Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Little Christmas Tree

Little Christmas Tree
12" x 12" x 1 1/2"

This cute little tree was inspired by some giftwrap.  So, unlike most of my projects, it is in no way original!  I saw the little triangle tree and was curious if I could sew triangles?  Yes! It can be done.
First I selected a palette of colors.
Next, I knew that I would need a triangle template to cut out all the triangles.  I opted for some heavy watercolor paper, and cut the triangle to a true size using the angles on my cutting mat and my rotary cutting ruler.  These triangles are easy because all the angles are 60 degrees, and that is conveniently marked on my tools!
Without thinking about it too much, I knew that I wanted to start small, but not so small that it would be difficult to handle.  I selected a 3" side length, and didn't worry too much about the final size. This one was used as a template for the red polka dots.  *I put a piece of sticky tape on the back, stuck it to my fabric, and then used my rotary ruler to add 1/4" seam allowance to each side before cutting.

Next, I decide to piece half the triangles, so I made another triangle like the first one and just cut it in half.
I did NOT use the orange plastic triangle at all, except to look at.  I have had it since I took drafting in high school, and use it for a visual reference. These were used on the solid blue and the checkered blue.  See note * above regarding cutting.

This project went together really quickly, about 1/2 day.  I cut everything first, then lined them up on a design wall.  I selected two pieces at a time, right sides together and stitched.  I opted to start and stop 1/4" in from the edges so that I had more options for pressing the seams.

When I completed the tree, I used that 60 degree angle to cut some white triangles for the background.  Add a strip at the bottom with the red checkered tree trunk, and done!  I quilted it in concentric triangles, so it went rather quickly with the walking foot. 

It finished out at 12 1/2 " which gave me just enough seam allowance to add the blue quilted borders, which made it big enough to wrap around a 12" x 12" canvas. Such a lovely finish, and easy to hang with one nail.  LOVE!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wedding Rings and Crossroads

Wedding Rings and Crossroads
102" x 102"

Wedding Rings and Crossroads, back (aka, Up in the Air)
I am delighted to share with you my newest quilt!  I am also so very thankful to have finished it before the Thanksgiving holidays. It is so nice to have it behind me and have the entire week off to relax and enjoy time with my kids.

This somewhat traditional pattern (DWR, double wedding ring) speaks to me of marriage. It is a cautionary tale of how couples can have cycles of behaviors and patterns (which can be annoying or comforting) along with the crossroads that can divert our attention away from our loved ones. I will leave it to you to decide if any part of that statement fits your experience. For my 2 cents, I can say that I have been blessed to know the happiness of being married and in a committed long term relationship, and also, the happiness of being whole and complete as a single person.

How it started:
I have been wanting to learn how to make a double wedding ring quilt for a long time, but somehow the idea of all the curvy pieces eluded me.  This one is a simplified form because it is constructed in square blocks.  I also like that the shape of the circles are not perfect circles, but more like squares with rounded corners.  I was lucky to have an opportunity through the Austin Modern Quilt Guild to take a class with Tara Faughnan.  She demystified the double wedding ring for me.  I loved her class!

Process story and photos:
After I got home, I got out some drafting supplies and explored the shapes.  I scaled up the 12" blocks from class to 20" blocks. Yes, it was hard to find paper big enough for my ideas, but that is why Scotch tape is so essential to quilting! The scale was so wonderful and so huge! I played with a number of the components of the block until I found that perfect one for me.  And I began cutting the pieces for my quilt.
I ran out of big enough pieces of blue fabric. I could have shopped for some but finding the range of subtle differences is difficult with a bright cobalt blue. So, I shifted gears and started dyeing some.
At some point I tossed out the random color selections that we learned in Tara's class, and began to strongly prefer the regular patterns of colors.  So, not being in a hurry, I decided to pull them all off and begin again. Arggh!
You can see the quilt at this point has 16 blocks, all about 20" square.  If only I had stayed with this idea, I would have had a quilt that was 80" x 80".  But, no! I had a curious idea of adding more, so I got out some graph paper and markers.
I fell in love with the chaos of lines going in every direction.  It created a crazy amount of movement and a lot of interest. It reminded me of highway overpasses, and giant game boards, like Parcheesi. It lended itself to the idea of games we play in marriage, which I had already been thinking about with the double wedding ring pattern.
Here is the entire layout, not completed yet.  It stretches ceiling to floor, and then extends onto the floor.  The scope of the project was a bit overwhelming. Here I am pressing seams on my big board.  It was done in sections because I don't have an ironing board big enough! Who does?
When I finished the front, I still had a lot of leftover hand pieced arcs which had previously been discarded. And I still needed to make a backing for the quilt...
So, I put some of these together to see if it would make a giant circle.  Of course it does!
My dear cat demonstrating that if you put a circle on the floor, a cat will sit in it!

