A Ribbon, Good Friends, and Starting a Special Quilt

Canterbury Knight in AQS Syracuse with Ribbon and Libby

Canterbury Knight in AQS Syracuse with Ribbon and my friend Libby

This has been a rather emotional week.  First of all, as many of you already know, my little quilt Canterbury Knight won a second place ribbon in its category at AQS Syracuse.  On Friday, a very long time friend of mine Libby Hedrick in Ithaca, NY, pictured above with my quilt sporting its ribbon, went to the show and took bunches of pictures of the show and my quilt in place. She and her husband are musicians and we used to sew together and went to the same church and even performed music together when I lived in Ithaca, NY as a young wife and mother so long ago.  We have been friends all these decades despite not seeing each other very often after Marvin and me and the kids left Ithaca for Washington, DC.  What a sweet delight for me filled with memories and fun.

In fact, so many of my friends have been encouraging me, inspiring me, and helping me move my quilting art forward, and it seems to have been especially so this week.  I am excited about the future.  Yes, the future…I moved into quilting when I was in my late fifties from a clothes sewer and even fashion designer and I am 69.  One of my role models is “Grandma Moses” of the art quilting world, though my style of art is different.  I did get a running start on her…she started serious painting when she was 78!

From Wikipedia:  “Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), known by her nickname Grandma Moses, was a renowned American folk artist. Having begun painting in earnest at the age of 78, she is often cited as an example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. Her works have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad and have been marketed on greeting cards and other merchandise. Moses’ paintings are among the collections of many museums. The Sugaring Off was sold for US$1.2 million in 2006.”

Sew now we’ve established that I am planning on a lot more quilting and that my Spiral Galaxy quilt is finished, I have been working on digitizing elements for my oldest son Ken’s quilt design he gave me for inclusion in my Ancient Manuscripts series in my Bernina V7 software.  It is a fabulous design, related to the knights of the round table.  The Celtic design border is the most problematic to make.   I’ve pretty much figured everything else out, except how to make swords look sharp and pointed in fabric.

Sew even though I am not going to share with you the entire design until later..maybe even after its debut…I will share parts of it here and there.  Right now I am working on border elements.  Here’s the upper left corner design.  I think he brought it in from a Dover publication and the original artist likely drew it in the 11th or 12th century.  So it needs a little cleaning up.  Here’s the design:

upper left corner...will be stitched in gold thread on a dark green background.

Upper left corner (7″ block)…will be stitched in gold thread on a dark green background.

I’ve already digitized a few designs and am about to go and do a stitchout. Here’s the image of the lower left corner (7″ block)

lower left corner

lower left corner

And here’s image of the smaller right corners (both the same)

right small corners

smaller right corner blocks

The bears in the border are the long designs that run the length of the borders between the blocks.  I’ll let you know how I solve this. I may end up painting some of the designs after stitching with gold paint.  I just have to work these things out one item at a time for this wonderful design and, like I suggested in a recent post, it is important to test these things along the way.

Sew happy everyone!  Thank you for your wonderful support and encouragement.  It means a lot.

 

 

From Design Concept to Completion

quilt designing002

The other day I was cleaning!  Yes, I do that occasionally, but not often enough.  Anyway, I found this…my original design for Canterbury Knight.  This quilt will be on display at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival from 25-28 February and I’ll be down there hanging around it from time to time on the 26th and 27th.  Oh my golly!  That’s just a week and a half away! 

Sew this is how I usually design a quilt.  I start with a concept that drops into my head.  in order not to lose the idea, I often make this kind of silly quick sketch with just a few notes.  Then I go to my computer where I have several pieces of design software and work the concept into a full design.  I used to do this on paper with pencil, so if you don’t have design software, you can still do this yourself.  Here are a few of the many many files I have in my steps toward the full design.

One of the original 12th century drawings of Chaucer's knight.

One of the original 12th century drawings of Chaucer’s knight.  I only kept the concept for the horse’s armor.

My horse drawing all painted and ready to print onto the silk fabric.

My horse drawing all painted and ready to print onto the silk fabric.  This horse took me days to draw and paint using my design software.  I need to get faster.

