The Heavens Declare the Glory of God…

As many of you know I have an ongoing deep space quilt series.  I am deeply moved by the glory of the deep space photography that shows what is out there we can’t really see with our human eye.  And yes, I am aware they enhance it with colors and merge many photos to come up with the pictures, but the fact is, they are real.   We are very blessed to be able to “see” some of this through the efforts of astronomers and NASA.  I can just imagine there are even greater things in deep space than we will ever be able to see in this life.  Sometimes when I look at such photos, I mentally hear the passage from Psalm 19, set to music by Haydn, that I sang so many times with several choruses. (Here is the Morman Tabernacle Choir version of this anthem)

The other day I saw this fabulous picture of our Earth home:

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King David wrote this psalm specifically to be sung, according to the Bible.  “For the director of music. A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  During the time of the birth of our Lord, there was a “Star” that caused men (and probably women and children accompanying them) to take a long journey from Today’s Azerbaijan to Bethlehem to see Jesus and what had come to pass.  (my personal belief…I have no question that God caused this space event, whatever it was, to happen in conjunction with the birth of Jesus).

NOEL...completed in 2012. This quilt is currently missing, possibly stolen. I'm going to make a new Nativity quilt.

NOEL…completed in 2012. This quilt is currently missing, possibly stolen. I’m going to make a new Nativity quilt. This one had some design issues that I would like to correct anyway. (Good news:  Since posting this blog, my quilt has been found…the church had it in their Christmas decorations…so now I can get it appraised and give it to the church).

Almost every week I see some picture showing a space scene I would like to create a quilt from.  Do I think my quilts come anywhere near the photo–no I don’t, but I do enjoy trying.

butterflyblue_hst_3919

The Butterfly

 

Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation

 

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has trained its razor-sharp eye on one of the universe's most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. This brilliant galaxy was named the Sombrero because of its resemblance to the broad rim and high-topped Mexican hat. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth. Hubble easily resolves M104's rich system of globular clusters, estimated to be nearly 2,000 in number - 10 times as many as orbit our Milky Way galaxy. The ages of the clusters are similar to the clusters in the Milky Way, ranging from 10-13 billion years old. Embedded in the bright core of M104 is a smaller disk, which is tilted relative to the large disk. X-ray emission suggests that there is material falling into the compact core, where a 1-billion-solar-mass black hole resides. In the 19th century, some astronomers speculated that M104 was simply an edge-on disk of luminous gas surrounding a young star, which is prototypical of the genesis of our solar system. But in 1912, astronomer V. M. Slipher discovered that the hat-like object appeared to be rushing away from us at 700 miles per second. This enormous velocity offered some of the earliest clues that the Sombrero was really another galaxy, and that the universe was expanding in all directions. The Hubble Heritage Team took these observations in M

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has trained its razor-sharp eye on one of the universe’s most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy’s hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. This brilliant galaxy was named the Sombrero because of its resemblance to the broad rim and high-topped Mexican hat. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth. Hubble easily resolves M104’s rich system of globular clusters, estimated to be nearly 2,000 in number – 10 times as many as orbit our Milky Way galaxy. The ages of the clusters are similar to the clusters in the Milky Way, ranging from 10-13 billion years old. Embedded in the bright core of M104 is a smaller disk, which is tilted relative to the large disk. X-ray emission suggests that there is material falling into the compact core, where a 1-billion-solar-mass black hole resides. In the 19th century, some astronomers speculated that M104 was simply an edge-on disk of luminous gas surrounding a young star, which is prototypical of the genesis of our solar system. But in 1912, astronomer V. M. Slipher discovered that the hat-like object appeared to be rushing away from us at 700 miles per second. This enormous velocity offered some of the earliest clues that the Sombrero was really another galaxy, and that the universe was expanding in all directions.

 

V838 Monocerotis

V838 Monocerotis

Merry Christmas my friends.  I send this even to those of you who do not celebrate this time as the birth of Jesus, I hope you have an especially beautiful time during this time.  Consider the heavens…

 

Creativity in the Face of Dark Times

Recent news is the kind  that makes you hug your loved ones a little tighter, think a little bit about the future, and thank God for your blessings and that you are safe today.  Gilbert Muniz, one of my extremely creative friends, had this to say on Facebook last Friday:

Going offline for at least today. I’m unable to process all the news coming in from Paris right now. I can’t process how sick and depressed this information makes me.
Paris is a living, thriving testament to how much beauty and creativity can exist in the world. I was honored to be able to visit Paris for a design competition in 1999. I met a collective of artists that both admired and respected the city’s ability to both recruit and nurture art, and that is the memory I’m holding on to right now.
No one should have to endure what befell last night. We as Americans are forced to recall memories of September 11th and the sorrow we all felt from that day. For what we have all gone through, today, we are all Parisian.
I encourage everyone to be creative today, if only for a day. Bring some beauty into the world with your art. I personally have to stay busy or the thoughts of this tragedy will drive me insane, and we all know that’s already a short trip. ?
I’m working with my new indigo vat all day today. I know it’s a small gesture to fill the world with something creative, and I know it won’t fix the issues we face today, but maybe, just maybe, someone will smile because of what I’ve made, and frankly, that might just be enough right now.
Be safe, everyone.
  

