Saturday, November 30, 2013

Radical Elements

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?

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

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

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?

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

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!
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?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Giveaway Winners!

Giveaway Winners!

Congrats to Debbi d-w and DonaleeK who are both winners of a free issue of Modern Patchwork!  If you will send me your addresses, I will be happy to pop these in the mail to you!

I started sewing some patchwork yesterday.  I want to make some reusable grocery bags.  Austin has banned the use of disposable plastic bags.  I am happy that they decided to do this as I think it is a ridiculous waste of petroleum.  The petroleum is a limited resource, and I hate seeing it used for things we so casually throw away.  And the bags are a big source of trash and pollution. Please note that I am not a zealot in this regard.  I can waste petroleum products just as much as the next guy, and it doesn't usually bother me too much.  But, the plastic bags are one source that I will gladly give up.  I have had reusable grocery bags for years, only now I have to remember to take them with me!  Most days I am pretty good about this.  However, my bags are starting to look a little ragged and worn out.  A perfect opportunity to make some new ones! 

Also, most reusable grocery bags are advertising something, and usually it's the grocery store where I obtained it.  I like to think that I could use this free exposure to advertise myself, and my art.  I am starting simply though, to see if my design will hold up to the task, and then, who knows what I will do with the future bags?  Or what YOU could do?? 

Here are some process photos of the making the prototype pattern for the bag...
It starts with the inspiration fabric from IKEA.  This fabric is upholestry weight, inexpensive, and rich with fantastic designs.  I could have just used it as a whole cloth for my bags, but no.  I am a quilter. We cut stuff up and sew it back together.  It is just what I do...
There are a lot of subject themes in the fabric, but I decided to go with the birds.  You can also see the bottom image of a scooter.  I am saving that for a smaller tote bag to use when we go to the store on our electric scooters for small stuff.  Too fun!  Isn't this blue bird with a crown so cute!!

The next step is auditioning some fabrics to go with the fussy cut bird squares.  Not all of these will make it to the final round.  Hey, did you see the cat?  How can I skip the cat with a bag of birds?  I can't.  There is also a little dog.  Reminds me of the little runaway dachshund that frequents our neighborhood.  I scoop him up every time I find him.  His name is Link, and he is a very clever escape artist.  And so friendly and sweet!  We have nicknamed him the Missing Link!  But, I digress.

As usual, I have more difficulty than I'd like making decisions, so I decide to put in some 9 patch blocks, and get to work on those...

It is late afternoon and I have a sinus headache.  True confessions: the math and thinking part of making patchwork is suddenly too hard, which tells me that I should be resting instead of sewing.  Note: I choose the latter.  I decide to just cut some strips and sew and not think about it.  Somehow it works out?? How is that possible?  I am delighted with how the 9 patch look with the fabrics.
Well, at least I am making progress. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Houston Awards and Modern Patchwork

Houston Awards and Modern Patchwork

Sadly, I had to cancel my trip to Houston this year.  It was unavoidable and especially disappointing to miss the awards ceremony.  Thanks to Victoria Findlay Wolfe, I was able to find out about my awards in nearly real time.  She posted photos of the ceremony on FB within minutes of their announcement...which is how I found out that my quilt You Are What You Eat, won an Honorable Mention, and my quilt, Windows, won a 2nd place!!  Outstanding!!

Throughout the week I watched my friends attend the show through the miracle of Facebook.  Here are some of my friends that I will definitely count on seeing next year if not sooner!  And there are so many others I missed.  Poohy!
Jamie Fingal, Sherri McCauley, Irs Karp, Leslie Jenison, and Sheila Frampton-Cooper
Meanwhile, back at home, a surprise came in the mail!  Three copies of Modern Patchwork!  I have a small quilt (Fresh Plus) published with instructions on how to make it.  Isn't the cover gorgeous?!!  You can purchase an issue here, directly from Interweave, or you can leave a comment (literally about anything!).   I will pick two people to receive a copy from me!  I will announce the winners on Friday, so stop back by!