Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on January's TIF

First, I want to thank all those who left comments about my challenge piece, both here and on the Take It Further blog. It is always rewarding to get feedback on something you've created!

And, what I loved about this feedback was its specificity- in other words, it gave me specific information about what the viewers noticed. Some noticed how I used the colors, some the variation in lines. My favorites noted the texture I got with the use of both hand and machine stitching, and how the foreground colors changed depending on whether they were on light or dark background. Why did those please me? Because those were two 'questions' I asked myself with this piece, and those comments told me I'd answered them- and answered them successfully.

As I've tried to educate myself more on visual expression, it's become increasingly important to me to understand why something does or doesn't work. Being told that a work is nice, or beautiful, or any of a host of adjectives is fine, but doesn't give any information that can help me improve my work. So, I love comments that do help me learn. And, I try to give specifics when I comment on work I see in the blogs and websites I visit.

If you haven't visited the Take It Further blog, it will give a one-stop way to see the huge variety in how we all interpreted this challenge. There is some amazing work there, and challenge #2 starts Friday!

Friday, January 25, 2008


I did the last bit of stitching and sewed a faced edge finish on this month's TIF challenge. Feels good to have it done early, now I can spend the rest of the weekend working on my tree. Got to get that done so I can finish that quilt by April!!

I'm happy with the way this one turned out. The stitching adds a lot of texture, and the colors play well together. And, as usual, there was learning in it all. Little skinny bits don't adhere well when you fuse them to already quilted fabric, so I needed to stitch them down.

Enough, though, here it is--

And a detail---

Comments and critiques welcomed!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

About done. . .

with the TIF challenge. I've got the hand embroidery about finished, and think I have to add a little machine quilting to keep the smaller elements secure. Overall, I am pleased. However, I've learned that handwork through fused fabric leaves one with sore fingers!

I have discovered a new blog - Myrna Giesbrecht's, Creative Conversations. She has a gift for language, and is generous in sharing her design thinking and processes. She's funny, informative, inspirational, and honest about herself and the work. It is like sitting down to coffee with a good friend. I knew of her through Quilt University, but I've never taken one of her classes. However, that will change this spring, I plan to sign up for her Self Expressions class. I hope this will provide some impetus, structure, and encouragement as I continue the journey to my own voice and style. Getting to know Myrna a bit through her blog has helped me feel confident in my decision to take her class. But even if you're not looking to take a class from her, her blog is a delight to read.

I hope to have the TIF piece done tomorrow- I think I am going to face rather than bind the edges. Once that is done, I'll post pictures here and on the TIF blog.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Finally, I feel like I'm getting somewhere on the TIF challenge. I played with a different designs, and came up with these:

After due consideration,I decided the flower design was just too cutesy. It does sort of fit the challenge, since I admire anyone who can grow flowers and keep them alive- a skill I do not share!

I didn't want to quilt in between all these pieces, so I decided to quilt first and fuse the design second. For me, one of the biggest joys of fiber arts is the texture. Cloth by itself is fun, but add the texture you get with quilting, and it takes it to a whole new level. Here's the background after quilting--

That done, I fused the design elements onto the background, and started the hand embroidery I wanted to add.

I've decided I need to loosen up with this challenge, approach it more like I did the journal quilts. They are learning experiences, chances to experiment and answer the 'what if' question. Some may turn out well, maybe even inspire a larger work. And many will end up in my crap quota! That's ok, it's all part of the learning, stretching, and trying new things.

In case you didn't notice, I'm now part of a webring for TIF participants. That should make it easy to wander around the various blogs to see what others have done. Enjoy the eye candy!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More TIF- and the Daughter SEWING!!!!

It has been a crazy week here, until today I've had no time in the studio at all. Shannon is back from Switzerland, so we have been regrouping, reorganizing, and just catching up. But I have made some progress on the January TIF challenge.

I played in my sketchbook last night, with the colored pencils Sidney gave our entire WAQ group for Christmas. Came up with a couple different designs, but decided one was too derivative of the designs in a book I recently acquired. I'd thought a lot about using a four-patch as the base for my design, and decided this morning that I would run with this. I've got the DMC floss, and used that to go through my stash for fabric. I had every color except the cream in my hand-dyes, and found a piece of commercial cream fabric that was perfect if I used the backside.

