Category Archives: In Process

So Many Choices

It’s so easy to get tangled up in choices when I design a piece. Since my starting point is usually rough, at best, many shape and color decisions still need to be made. And it’s easy to slip into not seeing the forest for the trees territory.

I finished quilting my four scrappy medallion log cabins so I rewarded myself with a new start, based on a Spoonflower printed photo of a dry stone wall that encloses a local landmark.

Here’s the printed fabric of two rows of walls and trees.

I pulled possible additional fabrics and painted pieces of an old shirt and sheet. Then I pinned them up.

The large piece of commercial fabric is by Marcia Derse.

After I looked at them for about two months I thought of an approach to that wall fabric – make several narrowly separated stacks. I used most of the fabric in the above photo. The Marcia Derse and some teal curtain fabric were dropped. I created bias strips of yellow/red/orange to break up the dark area. At this point the piece measures about 45 inches long by 19 inches high.

Now comes the point I’m stuck at. I want to use narrow strips of a gradient fabric by Vicki Welsh between each stack. Right now my plan is to angle the edges of each stack, and possibly have the stacks at slightly different heights. But, before I cut more fabric I need to decide which way to run the gradient – top to bottom or left to right. Then, I need to decide if I want solid strips across the top and bottom and, if so, what colors.

I’m hoping you’ll have some opinions that will prod my thinking. Some possibilities work for color, but don’t necessarily contribute to the story. The story here is the impression you get of this wall as you drive by it on the street that runs parallel to it.

I’ve thought of blue for sky but the blue fabric I have is too strong and draws attention away from the trees. Below are some options I’ve pinned up. Most show only a few of the stacks as the insert fabric won’t stretch across the whole piece and I don’t want to cut it up and then change my mind.

Option 1: Gradient runs left to right, no top or bottom strip
Option 2: Gradient runs top to bottom, with orange fabric on bottom and gold on top
Option 3: Gradient runs left to right, dark orange on bottom, light orange on top
Option 4: Gradient runs left to right, gold fabric on top, orange fabric on bottom.
Option 5: Gradient runs top to bottom, mottled fabric on top, dark orange on bottom.

I can understood if you’re confused at this point. If nothing else let me know which options you think really don’t work. I’ve become like a toddler – just give me two options for my outfit. Otherwise I’ll dither forever.

One last point about this piece – the printed fabric photographs much less vividly than the other fabrics. IRL the colors are stronger. Maybe the type of printing process used caused this?

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Always Something New To Learn

Sometimes I like a continuing program of classes rather than a one shot deal, and Everything Arts’ Wanderlust lessons in mixed media and art journaling are delivering weekly doses of something new. Since I started exploring mixed media in 2020 I have learned much about paper and fabric collage, monoprinting, and even painting. But I don’t have a broad exposure to all the materials and techniques possible in mixed media.

From the video lessons so far I’ve learned about clear and black gesso (who knew there was more than white?), compressed charcoal pencils, and modeling paste, to name a few materials. As lessons are given by different teachers, most new to me, I am seeing diverse ways to approach the same materials and techniques.

Confession time: I don’t really follow the lessons, but I do try out the materials and techniques. The broad idea of the class is to create your work in an art journal. At the end of the course you have a consolidated arrangement of all you’ve created. I grab whatever’s on hand and work on that. So far I’ve used wallpaper samples, old pre-stretched canvases, children’s board books, and watercolor paper. I do indeed have nice unblemished paper, but somehow I feel constrained to reuse stuff. It must be the result of a childhood of saving the “good” dishes for company.

None of what I’ve made is finished work, but messing around is lots of fun.

Mixed media in a board book. Tried acrylic ink for the first time.
Another board book spread with lots of white gesso. That stuff really covers up whatever is beneath it.
First steps for the above two pieces

More gesso over cardboard, thread, and cloth bits with acrylic paint and stencils. Wallpaper samples hold up well.
Modeling paste applied through stencils, collaged and painted over, done on canvas
Gessoed wallpaper with collage and white pen
Inked in cartoon faces over watercolor (this was a bonus video)

The next lessons will delve more into modeling paste, so who knows what I’ll make. If I don’t like this week’s lesson there always will be a new one next week for the next few months.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

Meditative, Schmediative

For some years crafters and quilters have extolled the virtues of slow hand stitching. They say it’s a soothing meditative process that will relax you, make you appreciate the process, and be mentally restorative. The implication is it will make you a better person.