I particularly liked his point about making someone smile because of something he made.  I think about my youngest son, David, who writes fantasy/sci-fi novels that are absorbing and fun and he is close to releasing a new novel.  I think about my oldest son, his wife and son.  All of them make me smile with happiness, do what they can to help me in my life, as I do what I can to help them. Our family works well and it is a wonderful thing.

Sew I am working on my new storm-at-sea quilt that is the second in my “Waiting…” series today.  I have been a little off my game physically lately, but am getting much better.  During this time I have come up several quilts I really want to make (see this blogpost), and now I am beginning to feel like working on them again.

Sew in this time of bad news, make things that make people smile, feel inspired, or just takes their mind off of their fears and troubles for a while, or teach someone to do these things.  Keep on marching forward and being creative, lighting up the space near us with beauty and fun despite the dark times.

Sew happy everyone!  God’s blessings be upon you and stay safe.

Video Classes and Online Programs I Recommend

031OK, I couldn’t go to any quilt shows this year because of big unexpected expenses this year.  So instead, I have taken several excellent video classes to help me improve some of my techniques or just for fun and practice.  These are not all quilting classes, but all the techniques learned are things I use in my quilt creation.

I have five classes I particularly recommend and I see a bunch more out there I would like to take.  I love this way of learning.  It is there for me to refer back to and take again if there is something I forgot or just wanted to see again.  So here are my recommendations so far:

  •  Step by Step Quilted Landscapes by Kathy McNeil was part of the launch on 3 November of IQuilt by American Quilters Society (and I see “Bernina” also on the page, so it is probably a joint project).  Kathy McNeil does a superb job covering the range of complexities involved in creating a landscape quilt. I found I learned a lot even though I am an advanced landscape/art quilter myself. I particularly liked the way she covers building a depth of field in a landscape scene that is not visually flat and her discussion of values and colors throughout the class. She also adeptly covers a lot of the basic techniques required to build such a quilt in a way advanced beginners through expert sewists that might be moving from garment sewing to landscape quilting would need to know. I highly recommend this class for any sewist or quilter interested in building landscape quilts to decorate their walls or give as memorable gifts. Many of the techniques covered would also be useful in additional types of pictorial or other styles of art quilts.

 

  • Learn to Hand Quilt by Pepper Cory found on Annie’s Craft Store, may seem outside of what you may think I am interested in, but I found this class really fun, and yes, I have an interest in all kinds of quilting.  Pepper is a friend of mine too and I have taken several classes in person from Pepper, and this online class is an excellent addition to my studies with Pepper. I am encouraged by this to add some hand quilting to my repertoire of quilting techniques, but the class is also a good review of the use of stencils and of the marking and threads for any quilt project.

 

  • The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt by Susan Stewart is so much fun for those of us with embroidery modules or machines.  Susan is a fabulous sewist and heirloom quilter who uses machine embroidery in her award winning quilts in a way few can reach.  This class provides some of her techniques that I am interested in using myself.  Here she provides a clear and excellent class.  I only linked her name to her site instead of to the class because right now there is a discount if you use the link she provides from her site.

 

  • Photo Challenge Class by Ricky Tims has finally gotten me over the mental block I had against learning to how to properly use my camera and taught me a lot about using Adobe Photoshop as well, which I can also use in my digital fabric design work.  I took the 52 week challenge he offered this year, and he has recently launched his photo class website where he provides his planned classes for 2016.  I found this class really important for my work, but I also found it really difficult to try to meet the weekly challenge through several physical challenges that happened this year that I am making progress on getting over, but still have a little ways to go.  I think I may be his worst student, but I still managed to learn a great deal so far and there is the rest of the year to go.  So if you want to learn a lot, and I mean a lot, about using your camera and processing your photographs I really recommend this class.