I decided to make them into circles that would float abstractly on the back. I used strips of Mistyfuse on the backs of the circles to hold them in place while I hand stitched them.  Perfect! Here's the back after it was pin basted, just checking to make sure the back does not have any giant folds or wrinkles before I start quilting.
This quilt is so huge that I was worried about hurting my shoulders trying to hold it and guide it through my sewing machine.  It is really big and really heavy.  So, I decided to hand quilt it.  I love hand quilting, the process is very relaxing to me.  I also love how the hand quilting looks on a quilt, and I thought it would be the perfect compliment for this really high contrast, hard edged design.  But, the quilt is so BIG, which means a LOT of hand quilting. The circles on the back have turned under edges and are hand appliqued. and between the front and the back, there are a lot of layers, which is really hard to hand quilt.

I bent a LOT of needles.  I used 1/4" tape to mark my path, and a hoop to get even tension.  Here I am rocking the needle back and forth through the layers to load up stitches on the needle before pulling it through.
 I followed the shapes on the front in double lines of quilting.
And, I really like the way that the lines from the front made an abstracted grid for the organically floating giant circles on the back. Don't forget, you can click on the picture to see a close up!
When I finished, I ended up liking the back better than the front! Delightful!

Update: This quilt was featured in Quiltfolk Magazine, #22, Spring 2022:

photos by: Azuree Wiitala

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Houston Quilt Festival 2017

The Houston Quilt Festival 2017

Every year around this time, I love sharing with you, my lovely readers, the quilts that I will have in the International Quilt Festival in Houston.  Unfortunately this year, neither of my entries for the judged show, The World of Beauty, were accepted.  I have been to the quilt show in Houston enough to know what kind of quilts get juried into the show, and I just didn't have any to enter.  At the last minute I decided to enter a few modern quilts I made last year, and those are the ones that were rejected.  It is difficult to get too worked up about this.  I actually really like my Houston rejects, so they get to stay home with me this year!

And while last year, I had almost 30 quilts in Houston, mostly because of my special exhibit, this year, I have a total of 2 quilts in special exhibits, both of which I feel very honored to be included.  One is in the Personal Iconography exhibit by Dinner@Eight, which I posted previously about here.  It is Floating in a Sea of Symbols.

The other is a quilt that has been gone a long time.  It premiered at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago last spring in the new judged show, A Celebration of Color, and will be a special exhibit in Houston.  It is Beach Colors, previously posted about here.

If you go to the Houston quilt show, I am convinced you will have a wonderful time! I will not be going this year, and I know I will miss the my friends, the quilts, and the experiences immensely!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Power of the Press

Power of the Press
31" x 28.5"
I am humbled by my failures.  I am disappointed. I am sometimes sad, and sometimes angry.  All of these are okay.  It is simply part of the path.  Sometimes work needs to be made just because it's next.  There are no guarantees that the work will be good, or relevant, or accepted.  And just as I have utter joy in my successes, I know that they only represent part of the story.  I try to accept all parts of my story, but honestly, the successes are much easier to talk about--publicly.
Today's piece is a quilt I made several years ago.  It has been rejected too many times to count from every venue I entered it into.  And now, it has aged out.  It is too old to enter into most venues.  And, though it is a failure to me for a number of reasons, perhaps it is ahead of it's time? Perhaps it is even more relevant today?

