Monthly Archives: April 2020

Soldiering On With Quilting

My quilt “Fortune and Fate” is now almost ready for a facing. I just need to decide if I want to rip out some stitching around fabric that’s ripply before I seal the deal. How did those ripples happen? User error, of course.

I am using wool batting simply because I had a piece just the right size. With wool you expect more puffiness than with cotton batting. I hadn’t planned to do much machine quilting on this piece. There’s hand stitching in and around each talisman, and in the border. The stitching in individual blocks is only through the top and batting. I wanted to hide my knots. In the borders I was able to hide the knots between layers before the final edge machine stitching.

Now, that puffiness has caused some of my “grout” stitching to be less than perfect but I can live with it. Before I stitched the outer edges I pressed the whole quilt to flatten it a bit. I even adjusted the presser foot to lighten the pressure, as I thought that worked better with a quilt sandwich made with wool.

While watching a Modern Quilt Guild webinar by Jacquie Gering on walking foot quilting, I congratulated myself on using my presser foot adjustment when Jacquie talked about it. She noted that quilting ripples, whiskers, and puckers often result from improper presser foot pressure. My smugness turned to consternation when I realized that apparently I have been misusing the adjustment all the years I’ve owned my machine. The real question was, should the pressure be heavier or lighter for thicker fabrics and quilt sandwiches? My intuition said to apply lighter pressure to a thicker fabric sandwich.

A Janome sewing machine blog says, “We recommend setting the pressure to maximum for light weight fabric such as organza and voile, medium for fabrics such as cotton and polyester, and minimum for heavy weight fabric such as canvas and denim.”

That brought me back to my Janome machine manual. Here’s what it says.

My manual says to sew normal fabric at a 3 setting, which is the last setting on my machine, and to set the dial at 1 for extra fine fabrics, which reduces the pressure. This contradicts the instructions given on the Janome blog, which I quoted above – maximum pressure for light fabrics and light pressure for heavy fabrics.

Ack! So, which is it? By the way, I decided to give my quilt a good press with steam and ignore the ripples. It won’t be in any show where such details might matter.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.



Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques

My Paper Route

Quilting is inching along at a tortoise-like pace to spare the tendonitis in my arm. I allow myself about half an hour each day. To do something quickly I’ve made still more collages using fused fabric and paper and glue. As with fabric, it’s the surface design aspects that are the most liberating and fun. I’ve painted tissue paper and postcards, tinted and stamped pages from an old book, organized my collection of torn out magazine pages, and even colored bits of a cardboard egg carton. Along the way I’ve watched lots of videos and become quite the shopper on Dick Blick’s website.

I’m getting better at pasting paper. Now only about a quarter of the pieces stick to my fingers. I still don’t achieve even glue coverage, though I go over each piece with an old credit card to smooth it down. My experiments include use of old sketchbook pages, a pre-stretched canvas, and mixed media paper. My favorite work to date is “Shadow,” below.

“Silhouette” reminded a friend of West Side Story.

“Dream” benefited from Caribbean vacation ads.

All of the pieces above drew from my stash of NYT Magazine ads.

“Spiraling Out of Control” was made from fused fabric scraps, used pretty much as I found them.

“Night Blooming Paisleys” used cut outs from my ovals, and a spray painted pre-stretched canvas.

“Echinacea” used fabric bits fused to colored tissue paper.

I hope to begin stitching together cloth and paper, and have painted some backgrounds to use. I’ve also played with India ink marks on fabric. Because collage is fast compared with quilting, it makes me focus on designing two or three compositions each day. While I don’t make that many each day, as I gussy up bits of paper to use in compositions I develop ideas and cluster materials I think will work well together. And the same design principles apply.

As usual, I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under In Process, Inspiration, Techniques

Sewing Is Happening In Moderation

Like many of you, more time on my hands hasn’t translated into more artistic work done. For one, I decided it was time to  learn how to collage. I know, I know, how hard can it be to cut up paper and glue it down. Well, it is different from quilting, if only because you can unsew but you can’t unglue.

But I have continued using my sewing machine to complete two tops. The first features Marcia Derse striped fabrics and inset ovals. The second uses my brown/rust/gold scraps and Jean Wells’ method of making wonky triangles. It also uses Yuwa fabric that’s hung in my closet for about seven years.

The ovals piece (as yet untitled) is about 50 inches long and 23 inches wide, and may end up as a table runner.

The triangle piece, tentatively called “Mind The Gaps,” is 26 inches wide and 37 inches long. I made it as a mindless sewing project, and was surprised to find how many scraps I have in my selected color range.

I have only small scraps left of that Yuwa fabric. The actual color is halfway between that shown above and below. The joys of daytime versus nighttime photography.

