Archive for February, 2008

I never used to be much of a risk taker.  However, over the years I’ve gotten better and better at it.  Perhaps surprisingly, the way I began to learn to take risks was through quiltmaking and starting to make up my own designs for quilts.  That gradually led to the ability to take risks in lots of other areas of my life.

So I was kind of surprised at my feelings yesterday when I was trying to decide what to do with the background of the monoprint I made last week.DSCN1476  

I really liked the way this turned out and was excited about moving on to embellish it, but I didn’t want to just leave the background white. 

I thought about some different things, and asked for comments from Susan, my monoprinting teacher.  But I was just so afraid of risking this print, that I’ve already become attached to, by making a mistake.

Oooo…. There’s that inner critical voice.  You might make a mistake!  You won’t do it right!  It’ll be ruined!  You know the script.

So I summoned my courage yesterday morning, in spite of the fact that I have a terrible head cold (maybe the drugs helped overcome the fear), and I painted in a background.DSCN1539 

Using the colors of the monoprint, I drastically watered down the paint and sponged, flicked, and dabbed it on.  I was aiming for a sort of blurred-photographic-flowery-background kind of effect, which I think I achieved.  I almost went too far with adding, though.  The purple highlights were at first too strong and I had to go back over them with water to blur them out.

I’m pretty happy with it and have taken this gorgeous Moda fabric DSCN1540 I bought a year or two ago and am using it for the backing and binding. 

Only problem is that when it’s finished all you’ll see is the binding.  I’m finding I’m doing this more and more often, though–using gorgeous commercial fabrics that only peek out, giving just a hint of what will ultimately remain hidden. 

I’ve started putting this together and embroidering it with a technique I also learned from Susan that combines the embroidery and quilting into one process.DSCN1541  

The funny thing is that I keep having this strange feeling of embroidering on an already printed piece of fabric.  You know, those ones you can buy in the store?  And I have to keep reminding myself that I drew the design and printed the fabric.  Such a new and strange feeling.

This is going to be a WISP because I’m planning to add lots of embroidery, beading, ribbons, and who knows what else.  DSCN1542

It was a good feeling to take the risk of ruining this print and finding that I could play and have fun with it and end up with something I like even better. 

That’s the whole thing about risk.  It forces you to learn and grow.    


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On Wednesday I tried out another monoprinting technique:  freezer paper printing.  This is really just another resist-type technique where parts of the fabric are masked, leaving other areas free to accept paint or dye.

For my first experiment I took a piece of white fabric and pressed onto it at random a few rough cut rectangles of freezer paper.DSCN1519  

I then painted over with some ochre Neopaque paint.


I added a few more rectangles and painted again.  This time with magenta. 


Added a few more rectangles and some black streaks.


You can guess what I was aiming for.  I wanted some spaces to remain white, and some ochre.  I would have liked some magenta, too, but would have had to add another color.  I think I could go back in and paint some magenta, though.DSCN1523

I like this piece overall and there are some good small spaces in it, too.



Next I started with a piece of my hand-dyed blue fabric and cut out this neat design, paper-doll style.  I added some round stickers.DSCN1532

I rolled on layers of Lumiere metallic copper, gold, and bronze.  I thought this looked pretty cool as it was.


Then I added some pearl white streaks, which I didn’t like too much, so I went back over with some more bronze.  DSCN1535

I was pretty disappointed when I took the freezer paper off, because not much of the design appeared–not enough contrast.  The negative spaces were what showed up. 

Duh!  That’s what happens when you mask the design and paint around it. DSCN1536

That got me thinking about what could happen with the negative spaces, so I got out my trusty flexible mat and found this. DSCN1537

Then I turned the whole thing upside-down and got this.  Not so bad.DSCN1538

This exercise brought me back to my seminary drawing class.  Yes, I went to a great seminary that happens to have a special endowment for the arts and I was required (yeah!) to take a class in the arts.  I took drawing. 

Much of the focus was not on drawing so much–although we drew a lot–as on the ability to really “see.”   I recall a particularly good project on negative spaces.  For a while all I could see were negative spaces in everything.