I wanted to make a piece about what news is and what it aspires to be.  As I get older I feel more cynical.  This piece begs the question, how much of a story is actual news, and how much is written just to sell newspapers?  How much is written and published just to sensationalize an event, regardless if it represents a whole story, or a true story?  What is truth?

Yes, I am that old.  I am the age where my 'go to' for news is still newspapers.  But how much more heinous is the act when it is published and consumed so instantaneously?  It hurts to think about it.

This piece is made out of newspapers, newsprint, cotton, and silk.  There is a tremendous amount of black thread sketching. The newspaper titles were printed, paper laminated, and then Mistyfused into place. I made the binding red to allude to the old riddle, "What is black and white and red all over?" There are many answer to that riddle, one of which is a newspaper. The emotional expressions and the red work well together. 

Today this piece feels more relevant because of amplified hate speech, lies, rhetoric that are being published as "truths".  Some people are calling it fake news.  Some very powerful people are calling anything they disagree with fake news.  The era of reason and truth seems to be disappearing into the background.  Sensational or not, it would not be normal to NOT feel shocked, appalled, and angry today. I think fake news is the ultimate oxymoron.  If it is fake, then it isn't news.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Floating in a Sea of Symbols

Floating in a Sea of Symbols
40" x 40"

created for:  Dinner@Eight, Personal Iconography: Graffiti on Cloth An artistic expression based on personal style

An underlying social message

A story that is told through lines, shapes and imagery

A graphic landscape that conveys a story

A mark, an object, an idea

"As I get older, I indulge in reminiscing about my past. Each ocean layer is comprised of an abstraction of shapes which have multiple meanings for me. This allows me to express my personal history while simultaneously maintain some privacy."
This is an invitational juried exhibit.  Each year when I make my entry, I never know if I will be able to come up with an idea and then be able to execute that idea to my satisfaction, AND, whether or not it will fit in with the rest of the exhibit.  I am delighted to find out that this quilt has been accepted to the exhibit.  I am also very pleased that it is so appealing to me.  Double win!
I had a hard time getting started on this one.  The theme of personal iconography didn't speak to me.  I struggled and struggled.  I gave up more than once.  I tried googling the words in the title.  I tried journaling about what it meant to me....more than once.  The entry description is purposefully vague and open to interpretation, but I was not feeling it.  Sigh...
For me, making art is about expressing something that I need to give my voice to, something personal, something meaningful.  However that voice can also be too personal, sometimes private, and I am not comfortable sharing it with a wider audience.  It is a delicate balance.  

And so, I finally made some progress when I settled on an ocean theme, with blues, and quite a bit of reminiscing.  Each layer goes back to some period in my life.  All of the symbols represented large overlapping chunks of my life, decades.  I also had a long list of symbols I wanted to use, but decided to narrow my choices to those that had multiple meanings for me.  

I started with blue. It has been a while since I have dyed anything or played in my batik studio.  So, I bought some new blue dyes, and set about the task of experimenting so that I could choose my blue palette.
Next stop, the process of patterning my cloth with batik.
These concentric rings would become my sodium chloride ions.  The fabric started as blue, then I stamped some concentric blue circles with different found objects.  This shows what it looked like after bleaching out the blue fabric that was not protected by wax. It was later painted with 2 different colors of dye.  Then the wax was boiled out.  I used fabric paint to paint dots for the electrons, and a black ink pen to put the symbols Na+ and Cl-. (Not tedious at all, eh??)
This one is similar to the above.  It was dyed a dark blue, batiked, and then bleach discharged.  It is waiting to be overdyed.  Notice how the dark blue dye did not discharge to a white (like the fabric above).  That happens sometimes, and it adds interesting color qualities to the next stage of overdyeing.
These two have been dyed, and then batiked.  The next step is the bleach discharge to remove the color.  And then dyeing again to put a contrasting color on top.  
After getting all my fabrics done, I decided which order to put them in by layering them on the floor.
Then, I used a freezer paper template to cut out the wave shapes for each layer.  The fabric was then fused (sweet, sweet Mistyfuse) to some white cotton batting, and then the white batting was trimmed with scissors to echo the shape of the fabric wave.  I built up the quilt one layer at a time, machine quilting as I went.  When I finished, I hand stitched the tiny white float with the girl on it.
As for the bicycle layer?  I ironed freezer paper to the back of a section of blue fabric, and then traced with a black pen from a line drawing underneath.  I taped the drawing and the freezer-paper-backed-fabric to my sliding glass door to let the sun shine through in order to see the drawing through the blue fabric.  Then I colored in different parts of the bicycle with markers and heat set. I LOVE the bicycle!  And, I love the scale of the bicycle!

