Thank You Quilts

Sometimes someone does something for you that’s so special, you need a special thank you for them. I’ve done these little thank you quilts several times over the years for extraordinary acts of kindness. They are fun to do, and usually just take a couple of evenings to complete. I try to include something that relates to the event.

Here’s a thank you for my BF, who came and took care of me following my knee surgery. She brought her accu-cutter with the hexagon molds for me to play with. She tried to encourage me to play with my wool. She encouraged me to try playing with my beads. (Pretty much none of this worked at the time, probably thanks to the excellent 🙂 pain medications that I was on.)

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And here’s the thank you quilt that I made for Cindy, at Alden Lane Nursery, after she had me as the guest quilter. I included the umbrellas and ombre clothespin decorations that she used to decorate the greenhouse where my quilts were hung. Cindy first noticed my work when I entered a quilt the year before that had 2 inch squares embroidered on it, so of course I used some of my squares and embroidered them.

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These are some of the funnest projects I’ve worked on. Next time you need a special thank you, try making one of these instead of searching through those so expensive greeting cards at the store!

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Art Quilt Tahoe

It was a kind of spur of the moment kind of decision. I read something somewhere about going on a retreat, and that made me look up Art Quilt Tahoe, and I saw a teacher I had never heard of, and I loved her work. She was working with silk gauze, and I have been thinking about working with silk organza for quiet a while, so… I signed up!

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First, let me just sing the praises of the teacher, Michelle Mischkulnig. She was a lovely person, with a great sense of humor, and gave individual attention to every person in class. I think this made for a great class atmosphere, and I have never been in a class so full of nice people!

Michelle had a definitive project for us to work on, and provided a kit with most of the materials needed. Well before the retreat started, she sent us an email so that we could choose the colors of silk gauze that we wanted to work with. Here’s the colors that I chose.

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Michelle had us lay out our gauze on a base of muslin, with a layer of batting below that. And then we added accents of silk top (unspun silk.)

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Then we covered the whole thing with a piece of water soluble something or other, and machine quilted the heck out of it. I think we drew our design on there first. The dark brown spots on there is some wool felt that I added to define the branch. The quilting took all of the first day, and much of the second day. She had us mark an X through the leaves that we would remove. (Oh, and I added a bird to mine)

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Then we cut out the leaves.

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And somehow, by magic, we used water soluble fusible and we stitched madly and created see-through leaves.

And then we took it outside and squished it around in soapy water, and ta da! All the fusible melted away, and there was our composition!

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THEN, we used another piece of silk, and more fusible stuff, and we painted leaves.

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And then we embellished them with yarn and velvet and felt, and then carefully cut them out and sewed them on to our piece.

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And here is what my piece looked like at the end of day four.  (We also made those “3D” leaves out of more felt and sewed them onto the main piece.) I made my bird out of silk and velvet and some silk gauze.

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I tend to get tired and then negative at quilting retreats. So I was very happy to see that when I got home and put this piece on my design wall, I actually like it. There is a lot more I want to add to it, including adding more details to the bird.

I think you can see that there were a lot of techniques taught in this class, many of which I had never done before. I would thoroughly recommend taking a class from Michelle if the opportunity ever presented itself. She is from Australia, and she said she does not have plans to come back to the states next year. So just keep her in mind, in case her name pops up, and sign up for her class!

 

Early Morning Inspiration

Before I did Quilting in the Garden, I had started constructing these criss cross blocks. My plan this time was to make a large quilt. I read somewhere that one of the significant things about quilt art was that it could be made on a large scale.

So I made criss cross blocks in my spare time. I made a LOT of criss cross blocks, and kept adding them to the design wall.

Then one day I thought I might have enough to put together into a quilt. But I was flummoxed. They were too crowded and just a mess on the wall. You can see in this picture that I was auditioning some black prints to use as spacers in this quilt.

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And then one morning I woke up too early. I didn’t really want to get out of bed, so I got my Kindle Fire and decided to look at quilting blogs. Now, I really don’t have that many quilting blogs bookmarked on my kindle. So its kind of amazing that I got so much inspiration from just looking at two blogs. First I looked at Judy Martin’s blog. I was impressed by the large scale of her quilts, all the wide open white space, AND that she had completely covered the quilt in  hand stitching.

Next I looked at The Silly Boodilly blog, and she happened to have an entry explaining her design process. Mostly I was impressed by the simplicity of the “nine patch” quilt at the end of this piece. (P.S. I LOVE the barn in this post.)

And that’s when I got the idea of how I would construct these criss cross blocks. I would put them  in 20 inch blocks (later changed to 24 inch blocks) to give them more open space and provide a little structure. I used yarn to make a 24″ block on the design wall so I could figure out how to place the criss cross blocks.

