Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oooh, it's so pretty

One of the best things about fiber arts right now is all the new materials and techniques that are out there. I'm constantly seeing things that I want to try and incorporate into my quilts.

One of the things I've wanted to try for a while is Angelina film and fiber. I've seen it mentioned frequently, and thought it sounded intriguing. So this week when I was ordering some other items, I ordered a couple of samples of Angelina, so I could try it out.

It came in Thursday and I had to try it out right away. First test was how to heat it to bond it. I've seen suggestions to iron or hold it over a candle, but finally decided to use my tiny seam pressing iron.

First I just tried arranging it a few ways, a very light net of the fibers, then a little collage of film topped with bits of lace and thread and fibers, then created a little frame of crochet thread for a piece of film, then tried heating the film over a stamp.

I learned a bit from those experiments, including not to heat the film too much, and how to handle the materials. I also was amazed at how pretty it is, though the colors and shine are not easy to catch with the camera.

My first little use of it was to add to a couple of pieces I have in progress. Both are lighthouses, and needed a little something to add some spark. I stitched down a little piece of orange Angelina film over the light portion of the lighthouse, then heated it for dimension and sparkle. On one of the pieces I did the same for the sun in the background. Very simple, but it adds just the right touch.

I've also been playing a bit more with thread painted appliques. For the last pieces I did, the dogwood petals and palm leaves, I layered three layers of fabric with MistyFuse between them. But I've wanted to try with one layer of fabric and a layer of felt, so I pulled out some white felt from my stash and tried it out.

For these beach balls I discovered it's really important to stitch a little in each section, coming back to fill in more heavily. Otherwise you get a lot of distortion, as in the bigger ball. After finishing the stitching, I'm painting the edges to seal the threads, then will cut out and satin stitch the edges, then applique them on to larger pieces.

Lots to do today, so more later.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo Friday – Sunset

What a beautiful sunset last night. When I noticed that there were streamers of color in the sky in all directions I had to get pictures. This was a very delicate sunset, with fine strands of clouds stretching away from the sun, so the pinks and yellows of the sunset mingled beautifully with the blue of the sky.

More later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A little piece of history

Since I use my vintage/antique sewing machines all the time, I don't usually think about their age and history while I'm using them. Rather than thinking about the fact that my favorite free motion machine was made during the Great Depression, I'm planning my next feather or spiral. And rather than pondering the Cold War that was in place when my Singer 500 was made, I'm deciding on which decorative stitch will best suit my project.

But this weekend I was making some simple Rail Fence blocks for the next Treadle On exchange, and was using my oldest machine, an American No. 1 from around 1875. I couldn't help thinking about history. The machine itself represents some interesting history. It was made by the American Buttonhole Overseaming and Sewing Machine Company, which was established in the 1860s. I've been researching this company for a while, which is an challenge, as it went out of business in the 1890s and original documents about the company are rare.

The original machine made by the company had different components which could be switched to make buttonholes, overseam or do regular sewing. It may well have been the first "serger" as well as the first machine buttonhole maker. The original design may have been too complicated, I've only heard of one still existing. But by the 1870s the company was making the American No. 1, which was a sewing only machine. Two things that made it very different from other machines of the era was the shuttle and bobbin, and the bobbin path, a vertical arc, instead of the straight line (transverse shuttle) or horizontal arc (vibrating shuttle) used by most machines of the time.

The driving force behind the company appears to have been a man named George Rehfuss, who held the patents on many of the components used by the company's machines. That included the unique shuttle, a small teardrop shape, which held a tiny round bobbin, one of, if not the first, to use a round bobbin.

Of course, after thinking about how different the machine is from later machines, I had to think about the woman who first owned this machine. Think how different life was for her. The Civil War was a recent memory. She probably had a family member, perhaps her husband, father or brother, who fought in the war. Ulysses S. Grant was still the president.

This was the first mechanical appliance to come into her home. There was no electricity, no telephone – Alexander Graham Bell made his first experimental voice transmission in the year 1875.

Heat and cooking most likely depended on a wood or coal stove and plumbing was probably minimal.