This is a really good exercise for discovering that what you think you see is not usually all that’s there.  A good lesson to learn over and over again.  And not just in art.

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I have decided that I am finished with my February TIF piece.  The original plan was to stitch two flour sack dish towels, that I have hand dyed peach and pale blue, with motifs adapted from designs on the cabinet and machine of my great-grandmother’s treadle sewing machine. 

After an initial slow start in dyeing where the first two towels turned out bright blue and bright orange, I got the next two in the right color range.  I transferred the design I had drawn based on the raised work on the cabinet to the center of the peach towel and began stitching.  Now I remember why you use cross-stitch or something like holbein to do towels.  It’s really hard to get the back to look nice.DSCN1513

While I had planned to stitch this motif in repetition across the entire bottom of the towel, I’ve decided to stop with just one central motif.  I have not been very happy with the way it’s turned out.  I think it’s pretty, but if done over I would use different stitches so the back would look better.  It’s not awful, mind you, but I’m a perfectionist.  Need I say more?DSCN1514

My remembering (the February TIF theme) for this piece was remembering stitching flour sack dish towels as a child, combined with learning how to sew on both treadle and electric sewing machines in seventh grade Home Ec. Class.

I am fortunate to have received my great-grandmother’s treadle sewing machine which is over one hundred years old, and would still work, if I put it all together and tried it.  It was used as the inspiration for the towel embroidery design.DSCN1515  

I didn’t know my great-grandmother well, who although her name was Evelyn, always went by “Lady.”  I very slightly remember her being rather stern, but I don’t know if she really was.  I remember my mother telling me that Lady was into health food before it was popular, making homemade whole wheat bread, that I don’t recall liking much at the time, though I love it now.  I think I was in first or second grade when Lady died.  She was one of the many women in my extended family who sew, quilt, and/or do needlework. 

Yesterday, while finishing up the stitching I also was reminded of the grape vines that grew over the fence from the yard next door to one of the houses we lived in when I was little.  We used to sneak grapes off the vine and eat them.  They weren’t very good.

The colors from this month’s TIF project brought to mind one of my WIVSPs.  That’s Work in Verrrrry Slow Progress.DSCN1516  

This is a tea cozy I started in…umm…probably 1991.  That means Pre-Seminary.  It was for the third step in the then Master Craftsman Program in Quiltmaking through the Embroiderer’s Guild of America.  It was to be a utilitarian piece, combining a complementary color scheme with one or more special techniques such as string piecing, crazy quilting, trapunto, etc. DSCN1517  

I’m thinking of starting in on it again, because I really do like it.  This side still needs some embroidery, then there is a whole other side to do the same way.  Then the sides will be quilted and then put together with a big thick cording covered with pleated or ruched peach fabric.  And the whole thing will be lined.  Pretty ambitious, I know, but it’ll be gorgeous when finished.

Oh BTW.  That blue towel?  I’m going to save it for another project along with the “Go, Broncos”-colored other two.  On to March.     

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I haven’t done any dyeing for a couple of weeks and I’m actually beginning to use up some of my fabrics playing with the blocks on the Sew, Mama, Sew Block Along.

So yesterday, I started into another dyeing workshop, this time to do color runs between the primary colors. 

I got everything set up.DSCN1508

Then I discovered that I didn’t have enough blue dye powder to make up the solution for the blue-added sections of the runs.

So I got together the red and yellow solutions and set out nine individual cups with different mixtures and got ready to dye, using the bowl method.  I chose to do only 7 mixes between each primary, but at some point I want to do 13 to get an even wider range of colors.DSCN1509

The fabrics sat overnight to cure and this morning I rinsed, washed, dried, and pressed them. 

Then I took them out into the garden, since it’s so pretty out there today, to be photographed. 

Here they are!!!DSCN1512  

It may not seem exciting to anyone else, but I just get so amazed at how gorgeous these colors are.  It’s really the color, after all, that keeps me interested in doing fiber arts.