My latest attempt to reach such a zen-like state was sparked by a free online course called Stitch Camp taught by Gwen Hedley on textileartist.org. We began by making random marks on two pieces of white/off white cotton with two contrasting colors.

Initial painted fabrics

Gwen used twigs to apply paint. My first deviation was to skip the twigs as the ground was snow covered. We were to use diluted acrylic paint. My second deviation – I used textile paint that I watered down too much and it made blobs. We were to mark one piece of cotton heavily and the other one lightly, then cut up the cotton however we liked, rearrange the pieces in a way that connected the marks, and hand stitch the pieces together. My third deviation (do you see a pattern?) was to zigzag my pieces by machine and to make two rearranged pieces from them. They were still ugly.

Pieces cut up and arranged into one.
Two starting pieces with some bits left off

Then, we were to use hand stitches to emphasize the connections between the sewn together pieces. After I backed the pieces with fusible fleece, I began to do elementary stitching in red, navy and off white threads. After what seemed like days, I had stitched two long lines, done seed stitching, running and back stitches, and loose satin stitches. I added small bits of fused fabric. (Gwen did small hand sewn applique additions. Deviation four.) The awful looking piece still looked awful, and the only thing I was meditating on was a toss to the waste basket.

Appliqued and embroidered

I figured the piece would become less ugly only if I embroidered over every speck of the surface. That wasn’t going to happen. Every stitch I made annoyed me more as one of my fabrics had a very tight weave that was hard to pull the needle through. The process didn’t make me calmer as Gwen (who stressed this was about process not product) had confidently said I’d feel. I saw many ways the ugliness could be eased, but none involved thread.

Out came the paints and Posca markers. I painted two layers of paint over the piece I had embroidered to help the contrasting colors meld more. I got creative with markers on the unstitched piece and found that process calming.

Painted over and still ugly, but my eye doesn’t skitter everywhere as much
No hand stitching, all fused applique and Posca pens. I think my pen strokes reference many embroidery stitches.

It’s not that I don’t get the tactile pleasure of hand stitching. I enjoyed embroidering my felted wool squares because the colors were bright and wool felt so good to sew. Lots of small pieces to embroider are a better fit with my limited hand stitch attention span. I could finish one square in 15 minutes. However, when my starting point is ugly and stitching is a struggle I am not going to persevere with a project that seems endless. I don’t think my path to process nirvana is hand stitching. The fault is in me, not the instructor. In fact, I could happily fall asleep to Gwen’s soothing voice. I guess Stitch Camp did have some meditative qualities for me.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, In Process, Stitch

Slouching Into 2022

It’s close to the end of January and I haven’t really thought through my artistic goals for the coming year, much less considered my achievements in 2021. Somehow, there doesn’t seem to be a clear delineation between the years, just more of the same. In some ways I guess my goal is to just do the work, with no inspirational word of the year.

I know that sounds bleak, but I feel the need to be realistic about what I can achieve. I am optimistic about the renewed artistic curiosity mixed media is giving me. A whole new learning curve there, plus the supplies and products take up far less space than fabric and quilts. I’m certainly not giving up on quilting but my emphasis is shifting toward more personal, make what I feel like, work.

In years past I have created work with an eye to entering exhibits and shows, but I am kinda over that. Right now I have pieces in a regional and a national show, but I am entering far fewer shows. Why? One, I recognize that many exhibits prefer large pieces as they show much better. My work is getting smaller. Two, costs of entering shows and shipping (if the work is accepted) are getting higher, easily reaching $100 or more per item. If my work doesn’t sell and if I’m not trying to boost my name recognition, why bother?

I have drawn up a list of projects for 2022. Most are continuations of work I began in 2021: my unknown family series, my felted wool squares, and my small quilt tops. My first start of 2022 is a series of four strip scrap medallion log cabins. So far I have no must-make new project, but I have the fabric for several possibilities.

A blurry photo of all 25 felted wool embroidered squares.

The wool project is awaiting inspiration as to the best way to sew the squares to the background wool. That wool is soft and floppy despite repeated hot water washing and a spin through a hot dryer.

Unknown Family, panel 1

My family photo project is also awaiting some technical solutions as I try to combine fabric, paper, and old textiles. It occurs to me that the subdued color palette is tamping down my enthusiasm.

Gold log cabin, 25″ square

While in Florida I produced four small log cabin tops, ranging from 25 to 35 inches square. The one above is quilted; the others are in my quilting queue.

