Friday, February 29, 2008

Painted Skies and PIF

I wanted to work on my Pay It Forward piece this weekend, before I'm preoccupied with other projects. I've had an idea percolating, even did a quick colored pencil sketch--

I want to capture a somewhat abstracted image of snow covered mountains against a gray or stormy sky, and use both machine and hand embroidery in the process. I'm not crazy about cold weather, but I love the look of snowy mountains with the evergreen trees. At the base of the mountains we have brown gray beigy sage and weeds, but there is another plant that turns bright red and orange in the cold weather- I think maybe it is called barmbrack, but I'm not absolutely positive. Anyway, for someone who feels color starved in the winter, they are a welcome relief from gray and brown.

So after getting the laundry started, I went down and tried painting a stormy, gray sky, maybe at either first or last light of the day. I've never felt as good about my results with fabric paint as with dyes, even trying to follow the suggestions in Mickey Lawler's book Skydyes.

Here's what I got, not completely dry yet. It may work for what I have in mind, I may try painting another one. The white blobs on it are rock salt, and I made folds in the fabric as it tried to try to create movement.

Hopefully, I'll get more done this weekend. We have the grandson Saturday afternoon to Sunday night, so that remains to be seen!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More on stretching fiber / quilted art---

I did succeed in getting my Rock Art piece on the stretchers bars- properly sealed wood, of course! Here it is, hanging in our dining room--

And here's the back--

I learned that Warm and Natural batting, which is what I use on most of my wall art, is bulkier than the low loft poly I used on Shannon's fabric panels. So I need to cut more out of the corners. And a reader, Ann, suggested installing a brace or corner braces on larger sets of bars- a good idea which I will use on future pieces. But overall, I am happy with how this came out. Last night I took this and the Watchers piece to a small gallery in Spanish Fork (that also happens to be part of a tatoo parlor), and the guys loved them. So they are hanging there, we will see if I have any takers.

I also got the preliminary stitching done on my tree for the Autum Mountains quilt. Now I can see what the tree looks like on the background. Sorry the tree photographs so lousy, but nothing I do in Elements seems to help.

I'll leave this on the design wall for me to look at before I take the next steps.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fabric stretched on a frame-

I blogged last fall about my two pieces for the Surface Design show at the Covey Gallery, both of which I had stretched on stretcher bars. I loved the look this gives fabric pieces, but the cost of having it done seemed high to me. Encouraged by Lyric Kinard's article in the most recent Quilting Arts magazine, and some email exchanges, I decided to do my Rock Art piece myself. Then my daughter Shannon wanted some fabric panels to brighten up her room- the perfect opportunity to practice before trying the process on my quilted art.

I even went so far as to make my own stretchers- we got 1 X 2 lumber, cut the mitered corners, and glued and nailed the frames. It really wasn't that hard, although I am grateful to have a nail gun, compressor, and chop saw that easily cuts miters. We finished those last weekend, and left them for the glue to really set.

Last night I headed to the studio. I cut backing from some drapery lining fabric I had on hand, low loft poly batting, and then the home dec fabric Shannon wanted. I laid the frame on the back side of the fabric sandwich--

Here you can see the three layers, before I started stapling to the frame--

First, I stapled the sandwich on one long side, then on the opposite side, then on the two short sides. Now it looks like this--

Then I stapled one corner, folding the corner edge down like I would if I were wrapping a package. As a reinforcement for my mitered corners, I stapled so my staples went into both sides of the frame. Then I cut out some of the excess fabric.

Then I folded each side down, and stapled to the frame. From there I continued stapling to the first staple in the middle of the two sides.

I did three fabric panels in all, and my corners got better with each one. Here's the back and a corner detail of the second one I did. After I finished stapling, I inserted screw eyes inside the frame, and wound picture wire between them.

These pieces are 14" by 28", which was not difficult to work. And here are the finished panels hung in Shannon's room, over her bed.

If you remember earlier posts about the display boards Shannon made with fabric, ribbon, and foam insulation, here they are completed and hung in her room.

So now I will prepare to stretch my Rock Art quilt. The frame is already made, slightly larger than these- 21" by 24". I will do one additional step that I did not do on these panels- I will seal the wood with a clear polyurethane. (Home dec, I'm not too worried about archival preservation.) Then I will use the same process to stetch the quilt around the bars.

I used a heavy duty stapler that can be bought at any hardware store. I got the straightest 1 X 2's I could find at Home Depot, they were only about $2 for an 8' piece of lumber. All in all, this was easier than I thought it would be, and LOTS cheaper than paying someone to do it for me.