I didn't want a straight seamed four-patch, so I used my French curve to make a wonky block. First, I tried to piece it Caveman style (Ricky Tims), but that didn't work- the centers didn't meet, and I couldn't get rid of some tucks on one piece. So then I decided to fuse it, using Liquifuse as Terry Grant showed us on her blog some time ago. That worked perfectly! So here's the two blocks, with the fused one at the top of the picture. The tucks in the bottom block just don't show in the picture.

However, the bigger news in the studio was Shannon actually sewing! She is the only female in our family who hasn't had a needle in hand since childhood, just hasn't had a lot of interest. But she wanted some pillows and a message board for her room, so we found most of the makings in my studio, and got some home dec fabric she liked at JoAnn's, half off. She wrapped and glued batting and fabric around two pieces of styrofoam I'd saved--

then glued ribbon around the board so she can use it to display her postcards and photos from Europe. That done, she then made a pillow for her bed, the first of several. They look good!!

We are having a welcome home / birthday big family dinner today. Maybe later tonight I can play in the studio and make some real progress on the TIF challenge!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More TIF

I've slept on it, and come to a decision. i am abandoning my not very far along idea for the TIF challenge, and going with a design based solely on the color scheme Sharon provided as an alternative. And I've learned some things about my design process in all this.

First, moving from words to visual image is very difficult for me. It sometimes feels like my brain is bifurcated (split, if you don't speak legalese!) when it comes to words and images. And that is especially true when it comes to concept words rather than descriptive words.

I've also learned that the computer is not the best place for me to start to develop a design. I need the tactile experience of the fabric and thread. if I run into a roadblock with those, then using the computer to hash out options is fine. But don't start there.

So, we are halfway through the month, and I am back to square one. Originally, the colors did not appeal to me- no zinger, no hot accent color! But they have started to grow on me, and I think I can develop an abstract design using them. I got the DMC colors from another participant's blog, so I'll track those down this week and use them to go through my stash for fabric.

I do so envy those who manage to develop designs in a very linear, straightforward way. i often feel like I'm going in circles looking for the way out! But, as Jane Steinberg says, that's just one for the crap quota we all have!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Which is about how I have been feeling today- not sick, just incapable for some reason of focusing on anything fiber-related for any length of time. I've cleaned the entire house, got the laundry done and folded, and have some stuff set aside waiting for Freecycle recipients to pick them up. So I have accomplished something today--

Yesterday, my small quilt crit group met at Sidney's home. She was able to get three Babylock embellishers for us to try, and another member, Kathleen, brought her Janome embellisher. There was wool felt, wool and silk fibers, all kinds of yarns for us to sample with the machine. Robyn, who has a very large collection of fibers and yarns, made this piece-

She used wool felt for a base, and needle felted silk organza and silk fibers,along with different yarns, to get this impromptu design. I like her color choices!

Here's a shot with more of the group. Sidney's husband is a firefighter, and he collects memorabilia related to gas stations. You can't see them in the photo, but they have four antique gas pumps in their family room! The neon sign is from the old Murray fire station. In back, he has a huge work space, with more antiques.

It was a fun day, the group seems to be "melding". We finally have come up with a name, the Wasatch Art Quilters. I hope that the chemistry continues, and that we are able to reach some of the goals we've talked about- like get a show in a gallery.

I have played around more with the TIF design on the computer. The concept has evolved- while I am still not making about any one particular person I admire, the focus has narrowed some. I'm doing some discharge samples, since I know I want to use that process. I tried two blacks,with unsuitable results. So now I'm waiting to see what a dark brown hand-dye I did looks like. I'm also considering using discharge paste, but from the recent posts on the Complex Cloth list, would need to make sure to do it outside. I don't have a respirator, and the one time I used the stuff, I remember it stank to high heaven.