My talisman quilt, “Fortune and Fate,” is bogged down in hand stitching. Sorry, but I find hand work boring, not meditative, so I get restless after 15 minutes of it. I keep putting other works in progress up on the design wall and then hauling them off when something I know what to do with comes along. Eventually I’ll talk about them, but for now they rest quietly in the closet, hoping their time will come. In the meantime, I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Free For Now

Since we’re all living online these days, why not take advantage of free courses.

Nikon is making its photography courses free this month. While obviously geared to Nikon brand SLRs, the pointers and tips apply to any camera. “The Art of Making Music Videos” caught my eye until I remembered no one I know personally has any musical leanings that merit a video. Maybe it could be adapted for a mask video complete with dancing.

Laura Horn is an Australian mixed media artist who has been offering a free online course on abstract collage creations. Her calm teaching style is relaxing even if you don’t actually make a collage.

Jane Dunnewold has released a video of her reading Creative Strength Training. It is directed at strategies to build creative stamina.

If you know of other similar free online opportunities please let me know.



Filed under Commentary

Covid Cutups

A very slender silver lining in the current pandemic is the ability of humans to find humor in an awful situation. Give people extra time on their hands and orders to self isolate and they get creative.

With so many art museums making their collections available for online viewing, it’s inevitable that people, cooped up in houses or apartments, will revive the old pastime of tableau vivant. The Getty Museum spurred some of these efforts with its challenge to recreate art in its collection with three household items.

The Astronomer, 1668, Johannes Vermeer. Oil on canvas, 19.6 in. x 17.7 in. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Image: Wikimedia Commons. Recreation on Twitter and via Facebook DM by Ann Zumhagen-Krause and her husband with tray table, blanket, and globe

On Instagram @covidclassics four roommates are recreating famous paintings with much ingenuity. For each post they show their version, the original painting, and a behind the scenes look at how they did it.

Then, why not adapt famous art works to be more relatable to your pets? Two self-isolating Londoners created a museum especially for their pet gerbils. Unfortunately, the gerbils take chewing the scenery literally. As is often the case, these museum goers have ignored the signs.

If you’ve come across other examples of humor to help us cope with our times, please send me the links. To quote Jimmy Buffet, “If we couldn’t laugh we’d all go insane.”


Filed under Everything Else

Strange Times

Who knew quarter inch wide elastic would become such a sought after commodity? And the surge of videos on how to make bias tape is another sign of our times. Then, there is a rush to buy HEPA vacuum cleaner bags to make impromptu mask filters. [Note: my brother tried a HEPA filter in a mask and found it was almost impossible to breathe through it.]

Speaking of masks, while sewers go into high gear, it’s unclear how many hospitals will accept homemade masks. The University of Kansas Health System has said they won’t accept them. Some San Francisco Bay hospital systems also won’t accept them. Kaiser Permanente will accept masks made according to specific instructions as an extra layer over N-95 masks. (Note: when I tried the link to the instructions I got an error message.) And to think that N-95 masks are now part of daily conversation.

A PolitiFact article on homemade face masks that examined studies of effectiveness said:

A study from 2013 found that cotton masks only perform about half as well as surgical masks and “should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals.” More recent research had similar results.

So at best, using thick or layered fabric to make a homemade mask could be as effective as using some surgical masks. At worst, it prevents at least some of your respiratory droplets from spreading to others while in public.

Under ideal circumstances, no face masks are intended to be worn for more than one encounter. That guidance also extends to homemade masks.

“At the end of the day, these cloth masks should be treated as contaminated materials that you bring in to your home — they need to be laundered in hot soapy water, and you’d need to consider sanitizing in bleach or hydrogen peroxide regularly,” Peltier [an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst] said.

Some experts have said face masks could also serve as a reminder to not touch your face, which is one of the ways the coronavirus spreads, according to the CDC. But Peltier said he’s not aware of any research that shows that’s the case. And there’s a chance that masks could actually encourage people to touch their face more since they can be uncomfortable to wear.

Still, since those infected with the coronavirus may not exhibit symptoms for up to 14 days after exposure, the CDC may soon advise everyone to wear masks in public just in case they’re sick. In that case, if you’re going out in public, wearing something is better than nothing.

For me the bottom line is I just haven’t seen enough evidence that homemade masks are that useful in a medical setting. I’ve made two masks apiece for my husband and me. If I learn that hospitals are actively using homemade masks I’ll crank up my machine.

I have begun a sewing project that involves inset ovals, though rounded edge rectangles is a more accurate description. In the Curves issue (issue/07, p. 74) of “Curated Quilts” I found a mini quilt called Happy Little Ovals by Jill Fisher. It inspired me to pull out a set of squiggly striped Marcia Derse fabrics and construct my own ovals using the 6 minute circle method.






















It seems to be turning into a table runner. I’m now auditioning some black fabric for inserts between the three vertical columns, as shown in the second photo. Let me know which you think works best.

I’m linking to Off the Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, In Process