I’m also intrigued by the fact that the visual distance between primary yellow (on the left) and the next fabric toward red is much greater than that between primary red (on the right) and the next fabric towards yellow.  That first one after yellow has only 1/2 tsp red to 3T + 2 1/2 tsp yellow dye solution.  Yet look at the great difference.  The proportions are the same but reversed on the red side and they’re so close you can hardly tell them apart.  The subtleties of the different dye colors is so fascinating to me. 

Late yesterday afternoon I went for a walk and was treated to a magnificent sunset.  Every shade of pink to blue to purple with some yellows, and grays and browns must have been included.  Spread across the horizon and mountains all around were scattered clouds and showers.  If you’ve never been to New Mexico, then you cannot imagine the variety you can see in one single sunset.  Spectacular!  Then as the sun set, but there was still some light, the sagebrush stood out especially silvery against the varied shades of beige and brown of the other dormant vegetation. 

An awesome day for color collecting!

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My pictures yesterday weren’t too good, because it was cloudy/rainy/snowy off and on all day.  So here are some better pics of my Shoo-Fly Away quilt top taken on my garden wall in between drips of melting snow from the roof. DSCN1501

You can see just a peek of the blue sky above, and what’s that? some tree tips peaking over from my neighbor’s yard.  Didn’t see those when I was taking the picture.  Ooops.  Here’s a close-up.DSCN1502  

I’m actually liking this quilt more and more as I look at it.

I finished reading Mary Catherine Bateson’s book, Composing a Life yesterday.  I’ve seen quotes from it all over the place for the past couple of years, so I finally decided it was time to read it.  Turns out she was a professor at my alma mater George Mason University while I was there, and I didn’t even know it.  Of course, I didn’t know who she was then, either.

I thought this statement found on nearly the last page captures a lot of the struggle that both men and women in our culture have in seeking to compose lives of strength, health, and integrity:

Many women raised in male-dominated cultures have to struggle against the impulse to sacrifice their health for the health of the whole, to maintain complementarity without dependency.  But many men raised in the same traditions have to struggle against pervasive imageries in which their own health or growth is a victory achieved at the expense of the the other.

                        –Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life, pg. 240

We are all in this together, aren’t we?  It’s seems we could work together instead of at cross-purposes with each other for the wholeness, the shalom, of creation.  Just a thought.

I’m continuing to work on my Suri Lace Shrug and it’s not looking like much.DSCN1503   I have about 16 1/2 inches of the 36 I have to complete before I start the other cuff, and it’s a good thing I know that lace doesn’t look like lace until it’s blocked or I would be getting concerned.  When I stretch it out a little I can get an idea of what it will look like.


I actually wondered about it enough that I counted the number of “ridges” on the picture on the pattern to make sure I was doing it right. I am.

Speaking of wondering how things will turn out, I’ve also been reading Susan Gordon Lydon’s, The Knitting Sutra.  In the chapter titled, “God and Nature, Nature and Cloth,” she mentions a weaving technique I had never heard of, geringsing.t9  It’s a Balinese technique that uses tied and dyed threads across both warp and weft.  This picture is from Kuluk Gallery

Geringsing is similar to, but more complex than, ikat which uses tied and dyed thread in the warp only, causing images to appear once the cloth is woven. 

Geringsing, however, is much more intricate and difficult to produce.  Realize that the warp and weft threads have to be dyed in such a way so that the right images will appear BEFORE they are put on the loom.  Unfathomable!

Lydon notes that it can take up to 9 years to produce a piece, and the entire process is highly ritualized.  Talk about slow cloth!

I did a little surfing and found out that some of this amazing cloth can be seen at TAI Gallery in Santa Fe.13066indo  This picture is from their site. 

This also happens to be the place where some incredible Japanese bamboo baskets are on display that Elaine noted a week or so ago on The Red Thread Studio.  I didn’t have time to stop there on my last visit, but for sure I will next time I go to Santa Fe. 

