Sunday, November 28, 2010

The toys of our trade

Don't we all just love our supplies and materials – our toys? I can fondle stacks of fabric, sift through piles of beads and tally rolls of ribbons and feel as rich as King Midas in his counting room!

Somehow it seems that every time I get "enough" of one type of material, like fabric, I find two others that I "need." My sister and I have a Black Friday tradition of hitting the sales at Jo-Ann Fabrics and the other sewing and crafts stores where she lives (I have very limited options where I live, so I plan a splurge). Usually I buy way too much fabric.

But right now I have a ton of fabric and am leaning more toward art quilts and mixed media than traditional quilts. so I bought other stuff! I did stock up on batting since I'd used all my big pieces during my quilting binge before our quilt show. But other than that, I bought toys, fun stuff to play with. And stuff to store my stuff in.

My tally included lots of bling; a big bin of cheap beads, with lots of little ones that will be perfect on my postcards, a big bag of rhinestones, some tiny rhinestones, jewelry wire, glitter glue pens, a gold leaf pen, and metallic threads. Also a big box of scrapbooking paper, a zillion colors of acrylic craft paint (for postcards, not quilts, since I doubt it would wash). Also some jewelry tools, which will do double duty for fine work on my sewing machines, and an assortment of storage containers.

As I drove home yesterday I was already getting ideas on how to use some of the materials. After I got everything unpacked and into my studio, I couldn't wait to play with some of the stuff and try it out, and just had to glue a couple of rhinestones onto some postcards.

Hope everyone has fun playing today. More later!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vintage treasures

I haven't disappeared, just running back and forth spending time with family over the past couple of weeks. That means not much time on the sewing machine, but there has still been some fiber-related fun going on.

Working backward, yesterday a box arrived stuffed with vintage fabric scraps. Someone on one of my email lists had offered the scraps for sale a couple of weeks ago and I was thrilled to be able to get them since I have several vintage quilts that need some repairs.

The box was full  of the goodies shown, including a thick stack of approximately 6-inch pieces of feedsacks (on right), some larger and some smaller scraps, and some partially completed blocks, including several partial Dresden wreaths. I guess I'll have to think of something fun to do with them!

Moving backward, while I was visiting, I worked on some hand applique and did a little bit on some postcards. That included adding some beading and making some little crochet pieces of seaweed and coral, which I stitched to the postcards. I was inspired to do the crochet when I ran across this blog, which has some amazing crocheted pieces, including instructions for seaweed.

In one of those bits of serendipity, while I was visiting my sister and I went to an estate sale where I found a large needlework basket full of goodies. It's one of the old-fashioned folding fabric baskets on a wood frame that sits open on the floor, but you can grab the handles to carry it. I'm sure there's a name for this style but I don't know what it is. The basket had some yarn (nothing exciting), a bunch of balls of crochet thread (more exciting) and a case full of knitting needles – more than a dozen pairs (very exciting).

Here are some of the almost finished treasure chest postcards. The "treasure" was created using all kinds of glittery bits and wash-away stabilizer, then stitched to the postcard. The coral is the crochet pieces and beads and glitter glue was added to finish it off.

Time to get busy. Happy Thanksgiving! More later.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Little steps forward

Well, there haven't been any major projects started or finished in the last few days, but there has been progress forward on a number of things.

One of the major issues with my studio is lighting. I decided to start dealing with that by hanging a workshop style fluorescent light this week. I got a very simple one, that hangs from chains and takes two bulbs (daylight bulbs) and we got it hung – quite a job with a 10-foot ceiling! Even with the daylight bulbs, it's very blue light (or maybe it's the blue walls!) but I'm getting used to it. I may need another one on the other end of the room to balance it, though.

In other projects, I got the filler blocks and triangles cut for the edges of Shakespeare in the Park. That should give me everything I need to start laying out the top and assembling it. That's a good feeling. With all the yardage cut, I can return the rest of the fabric to my stash and get it out of the way. Looks like I'm ending up with lots of interesting bits and pieces to go into the scrap bins, too.

And I'm moving along with the fabric postcards. I had to clear the way to my Singer 500, which I haven't used in a while, to work on satin-stitching around some of the appliques. I got several done last night, so now I can move on to quilting and embellishments.

Not a bad week, but I have a busy weekend planned, so don't know how much sewing I'll get to do. More later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who says grownups aren't allowed to play?

Sometimes you just need to play. And when you can play and end up doing something productive, it's even better. After all the deadline sewing I've been doing, I wasn't in the mood to continue work on SITP this weekend. I wanted to do something a little more spontaneous (play). And I need to rebuild my stock of fabric postcards for sale, so that's what I played with.

I've been on a palm tree kick, so that's what I mostly worked on. I do these free-hand, using fusible applique. So I spent a lot of time pressing! For these I prepped the backing (a stiff interfacing called Stiffy that I get from Long Creek Mills) with fusible, then fused on fabric covering the whole card for background (sky). Then I cut shapes for the water, beach, vegetation, and palm trees, from fabric that I've prepared with fusible.

The prepping fabric is the longest part (but not unpleasant on a cold day) but the cutting and arranging is pure play!

Next up will be a day on the sewing machine, anchoring the applique, thread sketching and enhancing the design with quilting, then embellishments and finishing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A bunch of quick HSTs

I promised I'd post directions for making 12 half square triangles (HSTs) at a time, so here it is. This method is based on one I saw somewhere else for making eight at a time. I liked that method, but not having to stop at each corner, then come back to the fabric, so I adapted it to 12, so I could do continuous lines of stitching.