This exhibit will open at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this fall.  It will be at both Quilt Market (Oct 27-30) and Festival (Nov 1-5).  I can't wait to see it!  The images flooding Facebook yesterday from the selected artists are incredible!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Dinner @ Eight Exhibits

Dinner @ Eight Exhibits
It is time once again to enter a quilt into the annual Dinner @ Eight exhibit. Each year the exhibit is based on a theme and a size which are selected by the curators, Jamie Fingal and Leslie Jenison. This exhibit is is by invitation only and is an honor to be asked to participate.  It is also a juried exhibit.  This means that quilts are entered on-line and my identity is kept a secret from those who select which quilts will be in the exhibit.  I have been participating in this exhibit since it first began in 2009.  This year I have been looking back at my previous body of work for this exhibit.  It is interesting to see my path, and how my art has changed over the years.  The exhibit always has a theme, and many, many times I have struggled to interpret that theme.  For me, the quilt has to be about something that needs to be made next, it has to be interesting to me, and it has to fit the requirements of the exhibit.  It is difficult and hard work, but always enjoyable.  I love the way this challenge has pushed me to try new things.

2009 Edges: 1) the sharp cutting part of a blade, 2) sharpness, keenness, 3) the projecting ledge of a cliff, etc., brink, 4) the part farthest from the middle; border; margin.
A Few of My Favorite Things - 36" x 48"
2010 Beneath the Surface: From the roots that anchor a majestic tree, to a song by Kings of Leon, "Beneath the Surface" has many connotations.  We look into the dark water and wonder what lies beneath.  We long to understand the meaning of a cryptic statement.
Fifty, Female and Fearless - 36" x 48"
2011 The Space Between: A pause as we reach for the telephone. The moments between the lines. Negative space in a painting. Uncertainty, and finding your voice. From one place to the other. Birds on a wire, and the distance between friends...The Space Between thought and action. Thin cracks separating this from that. Lines on a highway, or reading between the lines...The Space Between.
Blue Towers - 36" x 48"
2012 Rituals: An exchange between friends. A handshake. A kiss before bedtime. The artist at work.  A sun salutation. The wave before boarding the school bus. A song, a word, a meditation. A habit, a custom.  The traditional toast at a gathering. A rite of passage. The sacred moments of the ordinary.  Rituals:  What are yours?
Morning Commute with Sweet Jane - 24" x 60"

2013 An Exquisite Moment: Consider the following:  The unfurling of a flower. A hummingbird in flight.  A magical moment shared with a lover or friend.  The birth of a child.  A personal milestone.  The realization of a dream.  A treasured memory.  The sacred moments of the ordinary.  These are the Exquisite Moments that make us who we are.
Balance - 24" x 60"
2014 Reflections: A mirror image. A response to a thought or word. A memory. What glints back at us as we gaze upon the water. The throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.  What will your reflection reveal about you?
The Deep End - 24" x 60"