 

  • Corel Painter classes and instructional videos by Aaron Rutton has taken my ability to use Corel Painter from very amateur to wildly fun abilities to paint what I want to paint for fun and also for my digital appliques for my quilts.  Aaron’s classes require that you watch a little, stop and work a little, and then watch a little, etc.  But there is no question he is a master digital painter.  I have really enjoyed learning from him and also have downloaded his workspace that provides his own set of brushes and so forth.  If you want to learn Corel Painter, I highly recommend his classes and videos.  Some of his videos are free, but if you support him with just a few dollars a month through Patreon, you will get a lot more access to his videos and extras.  I found his classes well worth the price, and he is very responsive if you have a question.  I’d really love to see the quilting world incorporate digital art more into their work and also support this young painter.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have the opportunity to explore some of these classes.  If you have one you took and really would recommend, please add them in a comment.  Cheers.

 

Catching Things Up and Planning New Quilts

I wanted to try to make a dreamscape using this method.  I missed taking the photo that week for a number of health related reasons, so I chose to use one I took early in the summer, since I missed the deadline an everything else.  Anyway, here's my dreamscape photo...I think this catches me up to date with all the challenges finally.

I wanted to try to make a dreamscape using this method. I missed taking the photo that week for a number of health related reasons, so I chose to use one I took early in the summer, since I missed the deadline an everything else. Anyway, here’s my dreamscape photo…I think this catches me up to date with all the challenges finally.

Without going into it, I have been a little off my game the past couple of weeks because of minor foot-related and other health issues, but I’m back on my feet now and am getting better every day. I finally caught up with all the missing photos in Ricky Tim’s 52 Week photo challenge today.  So while I was encouraged by my doctor to stay off my foot, I did a lot of planning for new quilts and even drew out some of the designs for several of them.  I am very excited about the new quilts I have on my agenda, but I am questioning my sanity.  😀 😀 😀

Next Deep Space Quilt:  I did a lot of mulling over of photos from NASA to determine my next deep space quilt and a couple of them convinced me that I will do a spiral galaxy quilt next.  I have wanted to do one for some time, but the picture of the day that showed real detail convinced me this was my next quilt project after my current Waiting…2 quilt. I probably won’t make that particular spiral galaxy, but will choose one that shows the full spiral.  Still, it is great to have such a nice detailed image for reference as I make it.   I am planning on multiple videos and photos as I make this quilt to help me in developing a workshop and accompanying book.  I will also be making small samples using my methods for this one.

Canterbury Bride:   I have nearly completed the design work for this next in my Canterbury series quilts.  This is likely to be my last Canterbury quilt, though not my last Ancient Manuscripts quilt.  I will continue on with those until everyone is sick of seeing them…LOL…so I designed the border and the concept for an illuminated manuscript quilt of Adam Names the Animals.  I love making these quilts.

So here are is my current list of potential quilts.  These are not in order in by any stretch of the imagination:

  1. Waiting…2 Recast of the first storm at sea but woman has her daughter with her, borders are smaller or nonexistent (in process)
  2. Hoffman Challenge 16: Happy Forest Small whimsical quilt with embroidered animals and lots of appliqued butterflies, sequins, beads, just over the top…this is just for fun, but I will enter it if I finish in time.
  3. Deep Space 3: Starburst Spiral Spiral starburst Messier 94 3rd in deep space series.  I have this one all worked out in my head on how to approach it.  These never get drawn out before hand except a minimal placement guide directly on the fabric.
  4. Canterbury Bride 3rd in Canterbury Series..design nearly done.
  5. Ancient Manuscripts: Adam Names the Animals. Part of the series of ancient manuscript style quilts in silk, similar to Canterbury series…This one is Adam names the animals
  6. Ancient Manuscripts:  Arthurian Legend 1…2…3…..LOL
  7. Japanese Ikebana quilt 2…follow-on to Kanazawa Memories.
  8. Waiting…3 Nurse waits at the airport for the return of her lover from war…the plane is coming in in the sky
  9. Ancient Manuscripts: Noah’s Ark. Part of the series of ancient manuscript style quilts in silk, similar to Canterbury series…This one is loading the ark with animals
  10. Japanese Ikebana quilt 3…Fan Dance By Moonlight revisited Japanese fans and flower arrangement for use with video workshop and manual
  11. Whole Cloth Contemporary whole cloth inspired by ancient quilt with dragon in the middle and Celtic symbols..done on silk with dramatic thread colors
  12. Jacob’s Ladder Jacob’s Ladder pictorial using Jacob’s Ladder traditional blocks for the ladder itself
  13. In Full Bloom Flower Applique/Embroidery laden quilt, from Beth’s photographs/Joint with Beth
  14. Heirloom Quilt Using Mom’s unfinished needlework and sepia pictures with traditional quilting, beads, crystals…crazy quilt blocks alternating with sepia pics.
  15. Swarkovski crystal music/Houston special Jazz 1920s, city with music coming from lit windows with silhouets, and rising and exploding into fireworks
  16. Marvin Memory quilt: Like a Tree Psalm 1 (Tree by river with words) with fabulous landscape work, the Psalm somehow incorporated in the quilting
  17. Dark Forest in 3D Dark, old, partially burned out forest with tall trees and beam of light making it through to floor of forest where the ruin of a church stands. The light shines through the window. The forest has owls, other birds, foxes, and other woodland creatures. This is a three dimensional
  18. SteamPunk Black textured fabrics and leather with gold, brass, and other metallic threads and fabrics
  19. Deep Space 4: Sky Elephant
  20. Fiery Volcanic Scene with Phoenix and Dragon fighting…full of fire and sparkles, showing a high degree of surface design work.

