Still Stitching

I haven’t posted for a while, but that doesn’t mean I have stopped stitching! I started a new embroidery project. Here’s how it started:

  • I had seen a group of my pink threads together, and thought it would be neat to try stitching a whole project ONLY using pink/coral colors.
  • I had a sketch in my journal.
  • And I had this card that I had gotten from a friend. I liked the colors in the card.
  • I wanted to try stitching on my own hand-dyed fabric to see how it was.

First I tried a version of this using brightly colored wool for the flowers. It was so garish, I knew I would not like it. So I discarded that idea, and threw the green background sandwich in the closet. Then one evening I wanted to stitch, so I got out the background again, and drew some stylized flowers on it (that I had sketched on a scrap of paper from something I saw on the internet, probably a hooked rug.) And started stitching away.

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And then I realized. Green plus pink equals brown. I was so disgusted. I know this so very well, from the years I spent making fiber blends. Discouraged, I sent this picture to my BF. She said she liked it, so I was encouraged to just continue on. Maybe if I put enough pink on it, it would show up. And so that’s where I’ve been. Steadily putting one pink stitch after another on this piece. Since I have a small embroidery with just straight running stitch, and another one featuring french knots, I am trying to feature the lazy daisy in this one. But have to admit, there’s plenty of other stitches in there.

Here’s some close-ups of the stitching:

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And then…because working on one project at a time is JUST NOT RIGHT, I started another simple project that was inspired by a verse I read in church a few weeks ago. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature.”

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I am planning to just do straight “kantha” stitching across the whole thing, using a range of blue and beige threads. And, as always, I am surprised at how long it takes to stitch a single line across this piece :)

I’ve also been working on my rug a bit here and there. I was very happy with how the horse came out–it still looks like a horse :) I have that picture of a lion on there, trying to decide if I want to add it to the rug.

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And that’s how its been going around here. Enjoying my stitching. One stitch at a time.

Just What I Needed

I had a wonderful week at Cambria Pines Rug Hooking Camp! First of all, Cambria itself is a wonderful place. Cambria is near the sea, with moderate temperatures, and is a quaint little town. Cambria Pines Lodge is a wonderful place to stay. Its a huge complex, with wonderful gardens surrounding the lodge, comfortable rooms, and delicious food. I had Gene Shepherd as my teacher, and since he had worked with me on this rug when I started it, he gave me just the right amount of guidance. One of my main questions was, do you think I need to add more “creation”, that is, more plants and/or animals?

As you can see from this picture taken before I left, my drawing skills are minimal. I get very intimidated when I think about drawing animals. But I have to tell you, Google Image is the way to go! It was just amazing. I took my Kindle Fire with me, and thank goodness they had WiFi there. I would type in “crocodile images” and there would pop up the perfect crocodile. Many times the first image that came up was just what I wanted. So I got the crocodile and the turtle done the first day.

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I added a tree to the left border (tree trunk visible here) and I knew I wanted to add some chickens. Trouble was, I wanted to put them right where that stick horse was. Gene suggested drawing them on paper, and then tracing that over the horse image. That worked just fine. I got the chickens added in the second day.

The horse was a major topic of conversation, as American Pharaoh had just won the Triple Crown, and also my table-mate was a horse lover. And also, I did not think I could draw a horse at all! Google images to the rescue! I found an image of a horse grazing, and I liked that. I am pretty proud that I was able to draw a horse this well!

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Here you can see the whole rug, and all the images I added to it. I actually drew the elephants in the first day, as I was pretty certain of my elephant drawing skills :) When I googled “chicken images,” they had a little bar that said “you might be interested in these images,” and they showed a bald eagle and a hummingbird. Why yes, I was VERY interested in those images. I drew in a dead branch coming in from the right side for the bald eagle to sit on, and added some trumpet flowers to the vine, so the hummingbird would have something to drink from.  The butterfly will be eliminated.