2015 Affinity:
I am the garden that I plant.

I have…a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, or idea.
I am all the books that I have read.
I have….. A close resemblance or connection to someone or some thing.
I am the places that I have been
I have…. An agreement with someone.
I am the people that I love to be near
I have…a relationship or ties to another individual.
I am the sum of my life experiences.
Dot - 40" x 40"
2016 Patterns:
They may be naturally-occuring or manmade.
They can occur in relationships and in flocks
We construct them
We often drive in them
Some can be changed, but others cannot
Fibonocci was famous for recognizing and sequencing them.
Some are symmetrical, others wabi sabi
They are everywhere if we pay attention.
Which pattern might speak to you?
100 Days, 100 Nights - 40" x 40"
2017: Sorry, I can't show this quilt yet.  But I am keeping my fingers crossed that this one pleases the jury and plays well with others (meaning that it works well with the other entries to make a great exhibit).  Some time in July, I will be posting about it.  Until then.....

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Life Book 2015

Life Book 2015

I have taken a few weeks out of my calendar to put the finishing touches on my Life Book project (yes, sadly from 2015!).  I decided how I wanted to bind the pages, and what to use for the cover.  I have had practice with the binding process, (see these art journals here). You can also read more about the Life Book class on this link!
I painted this lovely bright flower painting when I was in elementary school.  It is acrylic on canvas, and I still had it after all these years!  I wrapped it around some book board to make a cover for my Life Book.  I just love the symbolism of where I started and where I have been going with art education! Plus, I am still a sucker for primitive art.  I remember when I painted this, how frustrated I was at the inability to control the thickness of the line with the black paint. Now, I kind of like it!

Here is the inside and cover page.  You can see where I wrapped the canvas painting around to the inside and covered with a piece of paper.
There are too many pages to show, and I think some of the projects are proprietary, so I can't show them all anyway.  However, this assignment was my favorite.  It had a formula that was easy to follow, but made easier by the fact that I had many unused postcards of my artwork that I was able to cut up and put on the luggage tags.  It made them so much more personal and fun for me.  I also used Mistyfuse to fold over the top of the tags with some of my batiked and dyed fabric circles.  Then I punched the hole through all the layers before tying the floss on.  I loved these so much that I used them on my luggage for a trip last summer.  They held up well and helped identify our bags quickly.  I also like them for small gifts and bookmarks.  I like them so much, that I keep making more!  Great project!
The right side of this photo, that was cut off, was one of our first assignments.  I paired pages from class either with other class pages or paintings made for fun and then put the back sides together.  I taped the inner edge and hand sewed the other 3 edges of the pages.  That way I had finished images on both sides of each page.  I like the texture of the hand sewn floss around the artwork too.  The above image shows a class assignment (cut off) on the right and a small watercolor I did at the beach the following year.  I thought the colors looked well together, so they were paired up.
Here's another random page from my book.  The right side was an assignment.  There is a letter folded and tied with ribbon in the center of the right page.  The left page was just PLAY.  I love the abstract nature of the image and how fun it was to put together.  And, I like the way the 2 pages play together.
These two pages were all about acknowledging and appreciating our support systems.  The paper dolls were individualized to real people in my life, and have messages on them.  I had fun with this too, so I added our resident house cats, and some flowers (for good measure).  I painted a blue background and stitched on some organza pockets.  The assignment on the right was very similar. And though I'm not sure if these projects or crafts rise to the level of art, it just didn't matter to me.  I had fun doing it and it was meaningful.  (see #4 below).

I will reiterate that in spite of being somewhat reluctant and resistant, I DID learn the processes, and eventually learned how to put it together with my own voice.  I also gave myself permission to skip the lessons that were the least interesting to me. 

The absolute best things I got out of this class:
1.  Knowledge.  I know what matte medium is now! and Stabilo pencils! and watercolor crayons!
2.  Freedom to explore.  I no longer feel inhibited or intimidated by the supplies.
3.  Joy from playing.  With no intention in mind, I can start painting and it feels like playing.  I love it!
4.  Healing.  A number of the assignments worked on a deeper, subconscious, and intuitive place.  I loved the guided meditations.  I loved the assignments geared to working on issues.  These were the BEST!