I know I’m a little crazy.  I just don’t want to loose these ideas as they float by, so I do a lot of drawing and notations to try to keep them.  I think I need a clone…LOL…but that wouldn’t be as much fun.  I have no idea how many of these I will make, and I probably will make some not shown here too.  It’s a good thing I’m retired!!!

Sew what do you think?  Any favorites?

 

A Journey to Art Quilts…One Problem Set at a Time

I am not yet seventy and have been sewing for over 60 years, having begun when I was 4 or 5.  It may seem odd, but I clearly remember sewing as a small child on my small Singer, set up next to my Mom while she sewed on her “big machine”. I made Barbie doll clothes (the only real good use for a Barbie, as far as I was concerned), pot holders, and the skirt for a dressing table at first. When I was about  eight I made my first complete dress.  It was quilting fabric, I believe, with maps and sailing ships and so forth on a blue background.  It had box pleats for the skirt and a simple top with, yes, set in sleeves.  I remember wearing it to school with great happiness and not a little pride.  From that time until the present, I made many things… bags, hats, dresses, wedding dresses, tailored suits–even men’s tuxedos–men’s ties, scarves, overcoats, fur coats, and just about anything for the home, but I did not quilt.

On October 1 of 2003, the love of my life passed away and I subsequently moved to be near my oldest son and his wife who were expecting my grandson.  Shortly after I moved, my daughter-in-law, who had taken up quilting and enjoyed it so much that she bought a longarm for her own use, suggested that I might enjoy quilting.  And so it began…

Now I had done just a few wall hangings and fabric as art before this time, making my church’s banners, and a few other wall hangings, but they were not quilts, and they were a long long ways in quality from where I am now as to what I can make for a show quilt.

Sew I set about to learn to quilt about a year after his passing.  It was a great solace to my sore heart following the death of Marvin.  I had something new and grand to learn, because I found that even though I could make almost anything else using fabric and thread, I could not make a very good quilt.  Surprise! It took me several years because I was working, hard, for the government at the time.

The quilts I made at first had really bad bindings, the designs were mediocre, and the quilting wasn’t very good.  They weren’t terrible, because I was, after all, a professional quality sewist.  But I was not a quilter, and I wanted to compete.  Using someone else’s patterns never really occurred to me.  I really don’t know why.

The best thing that happened in this journey was that Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims decided to pull together The Quilt Show on the Internet in 2007.  They brought in the great quilters who demonstrated how to do things…and one by one I picked up a new skill or tool and ran with it.  Given my long solid background of sewing and art, I could pick up the techniques with just one show, which I was able to watch over and over.  Sometimes, I bought a book that was mentioned and then I started taking classes with these great quilters themselves whenever I could get to a quilt show.  More recently, I have found online classes that are available and I can take them right here at my own studio, and yes, I still take classes.  What a great thing!

When I first became aware of the use of paint on quilts as an art form I was opposed to its use, thinking it wasn’t, somehow, right.  How silly of me.  The first time I realized I was wrong was when I saw Hollis Chatelain’s Precious Water, which took Best of Show in Houston in 2004.  If you look at her work, you will realize it is beyond question fine art that is not only beautifully painted, but a well crafted quilt in fabric and thread, and truly worthy of the prize. The competitive traditional quilting world was really shaken over this, I think.  Many felt that quilts are supposed to be for the bed, to cuddle with, to love, to wrap your baby with, and were not meant to ever be art for your wall.  Or if you did use it as art for your wall, it should be to show the great beauty of this historic traditional craft and only traditional.  I am sure that many still feel that way today, however…