I draw the pattern for the appliques and place them so I can see they work right.

I draw the pattern for the appliques and place them so I can see they work right.  I hand painted the knight’s head and hand, the rest is applique made from metallic-like fabrics.

I do a lot of research for some of my quilts, such as these ancient manuscript quilts.  Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find what I want in Dover publications.  Sometimes, I have them hanging around my house (my late husband was a magnificent librarian and book collector and I have a lot of his collection).  Sometimes I have to go elsewhere (always being conscious of copyright issues).  In this case, I found the border in two different sources–Dover Illuminated Manuscripts and a book my husband had of ancient illuminated manuscripts. it’s quite similar, but I made a lot of changes too.  Afterall, I am not trying to reproduce the ancient manuscript, but am making an ancient manuscript “inspired” 21st century piece of art.  This gives me the option to change things I don’t like or want to make.  In this case, I kept fairly close to the original.

4.2.7

The original border jpg.

I changed the announcer boy a lot, removed some of the busy-ness, adjusted for size, and changed the background to black. Then I took the designer boy, the “angry bird” on the left and the two big flowers and turned them into appliques that I hand inked onto silk. The rest I traced onto my black border, quilted, and then painted it.  I digitized the verse in Bernina V7 software, and found birds to add around the text box.  I also added the little upper right box to balance the letter “A”.  Eventually, one piece at a time, I arrive at the full design so I can begin making the appliques and quilt top.  I use Corel Draw to turn this into a full sized print out.  Corel Draw easily tiles the print into whatever sized paper that will fit through my printer.  In this case I used tabloid sized paper (11 x 17) to minimize the number of tiles.  I then tape them together.  Getting to this point is about one-third of the time it takes me to make a quilt.

This is the design file I worked with and enlarged to full size.

This is the design file I worked with and enlarged to full size.

And after a lot of fun and interesting work, I ended up with this quilt:Canterbury-Knight---F---2015-web

I started this quilt in December 2014 and “completed” it in March 2015 in full-time work.  After it went to The HMQS and I got back some helpful criticism from the excellent 2 judges, I did a fair amount of revamping and correcting.  In fact, this quilt has had something “fixed” on it after every show.  I even darkened and re-inked some of the colors that you see in this photo before sending it to the Mid-Atlantic to help overcome the judges viewpoints that the border overwhelmed the central theme.  I do note though, that ancient manuscript borders often “overwhelm” the central theme, if you look at it that way.  Anyway, a quilt is never done until it’s done.  And I learn something with every quilt and every show.

So if you are going to MAQF this year, drop by and see this quilt.  I also have “Kanazawa Memories” in the show that I’d like you to see, but that’s another design story altogether.  I may be there by one or the other on Friday or Saturday and I’d love to see you.  Make sure to tell me who you are.

Sew happy everyone!  Design your own piece of art…start simple and go forward from there.  Make changes as desired.

Note:  I have added a “Donate” button that goes safely through Pay Pal.  I do not want anyone to feel they must donate, nor guilt trip anyone.  I note I am a struggling artist, and I thought you may want to drop an artistic donation in for fun and to help keep the blog running.  PLEASE, continue to read and comment if you don’t wish to donate and DO NOT feel guilty if you don’t. I really struggled with myself trying to decide to add the donate button.  But in the end, decided to try it.  Cheers.

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.

 

Playing With Digital Drawing Programs

I upgraded my Corel Painter to Corel Painter 16 about a month ago and had run into a problem with it not behaving well.  Working with Corel tech people I finally got it running right and it is so much fun.  I also took a class from Corel Painter Master Aaron Rutton on drawing Nebula using the program.  This class came with a bunch of his brushes he developed, and the class was really good.  You had to stop it and go back to Painter and do the next step, and then go back to the video and watch it…it worked well though.  Here’s a little design I worked on to make sure the program is really working right.  It has so many possibilities for me to use to make my own printed fabrics.  This took me only about 15 minutes to make using the kaleidoscope function within the program.

stars and butterflies

And here’s a line drawing I drew with the kaleidoscope.

kal design 1Sew happy everyone.  If you have Corel Painter or other similar drawing program, draw a design and send it to me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com and I will post it on my next blog unless you ask me not to.  Cheers.