Elaine also linked Lisa Call’s website for some really nice quilted pieces that went on exhibition this past weekend.  I am close but not quite close enough to Boulder to go to see them.  Lucky readers of her blog, though, because she’s going to be showing them there, too.  Still,  I’m thinking it’s time for a trip to Colorado. 

So much inspiration, and yes, I have to keep reminding myself that there is just enough time to do and see what’s important. DSCN1506 

Ooooo! I just heard a strange noise and realized that it is hailing outside, and it’s making a racket (did I spell that right?) on my skylights.  Is it spring already?  Good thing the car’s in the garage.

That’s snow in the foreground, but the rest is hail.

I’ve got to get busy!  Today’s a dyeing day.  Whoopee!

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Shoo-Fly Away

This afternoon I’ve been putting together my variation of the Shoo-Fly block that I started working on for Sew, Mama, Sew Block-Along Week 2.

I originally started out making regular Shoo-Fly blocks, but when I began putting them together they seemed kind of dull.**DSCN1491  

While thinking about what to do to add a little spark, I remembered the neat trick done with the nine-patch block to make it a “disappearing” nine-patch that was shown during week one of the Block-Along.

So I decided to try it with this block.  First, I cut a block into quarters.DSCN1488  

I showed on my  blog here a couple of different configurations of how the block might be put together.  The one I liked best, and that fit together to make the nicest pattern overall was the one where I simply rotated opposite quarters.


Here’s the completed top.  It’s 42″ x 51″.  I’ve named it “Shoo-Fly Away”.  I’m not sure why, except that it’s a variant of Shoo-Fly, and because the whole time I’ve been working on it the hymn, “I’ll Fly Away” has been going through my head.  I don’t particularly subscribe to the theology of that hymn, but it’s great fun to sing. DSCN1498

I’ll have to think a bit on how to quilt it.  This would be a good size for me to practice machine quilting, although my inclination is to hand quilt it.  I have my eye on some yellow with a little blue print fabric at the quilt shop for the backing and binding. 

Not sure what I’ll do with this quilt since it doesn’t go with anything in my house, but it’s been fun playing around with some traditional blocks.  And it’s been nice to use some of that Liberty of London fabric that’s been in my stash for almost twenty years (the prints). 

**Unfortunately the light is not very good here today, so even with all the lights turned on I wasn’t able to get very good pictures.  If I can get a better one tomorrow, I’ll post it. **

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Today I’ve been working on projects for my Monoprinting class with Susan Sorrell.

My collagraph has finally dried and I did some experimentation with it.  First, I painted different elements different colors and printed on some white fabric, placing the fabric over the collagraph and rolling with a brayer to get an impression.  The collagraph is on the right and the print made from it on the left. DSCN1464

This was pretty difficult to do, mainly because the objects on my collagraph have such fine lines.  They were hard to paint, and not a lot of the paint adhered to the fabric.  But it still turned out kind of neat.

Next I tried placing the collagraph under the fabric and rolling over the top with paint, like the rubbings I did earlier.  Here are the three experiments next to each other on one piece of fabric.  DSCN1468

I still really like this collagraph, but it is definitely hard to use. 

After I finished the collagraph experiments I moved on to monoprinting from a glass plate.  This is what I have really been looking forward to in this class.

I placed my enlarged drawing under the glass and taped my fabric to the top of the glass plate.  I painted a small section at a time, placed the fabric over it and rolled it with a brayer.DSCN1470  

I discovered that I had to work very quickly with only a small section at a time, or the paint would begin to dry out and not print well.

This is really a fun technique, and I’m quite happy with the way my first print turned out.  Here’s the print.


And this is what the glass looked like when I was finished. Some paints printed better than others, while some left more paint on the glass than on the fabric. 

I kind of hated to clean off the glass.  DSCN1477

I’m going to work more on this print, adding embroidery, beads, and quilting to complete the piece.  I also think I’ll try this drawing in other colors; as well as use some other drawings I’ve done.  

This piece was done on 100% cotton, so I think I’ll try some other fabrics, too.  I have a piece of really sheer interfacing fabric that might print up nicely. 

I REALLY like this technique.  It has lots of potential.

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