…quilters are a loving and inclusive group as a whole, and not very many of them are what one might endearingly refer to as “old biddies” or “quilt police”.   This past several years I have witnessed art quilts move from shocking other quilters to a position of their own in the show quilting world.  These quilts take all kinds of forms…now you can make a traditional quilt as art just to show on the wall, and that is grand, but you can also use the quilt as your medium to produce art of many styles and be respected for it.  Exquisite, interesting, modern, and often full of emotional pull  art designs can now be realized in fabric, thread, paint, beads, and other embellishments, and be treated with the same respect as the exquisite traditional quilts and contemporary quilts have always been in the show world.  And the wonderful thing is that this in no way has diminished the great appreciation of the traditional beauties also shown.  It is hard now to predict whether a traditional quilt. a contemporary quilt,  or an art quilt will take Best of Show just from the category alone.  They have become side by side equals.  I hope you feel that is a grand thing.

I see little glimmers here and there that the traditional art world may even be beginning to warm to such show quilts as “real”art.  I suspect, however, that this one will take even longer to be seen by the traditional art world as side by side equals to the more traditional forms of art of painting and sculpture.

So what is required of me, as a now professional art quilter, to continuously reach higher as both an artist and a quilter? I believe it is imperative in keeping the creativity alive to constantly reach beyond one’s abilities to pull meaningful art out and share it with people.  It is just plain fun too.

How is this done?

I just came home from watching the movie made from the fabulous book by Andy Weir “The Martian”.  I found it inspiring.  It is largely the story of how the people involved, and in particular the protagonist who was the guy left on Mars in the mistaken belief he was dead, solved the enormous problem they were faced with on how to keep him alive until rescue could come, and how to rescue him.  Each vastly overwhelming problem was approached by solving a smaller set of problems and each of those sets by solving each part of that problem one step at a time, and readjusting as new problems arise.  Never giving up was the key.

This is the same approach I try to take on a much lesser scale to creating my art in the form of quilts.  I see so many things in the world surrounding me that inspire visions of quilts within my mind.  I must have a hundred quilt ideas tucked away in the recesses of my mind by now and new ones come nearly every day.  So I must first solve which quilts I will actually make, and draw out the design.  I ignore whether or not I think I can do this design or not until I actually start making it…breaking it down into individual problem sets and breaking those down into individual steps.  Sometimes along the way, I change the design because the original concept did not work.  So now it becomes something doable.  My mother used to constantly say “inch by inch it’s a cinch”.  She was right.

Of course, this approach came from my mother and father.  It carried me through my life as a wife and mother and my years of work for the Federal government where I did work I can not tell you about, but the approach was often the same to accomplishing anything difficult…break it down into workable components and do that.  It’s the same approach as it takes to make a man’s tailored suit…accomplishing each section one by one and finally putting it all together and then adding the final touches.  It is the same approach one must use to make a fabulous traditional quilt…one section at a time…one small component at a time…just don’t give up and fix the mistakes along the way.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my more unusual and difficult to make quilts won a ribbon for “Best Use of Color” in its category.  It was “Sky Horse”, which had also been shown at last year’s Houston show.  I hope to make more deep space quilts based on NASA’s great photos they have that are (mostly) copyright free.  I am taking an online class right now on painting nebula using Corel Painter 16, and have found it giving me many ideas on how I can improve future nebula quilts.  And in some ways as meaningful as a ribbon, one of my smaller quilts was just appraised in replacement value alone (does not include the design work) for over five thousand dollars by an AQS certified appraiser.  I have a friend who just sold one of her smaller art quilts about the same size (that also just won a Best of Show) for ten thousand dollars to an art collector.  This, my dear friends, seems to be progress to me for us art quilters.  May it continue, and wish me well as I try to make however many of the quilts buzzing around in my mind I can before I either get too old or join Marvin in heaven (whichever happens first).

Sew happy everyone!  Make that master quilt or piece of furniture or tailored suit or amazing decorated cake you have always thought you couldn’t do…solving one problem set at a time.  Oh, rest assured that I still love the traditional quilts made to cuddle and made for the bed, the lap, the baby, and the dog…well worth the making and a treasure to love.

Neglect Not the Gift…

I was just reading the fascinating story of how Andy Weir ended up having his book “The Martian” that started as a self-published blog series end up being produced as the coming movie.  Mr. Weir recently quit his day job to become a full-time writer.  One of my quilting friends recently posted this video about Master Penman Jake Wiedmann on facebook.  I also have been observing my son David, who is a sci-fi/fantasy writer, working hard to complete his third novel by early October so he will hit the peak time that people purchase novels (we have discovered timing for a book launch is very important in its overall performance).