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Its still a puzzle trying to figure out how to put the blocks together without using any y-seams. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

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I also decided that I would “kantha stitch” all of the background. So when I looked for the background fabric I would use, I had Kona Snow, which is my favorite “white,” and I also had some white backing fabric (108″ wide) from Joann’s, which was a looser weave, and therefore would be easier to stitch through, so that’s the one I chose.

With my new construction decision, I decided against adding the black spacers. The block construction would be enough. I did make a few circle criss cross blocks. Because, you can never have enough circles 🙂 So, here’s how its going:

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I am going to make it a 4X3 construction, so the size will be 72 wide by 96 high. That should probably keep me kantha stitching through the winter!

 

Recovery and Creativity

Well, here I am, three weeks post-op already! If you want to read more details about my knee replacement surgery, you can check my other blog. I’m writing several posts detailing my experience in case it might be helpful for someone else considering knee replacement surgery. For the most part, it has all been so much better than I had heard from other people, and I am so grateful for that. The doctor did not know before he actually started the surgery, but it turned out that I only needed a partial knee replacement. Such good news for me in the recovery room!

I thought I’d share here about my creativity (or lack of it!) during my recovery time. You might remember that I was all prepared with four neatly arranged projects for me to choose from while I recuperated. Well, it turns out, none of them worked for me. I didn’t like beading in my lap, and I’d take the other projects out of their boxes and just stare at them. It was too hard to make a decision about where to start, or what color thread to use.

My best friend was here, and she tried to encourage me with various ideas. She had brought practically her whole studio with her 🙂  One of the things she brought was her AccuCut machine. She suggested using a charm pack that she had bought (and that I had admired,) and using that along with some of my reproduction fabrics to make a hexagon quilt. It turns out, that was just what I needed. I like sewing those big hexagons together. And of course, I love choosing fabrics for a new quilt.  Choosing which hexagon to sew to the next hexagon didn’t tax my brain too much.

Here’s the beginning of my fabric choices (you can see the charm pack in there–brighter colors than the rest):

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And here it is in progress:

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After a while, the only way I know to figure out how a hexagon quilt is progressing is to lay it out and then sew a chain of hexis in a straight line so you will know where the edge is supposed to be.

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And here, after 2 1/2 weeks of recovery, which included a lot of exercise, a lot of naps, and a lot of sitting, sewing, and TV watching, is the finished quilt top. It measures 50X70 inches. It will be a nice lap quilt for someone.

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This week I have done little bits of sewing on my machine, and even a bit of quilting on the Juki. I still don’t enjoy letting my leg hang down, so have kept those sessions short. I was finally able to start embroidering on one of the projects I had pre-prepared, and soon I will clear off my cutting table/desk and set up a beading station. I am determined to work on my beading!

Some Different Edge Treatments

Lately I’ve been trying different ways to finish the edges of my quilts. Especially since these two are full of handwork, it seemed fitting to do a more rustic edge. The first you have seen–I named it Worlds Within Worlds. Many years ago I thought about this–how you can live for a long time and never know that there is a whole “world” out there that you never knew existed. Like, for example, the world of angora rabbits and showing angora rabbits. I did that for a while, because I was a spinner/knitter at the time. Did you know this world existed? Heck, I didn’t even know there was a whole world of spinning out there, with conventions and everything, much less the crazy world of English Angora show rabbits!

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A real live English Angora show rabbit!

To bring it closer to home, we all know that the majority of people do not know about the big world of art quilts OR the world of show quilts. When you say you are a quilter, they only see what they know–bed quilts, usually grandma’s flower garden quilts 🙂

Here is the quilt Worlds Within Worlds with a hand-satin stitch edging using #5 perle cotton. I have to laugh at myself when I say I won’t do binding by hand because it takes too long, but I was perfectly willing to sit for several days doing this edging.

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Close-up of the edge:

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The next quilt you have also seen. It just sat sadly on my sewing table for months, waiting to be finished. Truth was, I didn’t know how I wanted to finish it. Then I noticed a small quilt I had done a long time ago, with a fringed edge. That seemed perfect for this very rustic cloth. And since it is all white around the edge, I wanted to make a quilted backing for it. I looked through my blue fabrics, and this bright dark blue was my favorite. I haven’t finished the quilting the blue, but wanted to share with you anyway.

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Here’s how I did the fringed edging. Measure and cut the quilt to the size desired. Sew two lines closely together around the edge (about 1/8 inch apart.)

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Carefully cut out the batting close to your sewn line.

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With little scissors, cut fringe on the bottom layer (for reference, that bottom layer is muslin.)