Thanks so much Tamara!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Women's March 2017: by the Numbers

Women's March 2017: by the Numbers
48" x 48"
This quilt was made to honor the 3 million people who marched globally the day after President Trump's inauguration. Each 1/2" square represents 325 people.  That is equivalent to a large jet plane full of people. Imagine a full airplane for each tiny little square! That's a lot of people, all marching to protect the right's of women.

For my quilt geek friends:
You may be wondering, how many squares are there? The answer is 9216.  
And, how long did it take to make it?  The answer is less precise....too long.  I thought this was a great idea when I started, but I got tired of stitching all those little squares long before I finished it.  And yet, I continued on.  Sometimes it helps me to have a daily quota, a minimum I have to do to finish by a certain day.  On most days, I managed to do the minimum.  On some days, I did nothing.  And, on a few days, I did more, and some days I even did a lot more.  The right combination of good sleep, motivation, great music (or Netflix), and I can get a lot done in a single day.

This was also made during the season that is the absolute best for gardening, and I have some ambitious plans for my garden, so I tried to do some of both every day.  It helped to have something that involved moving my body to contrast with all the hours of sitting and stitching.

It starts with the cutting. I always prewash my fabrics and then press them.  When I started, I had no idea how many squares of each I would need, so I just cut a few, and then replenished the pile as I went.   This also helped avoid repetitive motion injuries from using the rotary cutter for too long. I eventually used 60 different colors.  Here are some stacks of the 1" squares.  I would gather a few from each pile for the daily quota, and then toss them up in the air, several times (this was the FUN part), and then picked squares that were close to each other to begin stitching.
It begins with sewing two squares at a time.  To save thread and time I decided to chain stitch.  It also helps keep those tiny pieces from being sucked into the machine each time you start stitching.  This is stage one of stitching.  I call it, making the butterflies, because when they are open, they don't lie perfectly flat and they loosely look like butterflies to me.
The next step is to sew two "butterflies" together.  This makes a four patch.  To me they look like lounge chairs.  I put them in a grid to keep track of the direction the seams are pressed.  This helps manage the bulk of all the seams on those tiny pieces.
The lounge chairs are then sewn together in long strips, and then the rows of strips are sewn to each other to make a daily block.  Each day the block is sewn to the previous day's work and the quilt slowly grows bigger!
When I got to the pink part, I had to keep track of where the pieces were.  So, I consulted the master plan, a scaled drawing on grid paper.
To keep track of my progress, I colored it as I went and referred to the diagram for placement of the squares.
You can see the emergence of one of the pink ears of the pussy hat in the lower right corner.  This also shows the amount of work for a daily quota, 160 pieces. And, as time went on, I gratefully became more efficient at stitching.
Here's a photo of the back side.  I grew to like this side better, but unfortunately, I had plans for the front side, so this beautiful and fascinating view is now hidden inside the quilt.
I also kind of went crazy in love with how this looks in a window with the light shining through it.  It looks like candy to me and I just want to eat it!
Eventually I finished piecing the whole quilt top together, and I didn't know exactly what to do with the quilting.  This quilt is already complex.  I wanted to keep the quilting lines simple because I didn't want them to compete with the design. I selected a plan and decided to do a sample piece.  There are two great reasons to do this!  One is to test the process.  Does it work?  Will it shrink too much?  Will it bunch up, or be too hard to sew through the layers?  The second reason is to check to see how it looks.  I planned to use pink thread exclusively and I wanted to know if it would look bad on all the other colors.  It is really hard to pick a thread color when there are so many colors in the quilt!  So, I did the small sample....
It worked!  Here's a close up of the actual quilt:

This is my entry for Threads of Resistance.  There are almost 2 weeks left before the deadline of midnight, May 1.  If you haven't entered already, I hope you will consider doing it!  The opening venue is:
Premiere dates: July 11 - September 9, 2017
New England Quilt Museum
18 Shattuck Street, Lowell, MA 01852
    Opening reception: July 15, 2017 at 11 a.m. 
And there are 11 more venues already scheduled for the next year and a half!