Simple Sewing

Along with my “simplified life,” I am finding that I can pretty easily do some simple sewing. So far, no major works of art have come forth during this construction/renovation work. But I’ve managed two baby quilts and a new pillow cover!

Both of the baby quilts started with a baby/kid print. I just chose some solids that would coordinate and put them together.

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The pillow cover is for the “European pillow” that I prefer for sleeping. Regular pillowcases don’t fit, so I had made a quilted cover for it a while ago. I was tired of that one, so I used another cute print (one of those darn fabrics I can’t resist buying and then don’t know what to do with them when I get them home.) This one was even more simple. Just kept the print as is and did some very simple quilting on it. Very nice to sleep on, I must say!

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It feels good to finish some projects, even if they are simple. In the meantime, I do spend every evening doing some hand stitching on my more serious work. I’ll share those when they are finished!

A Quilty Vacation

I wrote all about my trip to Sisters here. Suffice it to say, I had two whole weeks in Sisters, and the main activity was quilting! I arrived on a Friday and set up shop on the dining room table of the house I had rented. That gave me a couple of days to fool around before the Rosalie Dace workshop started. I had brought a LOT of fabric with me, both for the workshop, and for use outside of the workshop. So I picked out a few colors and pieces that I wanted to play with–mostly blues and greens, and put together some little pieced blocks. Then I played around with putting them on a background. I left a lot of space on this one on purpose–so I can add some words, probably for the “What They Said” series. (that edging is just the backing pulled around to the front of the sandwich to keep the edges clean.)

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I had leftover pieces, and I liked that backing fabric, so I made another little composition just for fun. Got some blank space on this one for words too :)

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And then it was time for the workshop to start. This was a workshop taught by Rosalie Dace about the influence of Kandinsky in the world of art, and how that could be used/interpreted in quilting. Rosalie is such a talented artist, and she is also an excellent teacher. If you ever have a chance to take any of her workshops, I would really encourage you to do that. This workshop was held at the Stitchin’ Post quilt shop, and I highly recommend it as an excellent place to take a workshop! Plenty of workspace and wall space for each student, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and an excellent lunch was served each day. Plus, you get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase made during that week!

It was interesting to hear the various reasons that people had signed up for the class. Many of the people said “I don’t like Kandinsky, but I wanted to take a class with Rosalie.” That was sort of how I felt. But as the class went along, I found that there was a lot to learn from studying Kandinsky. Rosalie spent time every day discussing various interesting aspects of his work.

Remember this little piece? In the evenings, after the workshop, I would go home and relax and stitch on this little piece. I thought about how maybe my work has been influenced by Kandinsky after all–the curved lines, the straight intersecting lines, and of course the circles. The influence came second hand, though, since I had never looked at a Kandinsky painting before signing up for this workshop.

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Close-ups:

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Back to the workshop. Our first assignment was to draw a bunch of geometric designs using some of the things that Kandinsky used in his work. Okay, that was fun.

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Then we were to choose one of those, and interpret it in cloth. I think I chose this simple one  because I thought it would be fun to add my stitching to.

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Rosalie came along, and said, now try it with a different background.

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Ahhh, much better. You can see I added a few other little embellishments.

Next, we were to draw just some circle designs. LOL, nothing new for me. But I tried to challenge myself to do something different with the circles.

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In the afternoon, I stared at these four drawings, trying to decide what to do. Rosalie came by, and I pointed to the one with the most circles, and said, I like that one, but SO MANY circles to cut out. And her reply was “What else are you going to do this afternoon?” That was actually a good learning point for me.

So here’s the little circle composition I did. You can see its not an exact copy of the drawing, but its the same feel. (BTW, these little compositions are only about 10-12″ square.)

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And then the next morning (I think) we finished up one of the little compositions. I really like this little piece.

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One thing I learned from my table-mate was to use the zig-zag satin stitch to make these narrowing lines. Very cool, I think. You just set your machine to satin stitch (zig zag set on the narrowest width) and then start at one size of stitch, and keep decreasing it gradually as you stitch along (like–5.0, 4.5, 4.0, etc.)

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One morning, Rosalie did a slide show that included several of Kandinsky’s works. I saw one that piqued my interest enough that I drew a quick sketch in my journal. It was of overlapping rectangles. I thought that might create an interesting background to put other shapes on. I liked that idea well enough that I decided that would be the composition I would choose to work on for the remainder of the workshop.

I chose one of my hand-dyed pieces that I liked the most, and then pulled out a bunch of browns for the rectangles. Here is the beginning of my piece.