Updating

I always kind of feel like September brings a new year.  This has been a year full of updates and maintenance both for my home and for my software.  This year I had to replace my hot water heater, have some rotting trim and all the grouting outside replaced and the whole house pressure washed, the decks and fence pressure washed and sealed, and the trim repainted.  There have been a lot of smaller items, and yesterday I just got an old builder’s grade toilet replaced in one of my small bathrooms for a nice new one.  I still have to replace the weatherstripping around my front door, but that should be all for the house for a while, I hope.

The amazing thing is how well this restored my decks (I have two).  I was thinking before all of this that I might need to replace it, but it looks fantastic, almost like new.  I have enjoyed getting out there every day the weather permitted since the deck was restored.  Sometimes my grandson has gone out there and done some reading also.  He started to school yesterday, but he still comes here after school.  This is good.

In anticipation of my fall sewing and quilting now that school has started, I first updated my website, adding a little store to sell my quilts, books, and other items from.  Additionally, I have been updating my software.  I started by installing Windows 10 and made sure it works with everything, and then I took advantage of a really good deal on the new Corel Painter 16 software update.  This adds quite a few interesting new brushes and other things, plus it allows me to use all those Dover brush stamps that I have for Photoshop in Painter now.  I like that a lot.  Painter is the main design software I use so it is important to take advantage of these major advances.

All this updating made me realize that I was at an excellent spot in my sewing and quilting plans to update the firmware on my Bernina 830 LE, which I did.  Everything is working well so far (knock on wood).

So the other day I did a little exploration of some of the decorative stitches on my 830.  Most of the ones I tried are new, but not all of them.  Here are some pictures of the test samples:

stitch sampler stitch sampler 2Aren’t they fun?   I think I’ll have to do something special with some of them.  What do you suggest?

Stitch number 713, which was there all along, is the stitch I should have used when I was trying to get a Sashiko like stitch for my border on Kanazawa Memories.  I still think it would have stretched, and I would have finished it like I did, but I’ll know next time.  These little samplers are going in my notebook.

All of this updating, plus a very expensive dental/oral surgery thing, are the reasons you won’t see me at a quilt show for a while.  I’m not sure just how long, but I am content.  I have all these wonderful design programs and machines to play with at home with a fully stocked stash of fabrics, threads, paints and beads.  It will be fun to see what I can do with all of that.

Sew happy everyone!!!  Updating can be a good thing, though it may be a little stressful from time to time.  You might be surprised at how well things work and find some new treats as you get them finished.  Cheers.

 

 

 

Digitally Painting Flowers for Appliques

I have been making some progress on my Sashiko/Ikebana quilt. I got the blocks all embroidered with the Sashiko, cut and stithed together for the background, and I made the moon applique and turned the edge around a freezer paper template using starch, so it’s ready to applique. The next thing is making all the other appliques.

I looked through my stash and decided I did not want to use commercial fabrics for my broiderie perse appliqued flowers. I also found a wonderful set of line drawings on Dover Pictura, but they needed a lot of editing to make them work for outlines for my painted flowers.  So I thought I would tell you a little about how I approached that editing and painting. This is a very brief look..there is more to it, but the blog gets so long. Please ask questions if you want to know more.

I have found that a lot of line drawings you can find that are either copyright free or royalty free (that make them useable for my purposes) have lots of things that interfere either with digital painting or with digitizing for embroidery, but they are fairly easy to edit.  It does take time, though.  I use a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter 15 for this, but I could probably manage it in just one or the other.  I have found though that the combination gives me a very powerful setup, especially when I added Corel Draw and Bernina V7 to that mix. Then I can potentially use the same line drawing for fabric painting and for digitizing embroidery.  But for this project, you can probably do it all in most drawing packages.

First some of the drawings need to be a little simplified…removing dots, for instance, using the eraser tool.  So I start with Photoshop and edit the line drawings:

Preparing a line drawing

Then I make sure all the shapes have no “leaks” or gaps, using a narrow line drawing brush.