If I'm lucky, I'll be able to post a picture of the Rock Art quilt later this weekend, ready to hang.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On the Mend- and February TIF Done!!

Two and a half days spent mostly in bed, and today I am feeling much better. Still coughing, but at least I've been able to stay vertical for more than fifteen minutes without feeling exhausted. So, I managed to get my February challenge piece quilted and faced.

And a detail--

I tried to continue the circular motif of the gears with my quilting. Overall, I am very happy with the design concept, moderately ok with the execution on the piece. I can point out a couple of places where I know I goofed. But, overall, a good learning piece.

Now that Shannon is home, we are eating well. Today she wanted to make crepes Suzette for dessert, and who was I to object? Here's the crepe making, now I'm just waiting for her to douse them in flaming sauce. I've no doubt they will be yummy!

Since I've managed to get this month's challenge done early, I need to get my Pay It Forward piece out of my head and into fabric. This one will have lots of hand embroidery. And, I've got more work to do on the tree. Here's hoping the cold really is fading away--

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feeling awful. . .

I have finally managed to catch one of the many viruses going around, a cold. Made it through work until late afternoon on Thursday, then I gave up and went home to bed. I've spent a fair amount of time there Friday and today.

In a short spurt of energy, I got the gears fused to the background. Then this morning I sent Shannon out to get a gray archival pen at our local scrapbooking shop. I did not want black for the writing, too much contrast. She succeeded, and today in another short energy burst, I got the writing done.

So here it is, with everything except quilting and edge finish done. I've noticed that many people chose one or two events that were significant to them; I went the other direction, and came up with a lengthy list of things I remember that are no longer around.

I did make a goof or two when I did the writing- it was difficult to gauge distance writing around the circles. I'm telling myself that these are design practice pieces, perfection not required.

I've auditioned quilting patterns, and have an idea of the direction I want to go. So, if I can get feeling better, maybe I can even get it done this long weekend. It probably would be better if I weren't operating on Nyquil or other cold remedies!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Progress on Two Fronts!!

While I haven't secluded myself in the studio this weekend, I have managed to get further on both the TIF for this month, and my Autumn Mountains tree.

First, the TIF challenge. Bentlee and I painted some fat quarters yesterday morning, mostly in gray and grayed blue tones. I had the idea of a stormy background, since I feel like I've lived through many stormy times, both in the larger world and my personal world. i ended up using a solid gray piece that I sprinkled kosher salt on while it dried. I wanted a stark contrast to the grayed background for the watch gears, so I raided my stash of hand dyes and found a lovely yellow/orange piece of pima cotton. So here's where we are thus far--

I like this arrangement, although I haven't yet decided about the orientation. Next I need to get the gears fused on. That leaves only the writing I want to do, and quilting. I might even have this one done early!

As for the tree, started doing some free motion zigzag to see if that would add to the illusion of bark I'm hoping to achieve. I've only done a little bit on the top part, but my question has been answered- it absolutely does what I'd hoped. This tree is BIG, so doing this stitching will be a time consuming process. And, I will probably want to use more that one color of thread. I've started out with a darkish brown (Isacord), which both blends with the colors already there, and adds definition and texture. I don't know what this is so hard to photograph, but hopefully you can see what I've done.

This work is somewhat mindless, I'm hoping I can get motivated enough to work on it at night. I need to get this on the quilt and the quilting started, since that is what I stress over the most!

And the knitting I started last week? I got plenty done while working the polls Tuesday, kept at it, and managed to finish the body today. Now I just need to sew the shoulder seams, and pick up and knit the borders. Love that chunky yarn that knits up quick, I could be wearing this next week!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Progress on February TIf

It is early Saturday morning, and thus far I'm the only one up. I've had breakfast, and spent some time playing with the computer on my TIF challenge. I am loving the way the design process on this one is unfolding!

I continued to process my idea for circles of time during the week. Then a couple of days ago it hit me- not just circles, but the gears on a watch, another symbol of time! So now I have images of simple gear shapes in several sizes ready to print out on freezer paper which will make the fabric cutting easier. I've got my plan for te background colors, hopefully today I will find some archival jel pens to use for the writing.

Here's my computer drawing, ready for printing.

Hopefully I get quite a bit done this weekend. Since it is going to be the nicest weather we've had for some time, I also want to get out and walk! No snow! Temps in the 40's!!!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Is it a tree yet??