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And this next picture is as far as I got by the final day of the workshop. One thought I had about creating in a workshop–you are working in a pressure cooker. I usually only work on “art” pieces when I am alone. When I get stuck, I stop and think about it for a day or two. You don’t have that luxury in a workshop. So, while I like this piece enough to finish it, I don’t have any illusions about it being a great piece.

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The last day of the workshop, my BF came to town. We were going to have our own private mini-quilting retreat!

I took a break from the workshop project, and started sewing the leftover blue and green strips from the beginning of my trip into nine patches. Then I didn’t quite know what to do.

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I remembered some little trees in the quilt store that had caught my eye. I started playing around with putting those on top of the nine patches. Ooh, how fun! So fun, that I made one for each season! I thought I would put these together into one quilt, but my friend suggested making each one into its own small quilt. I think they might work really nicely in my new kitchen, or in the dining room!

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After my friend left, I got the workshop quilt back out and tried to add a bit to it. I put in quite a few quilting lines, and then played around with adding the black lines on top. I added the three vertical lines and was pretty happy. My friend suggested something needed to be done at the bottom, so I am auditioning the horizontal lines. They are not sewn down yet.

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And so my excellent adventure in Sisters, Oregon came to an end. I came home to a HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION. I have found that it is very difficult for me to settle down to the serious work of creating when all this other stuff is swirling through my mind. So I have been working on hand stitching a previous project in the evenings. That is progressing very nicely, and I will share that in a future post.

Colorful Sunday!

The summer of dying continues! I am leaving in a few days for a workshop with Rosalie Dace. I love her work, and she is an excellent teacher. I took one one-day class with her several years ago, and I actually retained quite a bit of what I learned from her. That is the sign of a good teacher. Anyway, hand-dyed fabrics are listed on the supply list for this class, so I decided to try to get one more dye session in before I leave. I cut 16 yard and half-yard pieces of the Kona PFD and muslin fabrics, and had four unsuccessful pieces from the last dye day that I wanted to try over-dying. I planned to prep them and dye half on Saturday and half on Sunday. After dying half of the pieces on Saturday, I realized that if I dyed all of them  that day, I could rinse all of them on Sunday and be done with the project. That was definitely a good plan!

Here is what I came up with.

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This is the most unique piece–it was dyed in a ziplock baggie! I put some green dye in the bottom of the bag, and put part of the fabric in the bag. then I scrunched a bit more fabric in the bag and added a second color, and then added the rest of the fabric and added a third color. Honestly, I don’t even remember what colors I was adding. It looks like more colors than I actually added!

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And this is my favorite piece from this session. It was done in the glad ware container. One color was placed in the container, and half the fabric was put in. Then I scrunched the rest of the fabric into the container, and dumped a second color on top. It is prettier in person than in this picture.

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My takeaway from this dye session is that I don’t really need repeatable formulas, like I had when I was dying fiber for resale. But I would like to know what each basic dye actually looks like, so I will be more informed when I combine dyes. The fabric does not even look close to the same color when it is wet as compared to when it is rinsed and dried. I have a hard time remembering what I actually did/what dyes I used. So later I will do some controlled experiments.

And speaking of rinsing. That is driving me nuts. There shouldn’t be that much dye to rinse out. So I need to do some more experiments with applying a bit more heat or using a bit less dye. Its tiring to do that much rinsing, and then still worry that more will rinse out later.

But overall, it is quite thrilling to be dying my own fabric. My own colors, each piece unique to me. I don’t know why I waited so long to try!

 

Exciting News!

I was actually cleaning up my demo samples here.

I just received word that my episode of The Quilt Show will air on December 8! I am so excited that it is airing so soon (rather than waiting until sometime next year.) Plus, is there a better way to celebrate turning 60? SIXTY? When did that happen? Anyway, if any of you are members of TQS, you will be able to see it that day. For everyone else, I will be given a secret password to pass onto you, and you will be able to see it a week later, starting December 15.

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A Do-Over

 

Remember this quilt that I started way back when? And then I got the top put together here? I mentioned in that post that I was considering adding perle cotton embroidery to the ovals. And sure enough, I did do that.

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I thoroughly enjoyed just adding my simple random embroidery to those pieces.

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But after I had finished six of them, I still didn’t like the way it looked. I tried again, using only the running stitch, and connecting the ovals. Nope, I didn’t like that either.