Her family was probably pretty comfortable. A sewing machine was still a premium item at the time, not something you could find in every home. I have a receipt for a different American No. 1, which was sold in 1874 for $65, to be paid in monthly installments of $5. That $65 is the equivalent of $1,218 today and the $5 payments equivalent to about $94.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to know the details of this machine's history, who owned it, did she leave it to a family member, how many hands it passed through before it was purchased by one of my friends, who sold her collection when she became ill. And now it's mine, to be treasured for itself, as a memory of my friend and for all the history behind it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo Friday - Trees

A few days ago I was drawing a tree and ended up with a sort of generic deciduous tree, kind of like an oak, but not specific to anything. Yesterday I was outside with the camera and it struck me just how many different shapes and silhouettes there are, just from trees in and around my yard. So I started searching out interesting trees and here they are.

interesting branches
grove of crape myrtles

very large, very old crape myrtle

many trunks of crape myrtle

tallest holly tree I've ever seen, that's the corner of
the house on the right bottom

trunk of the holly tree
magnolia trunk

oak tree, with pecan to left

pecan tree

not sure what this one is

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What a beautiful day!

The sun is shining, it's warm, my kitty is over his mystery ailment and I have more ideas for new quilts than I can keep up with. And I have chocolate, lots of beautiful chocolate, as my sweetie outdid himself with this gorgeous Godiva chocolate basket for Valentine's Day. And a belated Happy Valentine's Day to everyone out there!

I've been back to work on some journal quilts and am getting excited. My goal for these journal quilts is to try new ideas, techniques and materials and see what I like, what I don't like and what I absolutely love. Bit by bit, I think I'm finding my voice as an art quilter.

Rich, intricate quilting is definitely part of that. The more I do, the more ideas I have. I love the texture created by the quilting, the contrast and sheen of thread against a different colored background and the subtle effects of thread matching the background.

These two small pieces, made over the weekend, are influenced by the zentangles I've been drawing, and I'm excited by the effects of the variegated thread. Both are entirely free-hand quilted, using my Singer 15-30 treadle sewing machine.

On the materials front, I can now say I'm definitely a fan of MistyFuse. I've been using fusibles forever, but just got some MistyFuse before the holidays and am now trying it out. A few days ago I decided to try a simplified version (rough draft, so to speak) of an idea I've been playing with. I appliqued one section by turning under edges and stitching it down, another with a paper-backed fusible and other sections with MistyFuse.

The MistyFuse sections were super easy to sew, very soft to the touch and stayed down well. A substantial improvement over the stitched sections, which puckered and pulled and the paper-backed fusible, which was stiff and hard to sew.

I'm working on another project with MistyFuse, but it's time to run to get to quilt guild, so more later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jumping to conclusions

On one of my email lists someone posted a link to an article that had some very negative misperceptions about the quilting world and art quilters in general. Here is the article. I started to respond to the article as a comment, but it was much too long, so here is my response.

It's a shame this writer used a very little bit of research and an enthusiasm for one quilt teacher to make negative generalizations about a huge and varied quilting and art quilting community.

I do understand and appreciate her enthusiasm for Leah Day's work. She's very creative, an excellent teacher and I'm glad her efforts have led to a successful business. Too bad the writer didn't leave it at that. And she is far from the only person who offers her work freely. Designer Bonnie Hunter has been giving away free quilt patterns on her website for many years. That led to her huge popularity as a teacher and author.

Other than that there are so many misperceptions that it's hard to address.

First, "quilts are poorly represented online." What? There are thousands of websites and blogs where professionals and hobbyists display their work, share techniques, give away patterns and more. There are also email lists where members share generously of their experience and ideas.

Next, there is a huge range from quilt to art quilt. There are traditional quilts made from well-known block designs which are in the public domain, there are original quilt designs for traditional (non-art) quilts, usually sold as patterns, and there are one-of-a-kind art quilts.

Because quilting grew up from a tradition of freely shared patterns, and because quilts, unlike most other pieces of art, can be reproduced, it makes copyright a very difficult subject. It's not like a book where once it's written, no one else can write the same book.

Rather than "copyright bullying," there is an effort to make sure people understand fairness in use of others' designs and patterns. No one can copyright an idea, a concept, a design or technique. And (except for a few problem people) no one tries to. What can be copyrighted is the fixed expression of that design, including written patterns, the actual quilt and photos of it.

There is a huge problem of people copying patterns, and depriving the authors of the money they would make if everyone who wants to make a quilt with the pattern buys the pattern. We've seen that with people making copies of a pattern to use for teaching a class (for pay), as well as "sharing" the pattern with a friend.

And while pattern designers have every right to expect that people won't buy one pattern and use it to mass produce their design, the other claims, that you can't show a quilt in a quilt show without the designer's permission, or that a free motion design can be copyrighted, are exaggerated at least. I know a few designers have tried to control their designs being shown, but that's extreme. If they want to sell the pattern they have to expect that people will make and show the quilt.