Maybe I will actually get motivated enough to stitch tomorrow, since I want to discharge after I quilt. This idea is moving along, albeit VERY slowly.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tree, Part 3-- and more Winter Wonderland

We've had snow almost every day this week. I am so glad our snow removal is taken care of by the HOA, I think this is the most snow we have seen in a winter since we moved here! I couldn't resist taking this shot when I got home from work tonight.

I played around with the painted WonderUnder, first cutting out a shape and fusing it to my paint sample on the batting. It worked, although I learned to let it cool for several minutes before removing the paper from the fusible. If you don't, it tends to take more of the paint with it than I wanted. It really does get all wrinkly as it dries, making the texture even more interesting.

So tonight I cut out a bunch of curvy shapes, and fused them to the tree. Here they are all fused down. I think I rather like the effect!

And here it is with the cheesecloth laid over it. That will be my next step, fusing wrinkly cheesecloth down and free motion stitching. Hopefully this weekend, along with more work on the TIF challenge.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to Work- on both fronts

Well, all good things must come to an end, and today the vacation from work ended. I was glad that it didn't take me all day just to catch up- the holidays meant that things were rather slow anyway.

I'm still playing with the batting/cheesecloth tree. Tonight I decided that I needed to have something to hold the cheesecloth down, at least in places. So, I decided to experiment with painted wonderunder, something I've read about in the Kemshall's book. So I grabbed my paints, mixed some colors that I thought would go, and painted away. This was the final result, still wet--

Next I will cut it into smaller, curvy strips, and place it on the tree. The colors look brighter than I hope they end up- we shall see. Perhaps I will take the wise road and fuse a test piece to the batting where we tried the different paints!

As for the tree itself, this is what it looks like with the cheesecloth draped over it.

I sure hope I haven't way overdone the colors here.

I've been making some preliminary designs for the TIF challenge. Afer deciding that I wouldn't make it about any one person, I went looking for images among my photos- and found one of my mother and younger son Ian when he was a toddler. So, even though the finished piece won't be about my mother, it will have an image of her in it. And, I think that is fitting, since my mother is certainly someone I think of when it comes to people I admire. Maybe I'll be far enough to post photos of preliminary sketches by the weekend.

One last photo. Annabelle is our psycho, bed-hogging cat- but she certainly knows where to take a nap and keep warm! Doesn't matter where the heating vent is, she can nap on it. You gotta love a cat with personality, and Annabelle has no lack of that!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

One more day. . .

before I go back to work. Where has the time gone? I looked at a list I made at the start, and was pleasantly surprised that I've accomplished most of what I'd wanted to. And, I wasn't anticipating a five day trip to Reno when I wrote the list!

I finished the green faux suede shirt today, the first piece of clothing I have made in quite some time. Other than screwing up and putting the buttons and buttonholes on the wrong sides (from the female perspective, anyway!!), it turned out well.

I don't plan to wear it with a purple turtleneck, however!!

The tree is also coming along. The cheesecloth has been dyed and overdyed, and tonight I went at some of the redder areas with a Shiva paintstik. Next I will start pinning and stitching the cheesecloth to the painted batting.

And, I've done more thinking about the TIF chalenge. I don't think I'm going to focus on any individual, but rather on some of those attributes that I believe make a person admirable. I have a couple of ideas of how I can say that visually- while trying not to be "tragically literal", as Jane Sassaman so eloquently puts it. So, even though the challenge is outside my comfort zone, I've not even considered doing the colors, as others have chosen to do. Sometimes I think I am incapable of using a lot of bright colors in the winter. Since all I see are grays and browns, that seems to have a way of creeping into my work.

And, to end on a political note- the debates have been very interesting. But thus far, I've seen nothing to dissuade me from supporting Obama. He has a way of inspiring me that no one else even comes close to.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I'm drinking my last cup of coffee, watching the national news coverage of the Iowa caucuses. Some ideas related to my late-night reading in the book of Proverbs are percolating in the back of my mind for the TIF challenge. While I have some down time, I thought I would post pictures of the day trip to Tahoe I took with my brother and sister last Sunday.