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So I took all that embroidery out. And then I tried to figure out what I was going to do with this quilt. It was on the wall when I took out some little oval pieces to play with on a different quilt top. When I do my zig zag appliqué, I often cut the back out carefully and keep those pieces for a future project. So these were the leftover pieces from this particular quilt. And I thought, Hey…..

So I tried putting these ovals on top of the other ovals. And I liked it!

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Since the quilt sandwich had already been made and partially quilted, these motifs were zigzagged through all three layers of the quilt. I finished it with some “scribble circle” quilting.

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P.S. I realize that those pieces are not “ovals.” But I don’t know what to call them. My BF says it looks like a Fleur de Lis now. I think that name will stick!

The Summer of Dying, Day Three

Well, you knew I would have to do something with that pile of pretty fabrics that I DYED ALL BY MYSELF! I am surprised at how delighted I am with this new skill set. I am dreaming of turning my old laundry dungeon into a wet studio when all the other work on the house is done!

I looked through my journal and found a Sunday morning doodle that would be just right for semi-solid fabrics. Last night I auditioned the fabrics, and decided where they would go in the design. This design would require me to actually measure and accurately cut and sew fabric. Ahem…

So, I didn’t measure to make sure I would have enough fabric for each section. Partly because I didn’t know until I got to that part how much fabric I would need. When I got to the final round, not only did I NOT have enough of the green, I also cut the first two pieces incorrectly.

I took a lunch break and stewed over what I was going to do. In the end, I increased the size of the purple pieces by one inch, so the greens that I had cut too short would now be the right size. And I decided to use a different color on the bottom border. And then when I was auditioning it on my design wall, I decided that I’d just go for it and make that border even bigger.

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I like this piece. I don’t like accurate cutting and piecing, especially when I am the one having to figure it out. I ripped out a lot of seams. And using the mottled hand-dyes? Sometimes a weird ghostly bunny face appears right where you don’t want it, and you have to cut another piece of fabric and undo another seam. Because when you might use the quilt in your series “The Signature of Jesus,” you don’t want a bunny face on it.

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Well, I am learning as I go. I think I want to do some more controlled experiments, and take some notes as I go so I can remember what I was thinking at the time I did the dye. But I’m pretty pleased with these pieces.

My BF and I had been talking about how its hard to find good purples for your stash. So of course I had to experiment with dying purple. This was the scrunchy glad ware method. I must have started scrunching from the corner. I did try to let part of the fabric stay in the dye just a bit before I added the rest–to try to get a gradation of color.

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This piece is deeper colored and prettier in person. I think I used three colors of red. Again with the scrunchy method.

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These are all the pieces I consider a success.

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These are not so successful. I think they are pale because I tried using up the leftover dyes from the previous days’ batches. Even though the water looks deeply colored, and it looks dark on the fabric, most of the dye rinsed out. So I guess that dye was “exhausted” even if it didn’t look like it. These are also all from the flat fold method. I noticed that Robin used a very concentrated dye mixture. And now I realize that that is because applying it directly to the fabric, you can’t really get much solution on, so it needs to be concentrated. Anyway, I will try this method again, because it has a lot of possibilities. I will probably try overdying these pieces. On my next dye day. Next week…

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The Summer of Dying has Begun!

Well, I did it! Yesterday morning I took a deep breath, looked over all the different dying methods I had been studying, and went out and mixed up some dyes!

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I have a lot of experience dying protein fiber (wool, silk, angora, alpaca, etc.) But cotton fabric is a completely different animal. The dyes for the protein fibers requires a lot of heat, and you also have to be very careful with the fibers or they will turn to felt. The cotton requires a little heat, but basically that is taken care of by a day in the hot sun. And of course, there is no problem with felting cotton fabric, so you can manipulate it without fear.

I had watched a Jane Dunnewold class on Craftsy (super-informative,) and read over Melody Johnson’s notes on The Lazy Dyer. I also had a Quilting Arts article by Robin Ferrier that I had saved for several years. I ended up using a bit of advice from each of these dyers.

To start, I cut half-yard lengths off of the super-cheap bolt of muslin that I had bought from Joann’s. That took a little worry out of the equation. If I ruined it, or dyed horrid colors, I was not out that much money.

I pre-washed the muslin, and then soaked it in a bucket with some soda ash. Then I mixed up my dyes in some old mason jars I had. And I put some dyes on the fabric! I tried several techniques.

The hardest part was waiting a day to see if it worked. This morning I was out there in my nightgown rinsing the excess dye out. After rinsing each piece of fabric several times, I put it in the washing machine and then dryer. The most fun was ironing all these beautiful fabrics that I had DYED MYSELF!!!