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One of the things that is the most difficult for me is getting the right contrast. The color I had chosen for the “sand” was too close in value to the croc and the turtle, so I had to find a different sand color. Also, although I want the cross to stay in the background (like a watermark,) I do want it to be visible, so I will have to be aware of that as I continue to hook .

All this thinking is very tiring to me. I remind myself that this is an important part of the creative process. I hooked and drew and pondered value each day during the class hours, from 9-12, and after lunch from 1-3:30. I did not stay after class or hook into the evening hours like many of my classmates. And that made the entire trip very enjoyable for me.

 

 

I returned home refreshed, and to be honest, anxious to return to my quilting!

Too Much of a Good Thing

I am a multi-project person. I always have been, and once I accepted that reality about myself, it was much easier to move ahead with my work. But once in a while, it gets to be too much. I can’t keep track of all my projects. My chair, where I do hand-work in the evening, looks like a rat’s nest. And something conspires to make me stop starting new ideas (they never stop!) and to work on finishing what is in front of me.

I signed up at the last minute to go to rug hooking camp! I’m so excited about this. And it served as the impetus to get my projects in line. So I put away the latest embroidery project (I only had the quilt sandwich made, and then got “stuck.”)

I got busy working on the “sea” part of my rug. I wanted to have that finished before I went to camp.

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I kept at the hexagons every night until that was done.

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I love how it looks. One of these days something will strike me as to how I want to use it as a background.

And then I worked on finishing the latest rag rug. I want to use it as a sample, because I got it into my mind that maybe some of the rug hookers would like to make knitted rugs, and so I cut tons of my scraps into one inch strips. (They have a student sale one afternoon at rug camp.)

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I always think it would be fun to knit a bigger rug, but they are extremely heavy and burdensome by the time they get to this size. This rug weighs three pounds!

I also got up one morning and decided to untangle this rug. I knit it in squares (see above about the work being too heavy.) I thought that was a clever idea. But when I sewed the squares together, something happened, and one of them became “unknitted” but was still attached to the main piece. I’m pretty sure knitters will know what I mean. A total nightmare. But I was able to untangle and re-knit it, and I do love it. I knitted it specifically for my new kitchen long before the kitchen was completed.

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Sophie always has to “claim” any new rug.

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Finishing projects, and not starting new ones allows me time to do all the things I need to do to get ready to leave for a trip. I organized all my rug wool, and have everything by the back door, ready to be packed in the car. Little by little I cleaned up most of the studio, so when I come back from camp, full of energy and new ideas, I will find a clear place to work. This is a relatively new concept for me, and I highly recommend it!

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The garden is watered, and the doggie room is vacuumed! I will return in a week, rested and full of creative ideas!

In the Hexagonal Maze

Somewhere, someplace, I saw a quilt that used hexagons as a background. I really like that idea, and I had the thought that I would like to use bigger hexagons. I have done quite a lot with small paper pieced hexagons, and although I like them, they are pretty labor-intensive, and hard on my hands. I thought that bigger ones, without the paper, might be easier to work on. Plus, to be honest, I thought it might give me an excuse to get that Accuquilt that occasionally calls my name.

So I discussed with my BF (who already has an Accuquilt and thinks it is the BEST NEW TOY ever :) ) I said, well, I should find a template and see if I even enjoy piecing the hexagons before I invest in an Accuquilt. And just like a good BF, she jumped at the chance to send me some pre-cut hexagons. Because, hey, she has a little extra fabric and an Accuquilt.

Like in one day, my little pack of hexagons arrived. Included was a cardboard template of the hexagon. It is the hexagon with 2″ sides, which makes it about 5-6 inches across.

Oh yeah. This size is JUST RIGHT for my hands. I love hand piecing, especially when you are making something that just cannot be done easily by machine.

And because my friend had included the cardboard template, before my first night of stitching was over I was in the studio adding more hexagons to my little pile. And I remembered how much I like drawing around a template and then cutting the pieces out with scissors. Yay! Kindergarten for adults :) Bye-bye, Accuquilt. I do not need you now.

But if any of you have ever worked with hexagons, you know they have a mind of their own. Its just very hard to know which direction you are going in. It starts to develop this weird amorphous shape.

So I came up with a solution. I laid it out on the floor, and decided how big I wanted it to be, and then defined the two sides with lines of hexagons stitched in place. I thought this was very clever.

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And now I am having much fun filling in the empty spaces. I do not remember what my original idea was, but this will be a very fun blank canvas to work on, once the muse gives me an idea.

And because I did not have many pictures to share with you today, here is a picture of Bess, reveling in the warmth of the wood stove.

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It All Started with Twine?

So has everyone seen the fabric twine? It must be on Pinterest, because it is so cute. I saw it on The Quilt Show website. The first time I saw it I thought, Ooh, pretty! But the second time I saw it I was hooked. They used it to make a little rug! So I clicked over to the tutorial. I needed strips of fabric. I do believe I have a box of strips somewhere. 

I found the box of strips, and soon I was MAKING TWINE. Now, to be fair, she did warn that it was a little hard on the hands. Oh yeah. That twisting motion was very hard on my hands. I made this much, and knew that twine making was not in my future.

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That made me a little mad, so I went back to the box of strips. There were plenty in there. I could make another knitted rug. I really do like these rugs. I have two in my kitchen, and they are nice and cushy to stand on. Plus, they are easy to wash. And free. And they use up a lot of fabric that I would otherwise be donating to the thrift store.

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Okay, so I got that rug started. The strips in the box were mostly neutrals, both darks and lights. I liked that idea, and decided to add just a few sparks of color once in a while.

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So about a week later I went into the studio with the intention of cleaning up. There were still some strips leftover in that box. I was thinking I would just toss them. I made the mistake of actually LOOKING into the box. There were three squares that I had started on a few years ago. They were from a fabric panel that had old inn signs on it. I really did like those signs, and I liked the way I had outlined them with the strips. Oh, plus, for some reason, there were two paper-pieced blocks in there. Maybe I should use these strips up and make a little quilt.

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ONE WEEK LATER, (and of course, with lots more strips cut out) I finished another WAY TOO BIG quilt top. It was very fun to work on this quilt, and it was a nice break from using my hands so much (machine piecing instead of hand work.) But 72″ X 72″? That’s gonna be a lot of dang quilting.

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Kandinsky?

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Some of you might remember this quilt that I started last summer in the Rosalie Dace class in Sisters. Ahhhh, Sisters. I love that place! Anyway, I got most of it done, and was adding some vertical lines with fabric, but I didn’t like it. So I started adding on the vertical lines with stitching. Yes, that would do. But then I came home, and construction, and boring, and … It got put away.

So the other day, after I had finished my last small embroidery, and still wasn’t able to put together another small quilt to embroider on, I went into the closet. There was the Kandinsky quilt, just waiting to have those vertical lines stitched on. I worked on the lines, which I had carefully pre-marked before I put it away, and added a few more. I had gotten some hand-dyed thread on Etsy, and wanted to try it out. So I added some lines of french knots, and did a little more stitching in the squares and circles.

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You can see I was mostly trying to be “abstract” and not do my usual kantha-style stitching. Couldn’t resist the circles though :)

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This quilt is an interesting example of why a single-layer construction makes for the most enjoyable stitching. What I mean is–the way I constructed this, because I was trying to work “abstractly” and also because I was in a workshop, was to put up a background fabric and then to add motifs on top of it. And more motifs on top of that, and then more motifs on top of that. So that in some places, there might be five layers of fabric. This is not enjoyable to stitch through. One layer of fabric and the batting is the most enjoyable to stitch through. And as I was talking this over with my BF, we talked about how to us this is an important feature of the handwork that we have chosen to work on through the years (knitting, spinning, hand-piecing, hand-quilting, etc.) I don’t think you have to sacrifice your art to make the construction of it an enjoyable experience. If I had been home, I might have added the first layer of motifs, and then cut out the backing fabric, etc.

Another feature that made it less enjoyable to embroider on was that I completely machine quilted it before I ever started hand-stitching. In general, I do minimal machine quilting before I start my hand-stitching. I usually have a piece machine basted, so that I can pull out the basting threads as I get to that area in my hand-stitching.

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Anyway, I know myself. I know that I am more likely to continue on and do more hand-stitching if it is an enjoyable experience for me.

One more thing about this quilt. At the beginning of the workshop, before we even started working on our design, I was finding it a bit depressing to just be working on a picture that had no meaning. One of the things Rosalie asked us to consider was “what do I want to communicate?” So I skimmed the Psalms, and wrote some key phrases in my notebook, and kept that in mind as I worked on this piece. It made the whole process more meaningful and enjoyable for me. The title of the piece is “All Praise Rising.”

This piece uses some of the first fabric that I dyed myself, as well as some sheers that some of my workshop comrades were generous to share with me. It has enough of “me” in it that now I am finding that I like it better than when it went into the closet. Its also a good example of that “continue on” theory of mine. It doesn’t always hold true, but many times in the middle of working, people find that they don’t like what they have done, or that their original vision has been lost. Whatever the cause, they are tempted to give up. That is when you should “continue on.” You might recoup your original vision, or you might find that you have created something infinitely better than your original vision. Or, you might find that you still don’t like it after all that work, and you might be cursing me :) But in the meantime, valuable lessons have no doubt been learned.

Me and Kantha Stitching

A nice commenter asked a couple of good questions about my “kantha stitching.” Traditional kantha was done in India by using old saris, and other thin cloth, and using the simple running stitch in a variety of patterns to stitch the layers together. ( Anna Hergert has written an excellent article about kantha here.) Although I have the “big book” of Kantha now, my original inspiration was not antique kantha embroidery. The beautiful work of Marianne Burr was my original inspiration, and her work was originally inspired, I believe, by kantha. But her work has gone on beyond kantha, with her painting on silk, and her beautiful thread and color work.

The way I stitched the background of this quilt is similar to traditional kantha.

The way I stitched the background of this quilt is similar to traditional kantha.

So the way I do my kantha-style quilting and embroidery is this: I either piece together a top, or use a single piece and put together a quilt sandwich. The reason I do this is because the sandwich acts as a stabilizer for the embroidery. I have never ever liked using a hoop or a frame in any fiber craft. With the three layers of the quilt sandwich, I can stitch away and not have any distortion from the embroidery.

I have added french knots and lazy daisy stitches to the traditional running stitch of kantha.

I have added french knots and lazy daisy stitches to the traditional running stitch of kantha.

Sometimes I embroider through all three layers of the sandwich. This is usually around the outside edge of a motif (like a circle,)when I want to emphasize a shape, or to actually act as the quilting. But most of the stitches, especially the simple running stitches, are done only through the top and the batting. The reason for this is simply ease of work. Its much more enjoyable to stitch through one and a half layers than through all three layers.

I also use blanket stitch to raw-edge appliqué motifs to a top.

I also use blanket stitch to raw-edge appliqué motifs to a top.

My batting of choice is Quilter’s Dream Request Loft Batting. I started using this particular batting after a quilt teacher, Judy Danes, recommended it. That is where I learned to put my quilt sandwich together simply by steaming the layers together.  After I started the kantha embroidery, I tried various batts, but this same batt seems to work the best. It is easy to stitch through, and it does not generally “beard,” (where the batting will come through the needle holes to the surface of the quilt.) This is the thinnest of the Quilter’s Dream batts. I love the light weight of it, and the way it hangs.

I hope this is helpful. Just make yourself a little quilt sandwich and begin to play!

 

Before I Go Into the Studio…

Before I go into the studio, I feel I must post my progress here. After the last post, I got an idea of how to finish the design on the quilted embroidery piece. And that was it. I spent every evening working on this little piece, and one whole rainy day.

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As I got close to finishing the design, I thought maybe I could add some more french knots in the background. So I picked out 6 different weights and colors of perle cotton, and sprinkled them randomly around the empty spaces.

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Now I have two of these little quilt embroideries. Whatever will I do with them? I do think I will mount them on the painted boards, and of course, if I ever really get serious about teaching, they will be wonderful class samples. Both of them are about 12 inches square.

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The other stitch I use quite frequently is the lazy daisy stitch. Maybe that will be my next little quilted embroidery. By doing the embroidery on a quilt sandwich, that provides plenty of stability, and I never have to use a hoop or a frame (something I have never enjoyed, even as a child.)

And now I will disappear into the studio! I made great progress on the hooked rug piece last week, and will share that later. I plan to switch gears again soon, and get back to quilting and piecing :)

Dabbling

Sometimes I have to write a post just to remind myself that I am getting work done. I titled this “Dabbling,” which I did indulge in a bit. But I also, I can see now, have progressed forward in my intentional art. And because of this blog, I can look back and see that it really was just a week ago that I posted about “switching gears,” because I wanted to get back to my rug hooking.

The thing about rug hooking–its that old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Suddenly, I get all sentimental, and miss my quilting horribly. And I think of all kinds of new, wonderful ideas that I MUST. TRY. RIGHT. NOW.

My box of little two inch squares was calling to me! What if I made long chains of the squares. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?

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Not.

Then, I got a card that had painted flowers on the front. MUST TRY to reproduce those flowers! I pulled out a huge stack of pink, coral, and golden solids. Free-hand cut the fabrics for these.

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Not that fabulous. Plus, I think its been done before. Like in the 70’s or something.

I had seen the work of this artist at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. French Knots! Must do french knots!

I do think I started this more than a week ago, but I worked on it a lot this week:

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Of course, JUST french knots did not last very long. And I did not do all this embroidery in the past week. But I did do a significant amount of it, just as way of avoiding other stuff. DSCN2820

This is a fun little bit to do. Marianne Burr taught me this.

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I am always so inspired when I see the work of an artist who does everything by hand, like Marianne Burr and the french knot artist, and most recently, I came across this woman’s work. And then I start on a little piece like this, and inwardly I am whining, “but it takes soooooo lonnnnggg.” I can only laugh at myself.

And I did continue to work on the “what they said” series a bit. I am enjoying embroidering the lettering, and thinking about the thoughts behind the words, and how I can convey those thoughts and emotions through the way I do the lettering and through the simple machine quilting. (You can see I use the disappearing blue pen for some of my lettering. Don’t worry. It always disappears.)

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I made myself finish the quilting on the first one, and used Ricky Tims’ clever method of facing.

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And really, I did continue to do some rug hooking. Each section requires a bit of thought and of course a lot of angst. Is that color right? Is there enough contrast? Too much contrast? Am I just indulging my love of using ALL THE COLORS ALL THE TIME? 

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Mostly I’m very happy with how its coming along :)

Wow. I am surprised at how much I have gotten done. I thought my week had been disrupted by OTHER STUFF, like exercise, gardening, and housecleaning. If you just insist on continuing on, it is surprising and rewarding to see the body of work that you can eventually produce.

Something to Celebrate

Yesterday I received an email informing me that both of the quilts I submitted to Sacred Threads have been juried into their exhibition! I was more excited than I thought I would be. It is a good affirmation, and will offset those moments where I have thoughts like “what are you doing? making more quilts to stick in your closet?”

And now I want to go to Washington D.C. this summer! The exhibit will be held at Floris United Methodist Church, Herndon, VA (outside Washington, D.C.) from July 10-July 26.

The quilts I submitted are Hope in Uncertain Times:

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And Sing for Joy:

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