Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reusable Grocery Bag with Birds for Christmas

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

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

the making of ...Cookie Cutter Condos

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  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 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

Just Around the Corner
24" x 24" x 5"

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

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 (, 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.