My family history in Tahoe goes back quite a ways. My father and uncle bought land on the south shore, Nevada side after World War II and built a small cabin and a duplex on it. Many of the old pictures I looked at with my brother chronicled the construction of those homes. Unfortunately, the duplex burned down- some time in the sixties, I think- and the property was sold when I was a teenager. Would have been nice if my father and uncle had had a crystal ball telling them how property values would skyrocket!

We had lunch at a pub in Incline Village, and took care of my sister's business at Art Attack. We then headed for Sand Harbor, a Nevada state park which is one of the few places on the north shore with access to the lake. It was cold and windy, but worth the trip.

Love that deep blue lake color!

We followed a walking path that wound around the park area. There were some interesting rock inlets, with snow on some of the north facing slopes. I was fascinated by the color changes in the lake, depending on how deep it was. My camera picked up some of the variation, but in person was much more spectacular.

We even got brave and climbed around on some of the rocks to get closer to the water. Here's Carol and PJ, braving that wind--

I was fascinated by the manzanita growing among the pines. The color and sinuous curves of the branches were just gorgeous.

Sand Harbor is a popular getaway for people in Reno during the summer months. It's deserted now, but easy to imagine it crowded with people when it is warm!

As we were leaving, I spotted this pine tree that seems to have bent with the wind.

A lovely day, and I came back with lots of pictures for future reference and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

TIF- January

If you are a regular reader, you know that I signed up for Sharon B's Take It Further challenge- one piece a month for the year, with concept and color scheme posted on the first of the month by Sharon. We are to develop a completed design using either the concept, the colors, or both- size and materials up to us, as long as it is fiber or paper.

So yesterday, I went to Sharon's blog to see what the concept is. Take a look if you want all the details, but the bottom line- develop a design that relates to a person(s) you admire.

Hmmph. I've been thinking about it for the past twenty four hours in the back of my mind. This is outside my comfort zone, I've rarely done anything involving people or images of people, and I wouldn't count any of them as my best work. My 2007 Journal Quilt would be a case in point.

So, the first question is, who DO I admire? Do I want to make this personal, or more global, perhaps include a person(s) I have not known personally? What attributes in a person do I most value? And, the biggest question- what visual images to use to communicate this? This is where I still struggle, language is so much more natural for me than visual imagery if I am trying to communicate a specific idea or concept.

All that aside, I now have three sketches in my book. One shows more promise than the others, but it is just a skeleton waiting to be fleshed out. I still have not answered the question about who and what I admire, that will take some more thought. I will need to dip below that layer of cynicism that is just under the surface to do justice to this one. Next post,you'll know how successful I've been.

Back Home. . . .

I returned home from Reno on New Year's Eve day, no problems- my flight even left on time and got to Salt Lake a little early! Bentlee spent two nights with us, and she and I had fun with some dyeing and painting. As I'd managed to get the borders sewn on the Autumn Mountains quilt while I was in Reno, I wanted to get working on the tree that I'll applique to it. Inspired by the Judy Coates Perez article in the last issue of Quilting Arts, I decided to paint batting for the tree, and try to simulate bark with dyed cheesecloth and embroidery- machine and hand.

I tried drawing a tree several times, and could not come up with one I was happy with. I finally managed to draw one I liked after I pinned the quilt to my design wall, taped tracing paper over it, and drew on the vertical surface. A lesson, don't try to draw something big on a horizontal surface, it just doesn't work.

The tree is bigger than my table surface, but Bentlee and I got it done without any problems. We used a couple of different browns, gray, and a little gold.

After a nice trip to Barnes and Noble so Bentlee could spend her gift card from Uncle Sean and Aunt Marly, and a run into JoAnn's for stabilizer and cheesecloth, we came home and I mixed about six shades of brown, gray, and a couple of greens. Bentlee and I dabbed and brushed on the color, letting them mix. I remembered I'd bought some pearl cotton thread to try dyeing, and cut off several yards from the cone, tied it in a circle with several enclosing threads, and brushed it with the same colors we'd used on the cheesecloth. Here's all of the cheesecloth and thread, ready to be wrapped in plastic and baked wth the heat lamps overnight.

And a closeup of the cheesecoth, ready to batch.

Once it's washed out and dry, then I'll start playing with it over the painted batting. This will be interesting!