Editing a line drawing 1

Then I move it into Corel Painter 15 for the painting.  (Note, I save the outline as a .tif file and as a .jpg, and I use the .tif for the painting). I start by filling the shapes with color using the paintcan fill tool.  After I do that, I will add some highlights and lowlights using one of the digital air brush tools, and I might do some blending with the blending brush tools.  In some cases, I need to add some texture with some of the texture brushes,, as I did in the center of the blue flowers below.  I left the lines black because I think it looks good for fabric prints.  I will probably use the lines for stitching lines.

flower 4 for applique-a_003

 

But sometimes I just color the drawing with only minor editing.  In the drawing below, I filled all the lines in dark green (this requires care…just to touch inside the line so the lines go green and nothing else does).  I filled the leaves as much as possible (the spaces are very small) with the light green and then painted in the rest of colors using the scratch board brush.  I did not do any highlighting  or blending on the one below because the line drawing was so complex.

flower 5 for applique_001

Colors have to be more intense on the screen so they will print well on fabrics. If you try a paper print and it looks right, it’s probably too light. I can print an 11 x 17 inch fabric on my printer.  It will print larger, but I would have to prepare the printable fabric myself.  I get the 11 x 17 and 8.5 x 11 sheets from Electric Quilt.  After I print them with my ink jet printer, heat set, rinse, and iron dry it seems to be fairly permanent and washable.  So I print it and set it and then iron the fusible web on the back and carefully cut it out.  I do stitch the edge after ironing it in place.  Sometimes I use only a tiny straight stitch with 10o wt silk thread or with monopoly.  Sometimes the edge of the cut fabric shows a little white, and I use India ink markers to color the edges if needed.  This also needs to be heat set to make it washable.

It amazes me how far digital paint programs have come.  I especially love Corel Painter 15, but it really took me a lot of time before I began to really use the great features of this program.  I found some you tube videos by several of the digital painter experts that have helped me a lot.  One of the cool things about this is that I can resize the flowers, reverse print them, and print them all..then I have a lot of flowers without having to paint more.

Sew happy everyone! Try a little digital painting for fabrics.

 

Painting and Writing and Missing Quilting

004Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard to complete my book “Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 Effectiveness”.   I have all but two of the eleven chapters and accompanying project designs complete and have only the two hardest ones left.  I also have several informative appendixes partly written. I will have to test everything, working through the book and making any corrections.

I also have been “painting” horse appliques and preparing a package for each horse that will include instructions for printing and appliqueing and patterns for stitching the tails and manes.  I have two horse designs ready to test and am making progress on learning the things I need to consider for building each applique package.  I will have to test everything for these too.

I have not, however, been working on a quilt.  I miss it.  But this is a temporary situation.  My plan is that after I finish the first book manuscript I will set up a weekly schedule that will divide my time equally between writing, embroidery and applique designs, and quilting so I can still make several new show quilts every year.  Eventually I will finish the writing too.

It’s all wonderfully creative work though, sew I’m still having fun.

Sew happy everyone!

A Greeting in Fabric from the Heart

As I work through writing and building the projects for my Bernina v7 Skill-Builder book, I am delighted with how much is there to use.  Some of my projects are fairly simple in design because I want to concentrate on the techniques and design elements available in the software.  Yesterday I worked through a project to develop a little fabric greeting card…or it could be a mug rug…about 5 inchs by 5 inches.  It discusses using the art canvas Basic Vector Shapes, turn the heart shape into Advanced Applique, using Pattern Run to fancy it up, and working out the quilting in the hoop.  Here is the resulting design, ready to be stitched out:

5" x 5" fabric greeting card or mug rug

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug

It is my hope that by the time someone works through all ten projects that they will be able to develop almost anything they want with it.  I did set aside my hope to include making lace in the book, because I am thinking of writing a second book if this one is successful for more advanced projects. And in case you are wondering, I have no connection with Bernina other than I love their products. This software goes well beyond Bernina, and I thought this might be helpful to those of you who use it or want to use it. I had quite a struggle to learn it myself, so I thought I might be able to save you some time and frustration.