Ha! Two posts in one day! But I managed to spend some studio time, got my overdyed cheesecloth pinned onto the painted batting. I had to use two different pieces, so I wanted to be sure they blended well. And I don't know any way to do that except take a picture- so here we are. This does not photograph well, and I'm not sure if my amateur dinking around in PS Elements was a positive or not!

I am not planning to lay the cheesecloth flat on the batting, but to tuck, twist and turn it to try to mimic the rough texture of bark. I've also cut some holes in it, to let the smoother batting show through- again, something I have observed on real trees as Sadie and I walk. Here's a couple of closeups--

So, what do you think? I still have lots of stitching to do, both to hold the cheesecloth and get more texture. Do you see tree bark?
February TIF Challenge

Sharon B posted the new challenge, which I think will be a fun one. It's 'what are you old enough to remember?' I was a history major my first go-round in college, so this is right up my alley. This will pull in memories of discussions I've had with my children about what it was like for me growing up, the incredible pace of change I have seen during my lifetime, and conversations with my parents and grandmother about the same thing.

I got out my journal book, and started writing. Things like black and white TV and all the shows I remember watching as a child, the Nixon-Kennedy debates, my first vinyl records (the Beatles, of course). I remember playing jacks with my grandmother, my father's reel to reel tape player, rotary dial phones and party lines. I wrote my term papers on a typewriter with carbon paper, and prayed that I'd calculated the space needed for the footnotes correctly. If not, you got to type the whole thing over! I remember the first manned spaceflight, and the first walk on the moon. And, of course, I remember all the political upheaval and assasinations of the 1960's.

As I looked at the list, it struck me how many of the items related to circles. And that got me thinking of other circles- like, I have lived long enough to see the hideous fashions of the 70's come around again, and heard some of my favorite songs redone by artists who weren't around for the original. In some ways, I've come full circle, from rebelling against the social mores of my parents to understanding the sense that lies behind many of them.

I don't think I will be doing anything with images from all these events and memories. I think circles will play a large role in this, and I hope to find a way to include words in the design. There are some artists whose work I love that often include words in the design, and it works- check out Rayna Gillman or Karen Stiehl Osborn's blogs.

I don't think I will be working with the color scheme Sharon proposed this time. It didn't speak to me, and I think other colors will better express my feelings about the decades I remember from my growing up years. I'm also planning to take my sketchbook and pencils with my when I work the polls on Tuesday, hopefully I'll come up with some promising doodles.

And, as close to a political rant as you are likely to get from me. If your state is part of Super Tuesday, get out and vote! We have the opportunity to select a transformational president this year, I am praying the nation recognizes this and seizes the moment. Vote!!!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Is it spring yet???

Obviously not, as much as many of us here would like the answer to be a resounding "YES!" We have had a steady stream of storms blow through, most of them dumping snow on top of the growing snowdrifts. I'm sure the skiers are loving it, but we have had enough.

This is the view from our sliding door which leads to our small backyard patio. There are two steps from the house to the patio- that should give you an idea how deep the snow is out there.

Those pieces of wood by the gate are a safety gate, the kind you put in front of stairs to keep toddlers from going there. In our case, it's to keep Annabelle the cat from escaping under the fence- not that she would try it now!! Poor Sadie sinks in up to her belly when she goes out there. And we are getting another storm tomorrow- joy.

So it is a good time to stay home and play in the studio. The February TIF is posted, I'm in the brainstorm stage for that one. I think it will come together a bit smoother than the January challenge, and I'll post more on my thinking later. This morning I got back to my tree. I started to pin and scrunch the cheesecloth I'd dyed onto the painted batting, and decided the colors needed to be toned down- especially the green. So I not only overdyed the two pieces I already had, but I grabbed the couple of yards left on the roll and threw them in a 'parfait' dyepot together. I did a layer of mixing gray, a layer of Sabrecon brown, and a layer of Safari gray. I decided just to let it batch a couple of hours instead of my normal overnight, so it is already washed out and hanging on my nifty Ikea dryer.

I tried layering it over the painted batting, and I think I was successful with the overdyeing. Mayber later tonight I will start pinning and scrunching again, and since I now have plenty of cheesecloth, even layer that. We'll see.

I'm also knitting again. I've wanted to make myself a cream colored vest for a long time, and finally found a mostly cotton yarn I liked. Best of all, it is chunky, so it will knit up fast. I got this far last night--

I really wanted to find yarn to start on, I'm working the polls Tuesday and want to have something to do with my hands when it slows. So between that and a book, I should be fine- that will be a very long day!!