The author's description of most quilters as "affluent and retired" who don't need the money, is way off. While there are many quilting hobbyists who fit that description, there are just as many who are designers, quilt makers or quilt artists as a business. They may do it for love, but they can't afford to do it and lose money at it. And there are even more who work full time and fit their quilting and art pursuits into their "spare" time. And she skipped entirely the "modern" quilt movement, which is made up primarily of younger quilters. Which I'm thrilled to see.

Finally, an art quilt is different from any other quilt because it is the original creation of the quilter. It is art, just using textiles as the medium. Are painters supposed to post detailed photos of their works online so people can copy their every brush stroke? If you want to become a quilt artist, learn about art, study different techniques and create your own work. It's not something you do from a pattern or quilt.

Just a few thoughts. Again, it's a shame the writer of this article jumped to so many conclusions based on generalizations.

More later.

Photo Friday - dried flowers

Original, dried flowers on Tybee Island dunes
One of my purposes behind Photo Friday is to get myself outside to take pictures of all those scenes that I keep noticing. But since we've one of the coldest, grayest and wettest Januarys and Februarys I've ever remembered, that hasn't been happening. Maybe soon, if the groundhog's prediction of an early spring was right. Don't we all hope!

So, here's a couple of photos I took on Tybee Island during New Year's weekend. These little flowers had grown in the dunes and were completely dried. I loved the delicate, lacy look of them. And of course, I love to experiment with all the filters and effects in Photoshop to see what happens to a photo. Often the result gives me an idea I want to incorporate into my quilts.

So, here's a closeup of the flowers, which are tiny, about the size of a dime, and some variations.
Filter - Artistic - Cutout
Filter - Stylize - Glowing edges

Image - Adjustments - Invert
The first, using the cutout filter, could, with some adjustments, be used to create a printed fabric.

The one using the glowing edges filter makes me think of neon. Maybe an idea for stained glass or a hint of an idea for a batik.

The inverted one creates a really interesting color scheme, very spooky and other-worldly. But it could also be a very modern quilt, black, purple and gray. Could have possibilities.

And the stamp one would make a fantastic batik fabric. I can see it in just about any color.

Any other inspirations?

Filter - Sketch - Stamp
More later.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A little bit of quilting

I'm here. I think. I've even been in the studio for at least a while every day.

But it's hard to concentrate because I'm worried about a kitty who is not feeling well. It's so difficult when they can't tell you what's wrong. Tests haven't found anything specific and the vet thinks it's a strain or bruise, so I'm watching and giving  him time to heal. He seemed to be feeling better yesterday, so I hope we're headed in the right direction.

Okay, back to sewing and art. I have been in the studio a bit. I've put facings on several small pieces that I plan to frame, haven't tackled framing yet. I had thought I would like facings better than bindings for these pieces, but I'm not sure. It's very hard to get a nice, smooth, even edge with the facings. I may go back to a very narrow binding. Decisions, decisions.

I have a couple  more painted pieces in progress, and a couple that are just quilting. Here's a finished piece that is just quilting. I quilted the designs with one thread, then echoed and filled in the quilting with several different threads. When I finished I felt the border fabric was a little bright, so I dabbed on a bronze paint using a stiff paintbrush to tone down the color and add a little richness to the border. This one was finished with a facing.

This is my first journal quilt for February.

Lots of other little stuff, but that's enough for now. More later.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quilting Gallery weekly contest

This week I discovered the Quilting Gallery weekly contest. Each week they post a theme and quilters send in pictures of their quilts that fit the theme. The one that gets the most votes wins a prize package.

This week's theme is Half-Square Triangles and I entered my Treadle On Triple Star, which I finished last fall just in time for our quilt show. Voting is open through Sunday night, so please go vote for my quilt!

Vote here.

The quilt is toward the end of the page. Here's a detail shot to remind you which one it is.

More later.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo Friday - color

There's been a lot of discussion on a couple of my email lists about color, color wheels and value, and since I've been spending a lot of time with my Lumiere paints, I decided to play a bit. I created a color wheel with the paints, which I think is rather pretty, and tried out arranging them by value. The breakdown looks good in color but you can see in the black and white version that two of the mediums are the same value as the lights. Just shows it's not as easy to judge value as you would think.
light, medium and dark values, judged in color

More later.
in black and white the values are more obvious