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Close-ups of a couple of the multi-color fabrics:

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One interesting thing was that I actually preferred the texture of the cheap muslin to the more expensive PFD (prepared for dying) Kona cotton that I had bought.

And then I was ready to do it all over again! I pre-soaked some more cut yards of the Kona cotton in the soda ash while I went to church. And then I came home and tried some new colors and color combos, and a different technique.

The table I am using–kind of a funny story. I saved it for years for my studio. But it was pretty ruined, so it got rejected. It got moved off of the porch that became the studio onto the deck, got rained on some more, and finally got moved off of the deck to this location. The only reason it was still here is that I have not gotten someone to come and haul it away yet. It turned out to be the PERFECT table in the PERFECT location (right next to my outdoor sink,) for doing this kind of dying.

The big piece of fabric is the method described in the Quilting Arts article. You put down a layer of painter’s plastic and then dye a piece, and another piece of plastic on top, with another piece of fabric to dye a different color, etc. You can dye up to 12 layers of fabric this way! Very fun and easy to do.

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Then you have to weigh it down while you leave it overnight. Ha! All those trees I’ve had chopped down came in handy!

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And then I dyed some fabric using Jane D’s Gladware method.

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And now I have to wait another 24 hours to see how this batch has turned out!

The Stitch

I buy a lot of books. Too many books. Recently, in a cleaning frenzy, I packed up a bunch of books, including some that I had bought recently, and took them down to my mom. Either she would enjoy reading them, or she could sell them online. While I was waiting for her to get ready to go out, I glanced at the book on the top of the pile. “Celebrating the Stitch.” Had I even looked inside that book? I glanced at it, and was surprised at what I saw–that book was definitely coming home with me!

This is just the kind of book I really enjoy. It shows beautiful artwork, and has a write-up about each artist, their work process, and what inspires them. This is not just a book of embroidery. It is truly art that just happens to fit loosely into the category of embroidery–putting thread to fabric. I checked for you, and this book is available used for one cent! (of course, its really $4 because you have to pay shipping.)

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It truly is what it says–celebrating the stitch. When I look through it, my hands just itch to make my own stitches. As an experiment, (and to have something to work on while I manned the SAQA booth at the Crocker Museum, I made a little quilt sandwich. I put a machine stitched grid on it. I went through my threads to pick out a bunch of colors that I liked. And I made a couple of rules. No drawing ahead of time. No blue pen to mark. Only one stitch–the running stitch. And every square inch must be covered.

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I am enjoying this challenge. I have to admit, many times I pick it up and stare at it, not knowing what color or shape to do next, and just put it back down and go back to my knitting. About every other day, I come up with some new color or shape to add to it. I think its a good challenge, and might lead to something more organized.

(P.S.–the exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum,“Workt by Hand,” is the finest exhibition of antique quilts that I have ever seen. They are displayed beautifully, and you can get quite close to look at the stitching. There is one quilt from, I believe, 1790. The stitching is so tiny and perfect, it looks like they had some kind of special machine to do it! The exhibit will be there until September 1.)

 

Another Finished Quilt

Its SOOO nice to finish something. The actual process of finishing is not fun, but seeing the completed project is super fun.

This is another quilt I did using my “zig zag technique.” Like the double wedding ring quilts, I simply zig zagged the  squares and rectangles on top of a background block. Instead of cutting out and sewing back together 29 pieces of fabric (like were in the original pattern that I saw,) there are only 10 pieces to cut out and zig zag stitch onto the background.

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I really really like this quilt. I like that it is quieter than a lot of my quilts. I LOVED picking out some of my favorite blue fabrics to include in it. In fact, the original quilt pattern had 9 blocks. I couldn’t narrow my choices down that much, so mine has 20 blocks, each a different fabric. I love that a few other colors are included in the prints, and I love that there is a very wide range of blues in this quilt, and yet, to me it still reads as a blue and white quilt.

Here are some of the individual blocks:

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From my ‘oriental fabrics’ period:

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From my ‘Reproduction fabrics’ period:

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And this one is from the first quilt I made years ago–the impressionist landscape quilts. This fabric was so “wonderful” that a friend and I just HAD to buy yards and yards of it. I still have quite a bit of it left.

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And now I get to play a bit again. I have a couple of half-baked ideas swirling around in my head, and a pile of pretty fabric just waiting for me in the studio. I’m off to cut out more fabric and sew it back together!