Sew Happy everyone!

Progress in the Studio

Hooray!  I finished Canterbury Knight.  Oh, I still have to put the label on, but otherwise it is complete.  This quilt is far from perfect, and yet it has absorbed so much of my time and efforts that I have sadly neglected my blogging, my house cleaning, and a few other things.  And to top it all off, when I completed the squaring up and binding, it ended up too small for American Quilter’s Society shows…or too big.  They have a six inch gap between their small wall quilts and their miniature quilts.  It’s not a miniature anyway.  It’s 26 x 35 inches.  Not to worry, there are many other shows, including Houston, that believes that art quilts “of any size” are acceptable.  And why shouldn’t they be.  They take just as much effort.

Anyway, I love this little quilt with all its flaws.  Here’s hoping I can get it into a few shows so some of you can see it in person.  You should see the quilt at the top of this post and here’s a detail zoom:

Detail

Detail

Now I will turn to completing at least one of the books I have started.  The one I am sure to finish first is 10 Projects to Help Master Bernina V7 Design Software.  That title is way too long, so I’ll try to find something shorter.  The next one will be on the different types of machine applique and which to choose for what purpose.  I have a third one on surface design lightly outlined also, but let’s see if I can get the first one completed and somehow published.

I plan on blogging more often for a little while, and hopefully will get some feedback along the way.  I love to hear from you.  Sew happy everyone…takes some time to enjoy the spring, but also spend a little time creating.

Fabric Adventures in My Studio

Sometimes I have so much fun in my studio it feels like a great adventure.  This past week has been one of those periods of time.  I don’t have any pictures for you this week. You see, I am working on things I want to share with you later…after they are finished, and maybe even after they have debuted either at a show or in a published book.

I had a wonderfully productive work week last week.  Spring seems to be springing and I finished quilting Canterbury Knight.  I also managed, after about four tries of putting it on and taking it off over and over to get the three rows of Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle around my central block with nice square corners and mostly straight sides.  It looks so good I got excited about it.  Now I have to paint the border designs.  Yes, that is scary.  After working for months and months on this quilt, the last thing I will do before binding, labeling and adding the hanging sleeve to it is the painting, where things can so easily go out of control.  So today, I made a small mug rug sized piece that I quilted and all just to practice my painting before I start the real thing.  “Practice makes perfect”…well, at least for me it makes “better”.  😀

In addition to all that, I took a webinar tutorial on Corel Painter.  That was the best I’ve ever taken.  The artist was painter master Aaron Rutton, and I discovered he has a lot of videos out there on this program under “Draw This”.  I will be watching many more.  I am slowly becoming almost able to really get the best out of that wonderful program, so I really will be watching a bunch more.  It’s like using real paint without all the mess, and with additional cool things, like layers, that let me accomplish things I see in my head even if I am not a great painter…like the horse on the Canterbury Knight.  I painted that in Corel Painter, minus tail and mane.  It was a struggle, though, that took me weeks, so if I can improve my knowledge of this program, just think what I can do with it.  I’m sure Mr. Rutton could have done that in a matter of an hour or two.  One of things I plan to do with it is to put items for sale and for free like tail-less horses and faces and hands, and Vases for flowers for people to download and print on their own Electric Quilt or other printable fabrics for their own quilts.  Let me know if you have suggestions for small, similar things you always wished you could find for your fabric art.

Then finally, I have been making huge progress on my book on using Bernina v7 software.  I got a little bogged down on my applique book, because I need to work out samples and take pictures to move forward.  But when my daughter-in-law came over for a short lesson on the software–she has never even used an older version–I realized that I already had a book in my head on that, because I have been thinking about this for a long time.  So I sat down and sketched out an outline before I lost the idea that just came to me, and got the first two chapters of an eleven chapter book about ten projects that will help you get the most out of Bernina design software written and illustrated.  To top it off, I got a response from Bernina that no permission was required for me to publish such a book.  Hooray!  I think I can finish this one by the end of April, though we will see.

Sew happy everyone!  Even though it’s spring, and you want to go outside, still spend some time in your sewing space and then take lots of breaks running outside to see the next flower open.