To start, decide what size you want your HSTs to be. (Mine are 6.5 inches.) Add one inch. (that's 7.5). Double that for the short dimension of the rectangle (mine is 15) and triple it for the long dimension (mine is 22.5.

Cut two rectangles in this size, in the two fabrics for your HST. Lie the lighter fabric face down on your work table. With a fabric pencil, mark one short end at the halfway point (7.5 inches for me), and mark both the longer ends at that distance from the end you just marked. Draw lines from the first mid-point to the points on each side, then from those points to the opposite corner, as shown in the picture.

Starting in one corner, stitch 1/4 inch from the marking line on both sides of the lines. For the outside stitching, you can stitch off onto a scrap of fabric, pivot, then stitch right back on the next line.

After stitching both sides, cut vertically and horizontally first, then cut along the marked lines. Press the HSTs open, then use a square to trim to exact size.

Super quick HSTs, ready to go.

More later.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From photo to fiber

I've done two pieces now based on a photo manipulation of an original photo I took a few years ago. I thought it might be fun to show the evolution from photo to quilts.

 The first photo is just as I took it, on Tybee Island, GA, a few years ago. I was struck by the leaning angle of the tree, and it's starkness against the sky. Behind it is a walkway crossing the dunes and leading to the beach.

The second is the photo after I'd played with it in Photoshop for a while. I don't remember now exactly what I did, but I know I selected the circle around the top of the palm, then did all the manipulation to the inverse (everything else). Later I added lens flare, which looks like reflections and created the impression the top of the tree was in a bubble.

Palm Bubbles was the first effort to turn this into a quilt. I liked the other-worldly effect of the colors (which are a little off in this picture), but the bubble is too dark and there's not enough contrast to see the stitching for the palm leaves.
Next came Painted Palm (color is a little off here, too). For this one, I used fusible applique to create the palm leaves, then stitched over them.  I used threadwork, enhanced with watercolor pencil, to create the image of the circle. Without the highlights, it's not as suggestive of a bubble.

In both of these, I like the color and the stitching, but the bubble or circle really isn't a strong element. I'm thinking there will be another incarnation, this time dropping the idea of the bubble, and concentrating on the alien landscape effect through colors and stitching.

Any thoughts?

More later.

Palm Bubbles
Painted Palm

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Random thoughts before the sun comes up

What is it with cats? For the last few mornings, Mr. Stomp-O-Matic (usually known as Pepper) has been going nuts early in the morning, wanting to look out the windows in the bedroom. There's something very unsettling about suddenly awakening to the pop and swish of a cat pushing behind a window shade. For a moment you don't know what it is, then you cringe in fear of the shade falling down (it has) or the cat knocking something off the dresser (he has). This morning, just opening the shades wasn't enough, Pepper wanted me awake and breakfast in his bowl, so here I am.

Don't you just love it when you unexpectedly find something that you had given up looking for? I dump all my too-small-to-use bits of fabric and thread into a big shopping bag, which sits on the floor of my studio. Last night I was looking for selvages for a project, and ended up dumping the bag on my cutting table. There in the bottom, I found the ergonomic seam ripper I bought over a year ago! I had used it for a while, liked it, then it disappeared, along with most of my other seam rippers. This summer, on our annual trip to Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC, I bought a couple more seam rippers (not ergonomic) and since then the others have reappeared. I think this makes the full collection.

Then later, I found several of my self-threading needles that had disappeared. I had been down to one, and had just gotten my sister to bring me more (no place around here to buy them). Sadly, my close vision doesn't handle threading hand-sewing needles very well any more, I'm lucky to be able to thread machine needles!

I've been enjoying the basted applique, so decided to start a project that I can keep ready as hand-work. I decided to do a Baltimore album style block, but with sea and beach themes. I designed the first block Monday night, and have enough background fabric for two more blocks, which will limit the size of this quilt.

As if I didn't spend enough time on the computer, I've been reading more and more blogs. Last night I joined the Artful Quilters Web Ring (icon in sidebar) and have been looking through many of the blogs. So much creativity! I really appreciate it when people explain a little about their techniques, or the materials they use for a project.

Time to get moving, more later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The blocks are finished!

What a gorgeous morning! It's kind of a Goldilocks day. We had some days that were too cool for this time of year, then some days that were too warm. Today it's just right.

I'm in a good mood because last night I finished the blocks for the Shakespeare in the Park! I started this last year, with a spin-off group from the Stashbusters list,. and made pretty good progress for a while. But then I had Christmas gifts to make, and cold weather kept me out of the studio and so on, until it had been almost a year since I worked on it. But once our quilt show was finished, I decided to make it my first priority and get moving.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went through the box. I had finished all the small stars, and the Snail's Trail blocks and all I still needed was 18 large star in star blocks. To be on the safe side, I made 20, half light on dark and half dark on light.

I'll still need to cut the filler and setting pieces, but I'm looking forward to figuring out the layout. That's always one of the more fun parts for me.

Another thing I'm looking forward to? Getting the rest of this fabric back into my stash! For the past year, whenever I've needed a blue or purple, I've found my best fabrics were set aside for SITP. I'm looking forward to emptying the bins, putting yardage back into my stash and putting all the assorted cut pieces into the appropriate scrap bins. I know my 2-inch squares and triangles bins will get a nice infusion.

Here are the blocks. More later.