A vision and a passion comes to the creative spirit, which I think we all must have in some direction, that must be either supported or trampled down.  Personally, I believe it is a gift from God and comes in many forms.  My mother used to tell me that I had many talents and that it would not be a pleasing thing to the Lord if I were to ignore them.  It always seemed like permission to go do what I wanted to do in the first place.  I think about her the most in the fall.  Her birthday was Nov 26th and she particularly loved the fall.  She pointed me to several Biblical passages for me to contemplate about this.  And yes, I do not think one has to always have a religious theme in one’s work to be doing what He wants us to do.  His spirit pours through regardless.  Here are just a couple of the verses my Mom gave me.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph 2:10)

Neglect not the gift that is within you. (1st Timothy 4:14)

Sew it is with real joy that I finally got over my creative funk I had earlier this year and also to have been able recently to return to near full-time “work” in my studio now that summer is over. September always seems to me the beginning of a new work year.  My studio is on the third floor of my medium-sized town home here in Ashburn, Virginia, and it looks out over the back yard and the small woods that backs up to the property.  Today is sunny and sparkly and I will spend some time outside today.  I have often thought it would be fun to take my small Bernina 350 out back and do some outdoor sewing, but truly, that is not very practical.  Things would blow around.  I would get distracted. So I am happy that I have such a nice view from my studio window.

Sew happy everyone!  This week if you are fortunate enough to be attending Pennsylvania International Quilt Festival in Philadelphia, you can see “Sky Horse” and “Kanazawa Memories” there; and if you are attending AQS Chattanooga, you can see “Canterbury Silk” there.  Cheers.

Quilting and Sewing: A Magical Playground

Quilting is so much fun for me.  Some days I get excited by something as simple as watching a show on The Quilt Show (TQS) even if it presents a type of quilting I know I’ll probably never use.  I also love thinking about advances in machines even if I am unlikely to obtain these machines.  I want to help people–men, women, children–who may find that they are interested in making quilts and run into problems.

Sew here is what I am thinking about today.  I saw Louisa Smith’s show on TQS a few minutes ago and she talked about her “color studies” and some interesting methods she has worked out to produce really colorful interesting quilts that she uses decorative stitches and threads when she appliques down her appliques.  They are gorgeous, and it gives me some ideas for a little quilt I am trying to design right now for next year’s Hoffman Challenge.  This design is floating around in my mind, but it is a little fuzzy still as to just how I’m going to approach it.  Just take a look at those fun fabrics.  I recently rewatched Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard  currently available for members on TQS and have decided beads have to play a big part in this little Hoffman Challenge quilt.

In addition, I enjoy learning about advances in machines today and about interesting machines even if I don’t plan to buy them.  I have a quilting friend whose power has been off for days.  She lives across the country from me so I can’t help her out with this, but it made me think about this machine I have kind of wanted for some time now and a special custom cabinet that the Amish make for it:

712t-main

What a wonderful advance this can be for people who don’t use electric power…a treadle machine with ten utility stitches and a buttonholer.  How neat it would be to have one of these to use if the power goes down for days because of a storm.  I won’t get it because I can’t figure where to put it in my home, and it probably would not be used very much since our power is, at this time, very reliable.  But wouldn’t that be fun?

I also would love to have an embroidery machine with multiple needles and a longarm machine…none of these will fit in my small townhome.  But it’s still fun to think about these machines and see what people do with them.  Sew what brand of machine do I think is best?  I think there are many brands today that are wonderful.  Bernina, of course is my favorite, but there is Baby Lock, which would be my second choice (or first choice if I were buying a new serger…I currently have a Baby Lock serger).  I also think Janome and Juki are great machines.  I truly don’t have any opinion on other brands such as Brother or Pfaff.  My mother, who has passed on now, loved her Pfaff, but it has changed owners since she had her machines and I don’t know how they do now.  The point is, you can have a wonderful old machine, a less expensive but workable machine, or a top end advanced machine and regardless still make lots of wonderful things with them.  It’s important to learn all the things your machine can and cannot do so you can plan your projects around them.

Just this week I ordered a #96 Bernina ruler foot they developed for their longarm.  They don’t recommend using it on their domestic machines because you have to remember to lower your presser foot to bring up your thread before you start sewing.  I have several friends who are successfully using it now, however.  I have the Westalee ruler foot that I use with the #77 adapter foot, and it works ok if the rulers are not too thick.  But the screw where you join the two pieces together sometimes gets in the way.  There will be no screw to run into with the #96.  So I am planning on developing some ruler work.  It’s a new technique for me and, indeed, a new technique for the industry…ruler work on domestic machines.