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Then take your fingernail and run it both ways along that fringed edge to make it fringier 🙂

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Lastly, since this was a homespun type of fabric, I pulled the threads to make the top fringe. If the top had been made of regular fabric, I could have just cut it at the same time I cut the bottom, and done the same with the fingernail.

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As my surgery date approaches I find myself starting new projects and working on finishing old. But I am distracted, so I’m afraid not much will get done in the next week or so. I started a new scarf/shawl, using some of my handspun yarn that is so beautiful–a blend of merino wool, bombyx silk, and cashmere. And I made myself a bead project kit, using Robin Atkin’s excellent book: Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery. I am hoping that it will be a good project for my post-op healing time.

 

Something Old, Something New

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Something old: I washed an older quilt and put it on my bed to fold it up, and thought I would share it with you. I call this quilt “I Live in Pine Grove.” I do live in Pine Grove, and at the time I made this quilt there was a lot of different fabric with pine trees and pine branches and pine needles on it. I had so much fun collecting all the different pine fabrics. I had just a few fabrics with birds on them, and I made all the blocks and then had fun fitting them together. I hand quilted it. And it is still a quilt that I like very much.

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A new finish: After agonizing over each area–should I add more stitching here? What about this area? How should I do the background? I finally just took the plunge, and finished all the stitching on this quilt. My BF was here for a one day visit, and she asked if I had considered turning it sideways. I hadn’t, but the more I looked at it that way, the more I thought that was the way it should be!

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I wanted to wash it before I blocked it and finished the edge, so I zigzagged around the edge and washed it very gently. And then blocked it on my design wall. I thought about how I wanted to finish the edge, and I decided that I want to do a hand-finished edge. I will do a satin stitch with perle cotton all around the edge. I am going to use the ecru thread that I used for the background. It is busy enough–no need to add any more color to it.

After I cut the edges to their final size, I stitched very carefully around the edge, just to keep it nice and neat while I hand stitch the edge.

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I did enjoy using chain stitch to color in some of the solid areas. Close-up of stitching:

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Something new: And then I wanted to play and make another small quilt to embroider. I LOVE the piece that I used for the What They Said series:

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And so I chose some new fabrics, and made the same block, only larger. Starting with one background fabric, you cut and insert strips and then a circle and then more strips, etc. Very fun to do. I want to explore this more!

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Of course now that I’ve got it done and the sandwich made and basted and all, its like I get all shy, and I don’t know how I want to stitch it! But I’ll just think about it for a bit. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

 

 

 

My Flower Garden

Remember this quilt? That’s the one I made in class with Katie Pasquini Masopust. I pre-cut a few too many strips for that quilt.

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So I used the leftovers to make this simple quilt. I didn’t really enjoy making this quilt. But it will be a nice baby quilt for someone.

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I thought I had used up all the leftover strips with that quilt. One day I went out to clean up the studio a bit and opened a plastic bin. What??? More leftover strips? Well, I finally remembered that they were the smaller  strips (1 1/4 inch) and I had planned to put them in a ziplock bag to give to whomever wanted them.

I looked at them for a few minutes and thought–why not play around with them and see what I come up with.

This is a quilt I made a long time ago, and I really like it. It was the inspiration for how I decided to use these small strips, and how to construct the top.

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As I went along, I decided it would be like my own flower garden, that was constructed a bit at a time, fitting things together as we went along.

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I didn’t add any more strips to what I already had. I chose a few flower and leaf prints to add to the “garden.”

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When I quilted it, I used straight lines and pebbles for the “paths” in my garden. I just outlined the flower and leaf prints.

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This is my favorite of all three quilts that I made from those strips.

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What Makes an Artist?

Last week, as I reluctantly drove to my artist’s reception at Oak Hills church, I heard the news about one of the highest selling artworks at auction–a painting that sold for $110 MILLION DOLLARS. Unbelievably, the artist was only 21 years old when he painted it, and he died when he was 27 from a heroin overdose. As the newscaster described it, I was pretty sure that I would NOT like this piece of art. Primary colors, and a skull. Yuck. How does an artist become so famous? Is it just on the whim of another person, who likes the painting? Did the artist promote the daylights out of himself? Was he really talented? How does it happen?

At the reception, I enjoyed talking to my friend Teresa. I discussed how much I DON’T enjoy promoting myself. I did not want to “bother” anyone by asking them to come to the reception. Teresa said she had read a book that said most artists have to spend 50% of their time on promotion! (By the way, in the end, I very much enjoyed the artist’s reception. Not a lot of people came, but it was so fun to interact with people and hear what their reactions were to my quilts.)

When I got home I looked up the artist and the painting. Sure enough, I don’t like it. However, I do like the layers that are in it, and the complexity of it. And it was very interesting to read about the artist’s history–he was encouraged artistically from a very young age. He was always heavily involved in “the art scene.” It seems like his talent was noticed and appreciated from a very young age.

