! It was probably not the only reason the quilt won, but I believe it was the extra step that made it an appealing choice to the judges.

3.  Find out what the show is asking the Judges to score. What are the criteria for a winning quilt?  And, most shows will NOT publish this or tell you.  But you can find out.  If you ever enter a quilt, and you receive back the judges comments, then you will know!  Or you can ask a friend who has entered, they will have a list of the judge's critique form.  For IQA, this is it:
1:  Visual Impact
2:  Original in design
3.  Execution of chosen construction techniques
4.  Appropriateness of quilting design
5.  Execution of quilting technique
6.  Use of color
7.  Balance of design
8.  Integration of all design elements
9.  Overall appearance
And, what I don't know is if this is the list for ALL quilts at the show, or just the ART quilts?

4. Try not to have false hopes.  Sometimes the list above gets changed.  You will not know about the changes until AFTER the show.  Also, even though the judges are highly skilled, they are people.  They react to different people's work differently.  They try to be as objective as possible and defer to the list above, but they are also subjective.  It was fairly obvious between the two extremes in scores, that one judge loved the stuffings out of my quilt, and it made the other judge puke and gag to be in the same room with it.   ;)   My work does not have to appeal to everyone for me to be okay with it. I really like this quilt.

5.  This brings me to my next point.  All the judges are different.  You don't get to pick the judge.  You only get to pick what you make.  If you make the best that you can, and hopefully it appeals to the judges, you might win a prize. 

I love winning prizes at quilt shows.  It is so validating to have my work esteemed so greatly that someone is willing to give me a ribbon or a monetary prize. It is a tremendous honor.  Respectfully, I have disagreed with the judges choices many times.  It dilutes the validity of their assessment of my work.  I think that is the greatest gift of all, to value my own voice in my work.  And it has taken many years to get to this place.  I always critique my own work, and rather harshly.  I am usually surprised when the judges don't point out all the flaws in my work, maybe they just don't have that much time??  ha! 

I usually pick something of value to me to work on to improve for the next quilt, and it is rarely the kind of things that annoy the quilt judges.  This year they were particularly annoyed with the knots of embroidery floss on the back of my quilt.  I have a choice to either change that style of construction, or work on something else.  And I am sorry to say that knots on the backs of art quilts has a pretty low priority for me.  And you will notice that it is NOT listed on the critique form, but it is one of those "hidden" craftsmanship traditions that still lingers (like starts and stops!) in the transition of accepting art quilts as ART, and no longer a quilt for a bed.  If you are planning to enter a work into a quilting venue, you must consider these long standing traditions. 

Also, I have met quite a few top winners at Houston who told me that this was their FIRST time to enter a quilt to Houston.  It is important to value your own work!  It can be especially intimidating to have the courage to finally enter a quilt to Houston and get a rejection from the jurors.  And a rejection can mean so many different things.  It could mean that your work isn't up to quality standards (yet), or it can also mean that it didn't appeal to the jurors (for unknown reasons), or the juror was tired by the time they got to your entry, or that in the process of putting together a cohesive show, your work didn't fit with the other works.  This means your work is very original! Why not pat yourself on the back and enter it somewhere else? Sometimes work rejected from Houston is accepted to other esteemed shows and even wins a prize, so summon up the courage to enter, and don't jump to conclusions about what a rejection means.
Bridge, a multiple rejected quilt...
Last, if any of my tips make your sewing experience less joyful, Please Don't Listen to Me!  Sewing and quilting should be above all things JOYFUL!
Happy Sewing!





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reusable Grocery Bags

Making the prototype.
both sides of the quilted grocery bag
See the previous post regarding fabric selections and inspirations.  Today, I am so pleased to share with you the results of my experiment.  The grocery bag actually worked!  It held up well on it's maiden voyage to the grocery store.  This one bag held....2 half gallons of ice cream, chocolate chips, muffin cups, a big canister of raisins, a dozen eggs, and some sliced cheese.  The handles did not rip off, and the bottom did not drop out.  I am still curious how it will hold up over the long haul, but it's a start! 

How to make....
Use a bag that you LIKE to make your measurements.  Piece together some fabric in a layout of your choice.  The first side I made, I did NOT like, and the project languished for a day.  So, I ripped it out.
I still can't believe that I did that!
Meanwhile, I was much happier with the new attempts.
Arrange the pieces to fill the entire space like this:
Notice the panel on the bottom is upside down, intentionally.  I will fold this panel in half to sew the sides and then it will be oriented properly.  I filled a space of about 40" long by 20" wide once it was pieced. Then layer the panel with some batting and a backing, and have some fun quilting it!! 

The overall size did shrink from the quilting, but I didn't mind because this is not the kind of project that needs precision. 
After it was quilted, I turned it over and place the straps on it, like this:
Here's a close up of the strap detail:
For the straps, I just looked at a cloth bag I had been using for years.  What construction technique did they use for the straps to hold up so well?  This was it.  I stitched over the folded up strap, once (but, I think I will go back and reinforce it with a second line of stitching).

Then I folded the long panel in half and stitched up the sides, twice, and zigzagged the raw edges.  Some of you might have a serger for this?  I do not....
Next, I folded the bag with the side seams on top of each other.  This makes the bottom of the bag pointed, like so...

And, if you are asking, why use two different colored handles?  A.  I like it.  B.  When opening the bag, it is easier to see which straps belong to which handle, visually reducing strap confusion.  I am making a second tote today, while writing this post, and did not make my straps different colors.  I will probably regret that...sigh.
I usually draw a line at this point.  I use a rotary cutter ruler and line up the side seam with one of the lines on the ruler, and then draw a line perpendicular to the side seam (this will be the bottom of the ruler).  How far up or down along this folded point you sew affects how wide the bottom of your bag is.  I selected about 5 inches across for a grocery bag.
Turn right side out and it's ready to go!
Tips:
1.  I padded the handles with two layers of batting.
2.  And, I suggest your favorite threads for piecing the blocks and quilting.  However, when stitching the structural components of the bag (attaching handles, sides, and bottoms), use upholestry weight thread.  You'll need a big needle to go with that.    :)

Last, my grocery store sacker thought the bag was too tall, she folded the edges down while packing it.  I may make the next one a bit shorter.  And, I am embarrassed to tell you that this bag took me 4 days to make.  I worked so slowly on it, partly because I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing.  I am glad that I stuck with it.  I think the next one will go much faster!  Hope you will give it a try!  Wouldn't it make a lovely gift?