Speaking of that, I find myself with 5 or 6 other small tops to quilt, in addition to what I call my staircase top. I know I’ll quilt the last, but am wondering if I should use the small tops as quilt backs rather than spend more time on them. I have enough completed quilts I don’t totally love already.

My final goal for 2022 is to pare down the number of quilts I have, either by selling or gifting them. I’d love to finish 2022 with fewer quilts or at least no more quilts.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects, In Process

Out of Left Field

Mid-2021 I wrote down a rough list of possible projects: Sail – Greece, turquoise circles, unknown family, and pink prints. I finished the first two and began the third, which left the enigmatic pink prints. At some point during lockdown I played with coloring fabric and color catcher scraps with high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint. (Warning, it has the fluidity of milk and moves just as fast when spilled.) Some I stenciled with Payne’s grey paint. On others I printed birds from a thermofax screen. They joined my pile of experiments.

Rather than come to grips with the puzzle of how to combine photos and fabric for my unknown family pieces, I decided it was time to play with pink. I really wanted to use the birds, which were printed on synthetic satin. Up on the design wall went my bits. I decided to add warm browns for trees as the stencil was of tree branches.

From the base of pink and trees I added more scraps and came up with this. It seemed I had lots of tree trunks in my future.

I realized that fusing was the way to go for the number of trees I had in mind, so I sewed together a base with chunks joined by gentle curves. I also added more tree branch stenciling to the sky and combined two large scraps in the upper left.

To add variety I added three house shapes and a large sun. I can’t claim credit for that idea as I saw a treed landscape painting that was given focus by a large orb, and thought the same could work for me. I was still trying to fit those birds in.

Finally I had to face the reality that the birds weren’t suited to the piece as it developed, so they are back on the shelf.

I’ve added a few lighter branches, but this is pretty much as it is.

Quilting has begun, and the pink prints have become “If You Go Into the Woods Today.”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Steps To Nowhere

Maybe it’s the season and all the plastic bones scattered about my neighbors’ lawns, but I went a bit dark for my latest work. It’s loosely based on a photo by Penny. I thought it had an unsettling, scary look.

First I did a rough sketch and used string to outline my desired size on the design wall. Then, I laid out fabrics I wanted to consider and began pinning chunks of them to the wall. I used two fabrics I had printed by Spoonflower plus various commercial fabrics, including some I had despaired of ever using.

I find that even a very rough sketch helps me see what I consider the important lines.

I decided to use the photo as a starting point, rather than recreate it exactly, and ended up with this. I had to get creative with some of the seam joins.

I have to decide whether to leave the upper left triangle as is, or change it to the solid bronze color fabric. All opinions are welcome.

It finished about 27 inches wide by 42 inches high. Now all it needs is quilting and a title once I resolve the upper left corner.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Modern Quilting

Really Cheap Art Journals

A quick browse of Etsy for art journals will reveal a dizzying choice of journals that range in price from $15 to $150 plus. Some are so gorgeous that I would be afraid to even write my name in them for fear of sullying their loveliness.

For those of you who have yet to encounter the art journal, here’s a quick rundown. They are a way to express yourself visually in a blank book with no rules and no judgment. Some art journaling proponents claim that doing it will help you realize you’ve always been an artist. Whatever. Many descriptions of the process begin with the all important physical journal. It can be bought or hand made. There are many blogs and websites that will tell you how to make one and give you ideas for content.

Obviously the type of paper in one’s art journal depends on the medium you want to use. I decided to use collage simply because I have lots of papers thanks to all the less than stellar monoprints I’ve made and the papers I used to clean my brayer. My journal of choice? Used children’s board books.

I got the idea from Drew Steinbrecher who often features collaged board books on his Instagram feed.

One of Drew Steinbrecher’s Instagram pages.

I thought it was a great idea and scoured my local library’s book sale for such books. I bought six for a quarter each, and am now sorry I didn’t buy more. Some of my purchases looked brand new.

Yesterday my friend Penny and I began our collaged board books. Supplies were simple – board books, papers, matte medium, brushes, and some kind of nonstick paper to keep the finished pages apart. The process was simple, too. Design a layout and glue the pieces down. No prep needed. In an hour and a half I managed to create three full page spreads.

I’ll trim the edges once the book is full and everything is dry. That might take a while as the heavy board can absorb a lot of moisture.

Earlier in the week I dry collaged two more pieces made with papers coated with gloss gel medium. You can see the sheen from the medium in the first one.