In general, I am more attracted to textile art. But even there, I don’t like all textile art. Here is a quilt that won $100,000 in Australia. I don’t like it either.

I know that I am attracted to certain colors and color combinations that I consider pretty. I appreciate handwork. I like circles and spirals. I like geometric compositions. There are lots of things I do like 🙂

I want to make it clear that just because I don’t like something, I am not denying its artistry. I am just musing over WHAT MAKES AN ARTIST? Its not always classical training, although that seems to help. I don’t think its always promotion, although for sure that helps. One thing that seems consistent for “successful” artists is that they are passionate about what they do, and they spend a great deal of their time working on their art.

In the end, I don’t think it will work to try to make art that you think is “artistic.” You have to make work that you yourself love, and that makes you happy. Why would you try to do otherwise?

P.S. Here are a few of the textile artists whose work I love:

Projects and Project Boxes

I am a multiple project type of gal. I like having multiple projects to work on. But sometimes I get carried away and the projects multiply faster than I can work on them. And that can be overwhelming. That’s when the project boxes come in handy. I can put some of the projects neatly away for a bit. They are all ready for when the mood strikes, but they are not laying around making me feel guilty for the way I choose to work.

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Recently I saw a tiny picture somewhere. It was just a simple quilt, a kind of a square in a square, and I thought, that would be a neat way to use my kantha stitching. It seemed to be a scrappy quilt, and the main square was large with the outer square being more of a frame (where I would embellish with kantha stitching.) Here, like this:

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So I went out and went through my stash, and had great fun cutting out hunks of all my favorite fabrics, and then carefully cutting them into 6 inch squares. I have enough to make each block a different fabric!

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As I cut the squares, I had great fun re-visiting old and new favorite fabrics. It occurred to me that this is a great idea for a memory quilt. So many memories are attached to my fabric–where I was when I bought it, who I was with, and sometimes even the quilts that I have made with the fabric.

Here are some of the other projects I am working on presently. And even more are in project boxes…

Here is the piece that I showed you bits of previously. I have to take long breaks with this one to figure out what I want to do next. So far, each time it seems like “adding more” is the best solution…

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I got out the ten little pieces that I intended for the “Characteristics of God” series. I am making them into sandwiches and embroidering the words on them.

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And in the evenings, this one seems to have taken preeminence, because it is so enjoyable to stitch on with that DMC Coton Floche thread. I choose one block to work on, and then choose the threads that I want to use. It usually takes an evening to stitch one block.

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Inspiration

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Inspiration? Where does it come from? And when do you know its right? What makes some art “good” and other art “no good?” Recently I’ve been working a lot on a whole cloth embroidered piece. I had a general idea when I started, and of course, that idea has gone through several transformations since I started. But at each stage, I have despaired at whether or not this is a “worthy” piece. Should I just give up? Or should I continue on? How do you know when its time to stop, or if the next step will be just what the piece needs?

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I was encouraged to read Denise Schmidt‘s words in the new book, Abstract and Geometric. She is a trained AND commercially successful artist. She said

Looking and seeing is the only way to know. If I am not happy with how a quilt looks, the only way past this is to uncover what is not working by trying other solutions. Anything that changes your perspective can be a tool that helps you see more clearly. It can sometimes be a challenge, and no one is immune to it, but it is part of the creative process. I wish I could say it gets easier, but somehow it is always the same. It is less painful if you give yourself over to it and accept that design is a process of trial and error, of getting out of your own way, and of knowing your tools.

Okay then. So the other day I decided to spend the whole day working on this piece (I usually work on machine work during the day, and only hand embroider in the evening.)

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I decided to see if there was a good movie to watch while I worked. I chose one called Imber’s Left Hand. SO inspirational! This was a well-known artist who got Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Early on, he lost the use of his right hand, and so he just switched to his left hand and continued to paint. Lou Gehrig’s disease slowly erodes the use of all of the muscles in your body, but Imber continued to paint until 3 days before his death. And as I watched, I saw the exact process that Denise had described–many times he would paint something, and decide that it just wasn’t working, and paint right over it.

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And there’s the rub, right? Our work, whether with machine or by hand, is painstakingly slow compared to other artist’s work. And its not so easy to wipe it out or do it over. Sometimes we just have to let it go, and start from scratch with new information about what works and what doesn’t.

So you might have noticed I am not showing you the entire piece. That is because I am so unsure of it, so wondering whether to give up or go on. The piece is on the design wall now, pondering the next step. And, encouraged by these other artists, I am going to go into the studio and let myself cut up more fabric and put it back together. I am going to try my next big idea, not knowing whether or not it will work or whether it will be considered art. I am going to accept that design is a process of trial and error.

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