Today I made a little progress on foundation piecing the storm-at-sea blocks for a current project and had a lot of fun.  These blocks have 65 pieces for each one and I will need 24 blocks as close to perfection as I can get them for the big wave that will merge into the pictorial part of the quilt.  Here is the design for the rectangle I’m making from which to cut the sweeping big wave.  The blocks are 7 inch blocks, making the small parts very small indeed.  This will take me quite a while to complete because I am slow at this and have kind of gotten to be a perfectionist on having all those points come out just right.

Big wave traditionals

Sew what is my point about this?  Quilting and sewing has become a wonderful almost magical play ground full of fabulous fabrics, beautiful and reliable threads, and wonderful advanced machines.  Furthermore, some wonderful quilters and sewists have developed methods and skills that they so willingly share with others that make this one of the most exciting activities available to us today.  Videos and books are out there from many of these quilters and sewists for those who can’t make it to a show or workshop.

Sew happy everyone.  Go experiment with your machines, fabrics, and threads that you already have and let go and enjoy it like the magical playground it can be!  Samples are necessary, and they are where you can simply have fun.  These are great for making mug rugs and other small items for your friends.

 

National Sewing Month…Happy September!

September is National Sewing Month.  I like September for a lot of reasons, and this is just one of them.  It seems like a page-turn in life, almost like a new year and I love to watch the leaves turning from green to purple, orange, red and yellow that starts in September.  I like to turn the page and start afresh in my studio too.

I have four quilts out for shows right now, and I will learn whether any of them placed in mid-September.  I always hope I will get a ribbon, but I think the chances for any of these placing is quite slim, considering all the fabulous quilts in these shows.  Two of these shows are in mid-September:  Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia, which has Sky Horse and Kanazawa Memories and AQS Quilt Week in Chattanooga, which has Canterbury SilkInternational Quilt Festival in Houston, which has Canterbury Knight doesn’t happen until the end of November, but they say they inform the winners that they have won something around mid September.   So if I don’t get any ribbons, which I am always disappointed over even though I tell myself not to be, I can get over that all in the same part of the month and move on.

stash-building-web

Speaking of moving on, this September is bringing the beginning of several fun projects.  I am starting the second in my women keeping the home fires burning while their men were away for work or war throughout history series (I’ve GOT to get a shorter title for this series, and perhaps I need to end it with a modern day man keeping the home fires burning for their woman, but that is a ways away if I even do it). I began this series with “Waiting…”, and then decided it would make a wonderful series.  I have gotten all the fabrics together and a sky painted.  I’m not sure about that sky…I may paint another one. I can’t tell until I have more of the other parts of the quilt made and can put them kind of together.  It’s really kind of a rework of this quilt, but actually is going to be considerably different:

Waiting...

Waiting…

I’m also designing a quilt for Hoffman Challenge 2016 but the fabric isn’t yet available.  They have posted what they will be here.  I like the fabrics this year.  I wasn’t inspired by the choices for the past few years.  So I decided to make a 2016 quilt.

I like to work on two quilts in different phases at once so I can switch between them when I feel like throwing them out of the window.  This is an inevitable phase of making show quilts…I always have at least some point of time I need to leave it alone and work on something else just so I don’t take my scissors to it.  So since I can’t get started on the Hoffman Challenge quilt until the fabrics are available, I am also working on a couple of other quilt designs I have rumbling around in my head right now.  I’ll tell you about them later.

Additionally, this month I’m picking back up my work on two books I’m writing.  One of these is about 80 percent complete, and the other is outlined and I have the first chapter written.  Both require samples and pictures…so I am working on those also.

And finally, I am working on developing a couple of classes to teach locally.  I’ll let you know what those are and how they go when I get them further along.  I’m thinking machine applique for one, and domestic machine quilting for another, but they are very much in the early stages of just thinking about them at this point.  I have the location already worked out.

So happy National Sewing month everyone!  Learn a new technique, practice an old one, or teach someone to sew…your kid, your brother, your cat.  So happy everyone!

 

 

On Finding My Artist Voices

quilters block
I quite frequently see discussions about artists “finding their voice” in their work. I heard it referred to recently in the context of one quilter’s work that was all very similar in that “she found her artist’s voice.” I think the idea is that once you find a type of work you really like to work in, you perfect it and use it to establish an area in which you are recognized and rewarded. It’s a great idea.

Perhaps I am much more of a fabric art adventurer, however, than one who will ever find such a voice. I am particularly inspired by historic works of art, great natural wonders, magnificent architecture, works of artistic fantasy, and historic folk art. Sew I have opted to work in sets of series focusing around these items…which I admit is a very broad brush. I have my architectural series, my deep space series, my ancient illuminated manuscript series, my women throughout history keeping their home fires burning while waiting for their men to return home from the sea (and you don’t know it yet but also from dangerous missions of all sorts). I love to take my machines through their paces and make them perform to the nth showing what they can do to closely replicate hand work, embroider most anything, disappear their stitches that are there to hold things together, or work like a pen and ink. I like to take threads of all sorts, fabrics, and a little bit of paint and some beads and pull them together into something resembling a work of art.

It is indeed my goal to one day cross into the realm of “fine works of art” in this fabric art adventure of mine.

I somehow need to make money with this work to pay for things like expensive dental work and house maintenance and repairs. I have some ideas for that, but I am certainly going to stick to making my wall art quilts. Whether they end up being “show quilts” or not, I am making them all to the show quilt level. I do occasionally make a utility quilt for home or giving away, but they are often when I need to just try something new or somebody needs such.

Sew there you have it. I don’t think I have an “artist voice” exactly, and I may never have one, but I have artistic goals of all sorts. It is a passion of mine. It is full of fun, frustration, tedious times, exploding ideas, irritating quilter’s blocks, disappointments, real surprises, and absolutely delightful times.

Sew happy everyone! Go out and make a creation you love just because you want to and don’t worry about fitting in or not fitting in boxes.

Quilter’s Block…Does It Exist?

quilters block

As many of you know, my youngest son David is a fantasy/sci-fi writer.  This fact has made reading about writing very interesting to me.  Today I read an article about writer’s block, and it made me decide post about “Quilter’s Block”.  I believe many creative people face a block in their ability to move forward from time to time. I have just been through a period of about three months of this myself.  I finally think I got over it just a few days ago and have become productive again.  I simply could not get going on a project, any project.  My work on my books crawled, my design work was never even approaching right, and my mind flew around from one concept to another.

In my humble opinion, uneducated in the ways of psychiatry, but having figured out what I think makes me have such problems, I believe that quilter’s block may be brought about by negativity about one’s work, or stress in other parts of one’s life, or letting the deadlines–some of which are self-imposed–become overwhelming.  When I finally realized this is what I was facing, and not that I was having some kind of illness or something, I started trying to break it down in several ways.

  • I took some judges negative comments and tried very hard to look at my quilts objectively and see if they were right  I think that some of them were well justified and some of them made no sense.  So I discarded the ones that made no sense and tried to see what I could to fix the existing quilts and put the comments on my list to watch for for future quilts.  Then I took their positive comments as truth.  🙂
  • I finally got my oral surgery issue put behind me when I got my stitches out last week.  That was probably contributing.
  • I spent some time to unsubscribe to all the email lists that build up from websites I never really subscribed to, but may have either searched on them or bought something from.  So my junk email has been greatly reduced.  I also unsubscribed to groups on Facebook so I could see what my friends wrote..though that was only partially successful in that I still miss stuff.
  • I did a little cleaning…not enough, but it took care of some of the things that were particularly bothering me.
  • I put aside a quilt project I was trying to get started that I never could get going…my dark forest three dimensional quilt.  I will come back to it later maybe, but maybe not too.

After this, I started my Sashiko/Ikebana project by finally deciding to embroider the background Sashiko blocks by machine. I got reassurances from OESD that I can use this embroidery in for quilts I compete with or sell.  The background is based on a grid of 5 inches to come up with an irregular layout in acknowledgement of the origin of Sashiko…to mend fisherman’s and fireman’s jackets in old Japan that sometimes required irregular sized patches.  This layout will have 5 x 5, 5×10, and 10×10 inch blocks of various colors of Peppered Cotton.  Once I complete the background layout, I will reverse applique in a moon or fan  in front of which I will applique a large Japanese Ikebana arrangement possibly based on the one I did in Kanazawa that won me a ribbon.  I will digitally paint the vase and use applique or even broiderie perse for the flowers.   I will probably work out the Ikebana design using Corel Painter 15, but maybe not.  This is a kind of design as I go quilt and I am not sure whether it is a show quilt or not…I’ll make it as if it were and decide later.

Since the Sashiko/Ikebana quilt requires a LOT of machine embroidery, I am able to work on my book and my design for another quilt while I do that.  It only slows me down slightly.  Gibbs (my Bernina 830 LE) is ok as long as I don’t get too far away.  If I go downstairs or am unreachable, he throws a tantrum and breaks a needle or gets the thread all discombobulated.  LOL So staying close by while at my computer is a good plan.

Sew happy everyone!  If you get into a quilter’s block try to figure out what is causing it and find a way to fix it.  Maybe it’s just you are frustrated with the quilt you are working on and need to give yourself permission to leave it behind.