I have no idea why the women are completely covered. It’s from a fashion magazine.
I even put a bit of text in this one.

I’ve have fun playing with glue and paper, but my excuse for not working on the quilt now on my design wall is gone. I just got the fabric I ordered for it. It even came early, drat it.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

So Close

Over the past week I have diligently quilted “Full Sail” so I’d have something to talk to you about. Well, it’s almost done, but I want to be sure I’ve done all the quilting I think it needs before I face the edges.

“Full Sail” approximately 18 by 26 inches

I chose to stick close to my source photo for the quilting lines rather than go off piste clever. KISS and all that. By my count I used eight different threads ranging from off white to steel gray. Most were 50 weight, though one was a 12 weight. For most of the stitching I used the basic machine stitch, though I changed up to a denim stitch for some of the ropes. For the blue sections I threw in some light blue rayon thread for variety, and changed the line spacing a bit.

My big should I/shouldn’t I question is whether to add more quilting to the sail on the right side. Right now it’s the least quilted section, and I like the way the sail seems to billow. I think it’s a good contrast to the more tethered center sail. Maybe I just need to add more to the dark section. Feel free to comment.

Sail on right side.

Here’s more detail shots.

The center sail
Changes in line spacing

In earlier posts I forgot to mention that much of the fabric I used was hand dyed by Vicki Welsh. I want to give credit where it’s due.

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Full Sail

I am lucky to have a brother who travels around the world and takes lots of photos of the places he visits. His sailing trip around Greece led to a bumper crop of great photos, which I shared with you a few months ago. I used one of his photos to develop a quilt of a billowing sail.

Because I loved the curved lines so much I didn’t really change the image, but just translated it into fabric. I began with tracing the lines from a black and white print of the photo above. Then I took it to a copy shop to get an enlargement. I could have, and should have, used the old fashioned grid enlargement method, but I thought the shop would be easier and faster. Alas, I was wrong.

The shop was crowded with clueless people who needed the sole staff person’s help. When my turn came I gave the staff person the enlargement size I wanted – 24 by 36 inches – and she sent it to the oversize printer. She gave me my copy, I paid, and went home.

There I discovered that the enlargement was 18 by 24 inches, smaller than I had asked for. I had been so eager to leave the store I didn’t check the measurements. Yes, I could have returned to the store, but I gave it up as a lesson learned.

So, my top started as 18 by 24 inches, which is okay as I didn’t have as much of the hand dyed blue fabric as I thought. I used the enlargement to create freezer paper templates of the large pieces, which I ironed to my fabrics and cut out the pieces. You can see this process below. All the extra lines on the drawing are for the quilting.

Top: photo enlargement; right: black and white of original image; bottom: cut out pieces with templates attached

Matching some of the bits was fiddly, as it’s been a while since I’ve done precision piecing. The top is done and awaits quilting. I plan to use heavy threads for the ropes and lines in the sails, following the lines in my original drawing.

I’m hoping to get motivated for the quilting, but I continue to fuss with my lost family piece, as well as print off many ugly monoprints.

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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File, Act, Toss

One of the few staff development seminars I recall was F.A.T, or file, act, toss. The idea was to clear your overflowing desk by going through all the paperwork on it and decide whether to keep it (file,) respond to it (act,) or throw it out (toss.) I used the process with my pile of surface design experiments when said pile fell to the closet floor. The pile is now smaller and neater.

Once I threw out experiments that were beyond help – too overworked, just not appealing, etc. – I chose two to act on. The first is a painting experiment with an empty toilet paper roll cut to flare out. You dip the flared out end in paint and dab it onto fabric. I used it for free motion practice, and gingered up the color with oil pastels. It may become a pillow cover.

Next, I finished quilting an ancient sampler from about 2005. It was made from scraps left from an Amish type wall hanging, and I had hand quilted about half of it. Knowing I would never finish the hand quilting, I completed it with machine quilting and bound it.

With some actions under my belt, next I turned to the file pile. I tend to have groups of experiments in similar colors or themes as they were done in one session. Here are a few of those groups.

Finally, I decided to keep pieces of dropcloths that could make good backgrounds and a screened linen piece that I just don’t know what to do with.

Both are old cotton sheets that have a lovely hand.
This suffers from fold lines that took the spray paint differently.

I didn’t photograph my discards, though some of you may think I still have plenty to toss. I have lots more in my pile, but those bits are cut into squares in anticipation of a future project.

Are you a hoarder of such experiments or are you more ruthless than I am?

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques