Friday, February 27, 2015

Using the "Gift" (aka What happened after the Mistake)

Yesterday I wrote about the mistake I made with the black batik, water, and the iron (aka the "checkerboard color bleed issue") . Then I realized that there was a good side to what could have (at least seemed like) disaster, and I made a new checkerboard.

Today I am a happy camper.  I accepted my mistake, realized it had a positive side, accepted that challenge, and moved ahead with my art quilt.  Is that a sign of maturity (I know; it's about time!)?  I am not the one who can answer that.  But I do know that it led to today's fun.

Here is a picture of the completed background:

Looks odd, doesn't it, and maybe even not very attractive?  Keep in mind, it's the background which in a finished work is rarely noticed.  And here is the new checkerboard.  

Even without the context, I imagine you can tell why the original checkerboard with the one-inch squares wouldn't work.

Now if I could be sure to find more time to work on this . . . 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Quilting Mistake Can Be a Gift

It almost seemed as though the making of a Japanese scroll just wore me out.  Actually, it's not far from the truth.  D finally managed to share one of his colds with me, and I went down for the count.  Yesterday I started feeling better so I decided to go back to working on my current art quilt project.

The first thing I needed to do was set the background so I went about getting those background pieces together.  One of those pieces was a checkerboard made of one-inch squares.  As I was pressing it, I forgot one of the basic tenets of working with batiks - especially dark ones.  Beware of water.  Yup, I spritzed that checkerboard, applied heat, and watched the dye spread from the charcoal batik square into the white square.  Showing it to D I said I thought I could cover the resulting ugly brownish stain with something or . . . He stopped me and said, "You'll do it over."

He was right.  Today, I decided that the ugly brown stain was a gift.  I hadn't been thrilled with that checkerboard though I still loved the idea.  Something had to be changed.  Today I spent all my time remaking that checkerboard.  It was the scale that didn't work for me so I changed the size.  Now that checkerboard is made up of half-inch squares.

It took all day because, as I discovered, that's no easy task.  Those tiny little pieces just skitter all over the place!  Okay, that's an exaggeration because one doesn't sew separate squares; one sews strips and prays that one is seeing the quarter-inch seam allowance accurately.  The new checkerboard is finished, and although not perfect, it is much better.

My next sewing day on this project will see me sewing the background to the batting and backing.  Then the fun of adding the details will begin!  So what started as a mistake turned out to be a gift.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Making a Japanese Scroll

Now this was an extraordinary experience.  I had an inkling that making a scroll would be far more complex than one would think because I saw some bonsai friends working on making scrolls during a bonsai show a few years ago.  But it's one of those things - until one tries for oneself, one has no idea how many steps it takes to construct this kind thing.  Below is an example of one; the dark brown with the rods at top and bottom is an example of what we worked on today.  The light colored paper with a wonderful illustration was not a part of today's work.

Don't worry; I don't plan to try to explain it all.  Since I was involved in the project, I don't even have a thorough set of photographs to share, but I'll try to write down enough to give you a glimmer of what it was like.

All the pieces (the silk and all the layers of paper of which there were many)  had been cut for us, all the different glues had been prepared, the rods were cut and others were stained, the cords purchased, and odd or usual tools were ready for us.  Our teachers are good friends who had been through this themselves.

After marking and gluing the seam allowances on the sides, making the holes for the elastic cord that holds the piece of art, inserting the cord, more gluing, adding pieces to the seams, tops, and bottoms, another layer of paper on the back, we were ready to move on to the most unusual steps of all.

We took our glue-soaked scrolls to stick on a board and allow to dry face down!  Then to hasten the drying time, we used four hair dryers.

That wound up creating a possibly terminal problem.  The board was too rough and the glued scroll was almost permanently attached to it.  A razor blade and some steady hands managed to unstick the scrolls.  You can see the paper still adhered to the board below.

Eventually, after adding the rods, the eyelets on the top rod, the decorative cording to hide the eyelets, and the cording with which to hang the scroll, all was finished.  Below is one of the scrolls made today with a lovely piece of art.

And here is the group, each one with his or her scroll with or without art work included. Our talented and very patient teachers at at the head of the table; it wouldn't have been possible without them!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mardi Gras King Cake

Like many people I receive promotional emails, and like many people I usually opt out.  However, every so often, I succumb as I did with King Arthur Flour. Being a decent cook is not the same as being a trained chef, but I am the former especially when it comes to baking.  So when I opened the email that featured Mardi Gras King Cake, well, I fell.  Hard.

It may be too late for Mardi Gras, but yesterday I made King Cake which is really a sweet bread with a cream cheese filling like cheese danishes.  It includes eggs, melted butter, and flavoring (fiori di sicilia which is my recommendation or regular vanilla flavoring).  The filling is cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and flavoring (the same as before).  The dough is made, spread into a shape suitable for the filling, and made into a ring.  Here is what mine looked like after baking:

As you can see, the filling did not stay neatly put inside the bread.  Fortunately, not all of it escaped, and the way it did kept the filling with the bread instead of all over the baking sheet.   When I make this again, I think I will make an egg white wash to brush on before pinching the sides of the dough and be more careful not to open any of those pinches when joining the two ends.

Today the loaf was cool and the glaze/frosting and colored sugars could be applied. and so I did.  I really need some more practice!

Here's a few more hints-from-experience.  The recipe for the "frosting" is two to four times more than is necessary.  Next time, I'll cut it in half  and drizzle rather than frost.  Made with all the topping, the bread is overwhelmingly sweet.  It also doesn't need as much decorator's sugar as I used, but that was because I didn't have a good way to sprinkle in the narrow lines I wanted (and as shown in the picture).

All that being said, it was fun to make and even more fun to eat!

Now I just need to find 10 people to help finish it . . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Studio

Usually I have my studio class on Tuesday, but this week I opted to have breakfast with K and ME followed by an afternoon of laughter and stitching.  It was a great time, and being with friends was important.

Fortunately, Sharon now has class on Wednesday for a group of newer students and is able to offer it as a make-up if anyone in the Tuesday group has to miss and vice-versa.  Today I wanted to start a new piece, but I also wanted some advice on still other pending works.  How many of them will actually be painted, I don't know, but they are all whispering to me.  

What I actually worked on is another that D likes from our England trip:

My plan right now, at any rate, is to do this in black and white except for the call box.  Basically it will start out as an ink drawing.  Having said that, what I did today is a pencil drawing.

You will notice there are some elements missing.  That's deliberate.  I was playing with the composition.  In the photo, the building behind the call box and the parking lot don't add a lot of interest.   After talking with Sharon and receiving more help than I should have needed, I am now making very sketchy plans that play more with the composition and less with the details.

I have to get over thinking everything I do has to be this thorough and pay more attention to basics.

And this is really in the town of Painswick!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Another Voice on an Artist's Fears

Isn't it interesting how things, like ideas, seem to cluster independently among people?  Think about periods of truly great writing and thinking.  Take, for example, the New England Transcendentalists and their intellectual offspring: Alcott, Thoreau, and Emerson, Mary Baker Eddy, and Margaret Fuller.  All those great minds active in reaction originally to Unitarianism in about the same time and place form a "cluster" that I find truly amazing, and this is only one example.

The reason I bring this up is that this weekend I finally got around to reading the February/March 2015 issue of Quilting Arts.  Indeed, it was what I was doing last night (before SNL, of course) when I should have been writing an entry.  The article that caught my attention is "Unbound Thoughts on Making" by Jane Dunnewold on page 22.  It's only four pages long and very well worth the reading for anyone who practices any craft or art.  Why?

If you read my entry on February 4, 2015, "Art Quilt Challenge", you know I had been dealing with my reluctance? inability? to get down to work.  Through writing about it, I realized that fear is my greatest obstacle, and that is exactly what Jane Dunnewold wrote about - both the obstacles we put between ourselves and our art (whatever that might be) and how to overcome them.  

Did I agree with everything she said?  No, but when one doesn't agree with something, one is closer to identifying one's own beliefs.  First, she encourages us all to identify and understand our obstacles.  Second, she tells to accept that we are deserving of our time in the studio and to make it a regular part of our schedule (hmmm, I try to get into my studio every day and am usually successful - just don't ask if I've given myself a minimum time there!).  Third, she encourages us to contemplate the "rules" that govern our chosen art as well as our own and to get rid of those that aren't helpful (she calls this getting "rebellious").  Finally, she tells us to write!!! and one of the reasons for writing is because we don't remember all of our ideas (who me? forget???  HA).  There are other equally important reasons such as my belief that we should "write to learn".  

The author did have more to say on all these points, and I highly recommend you get a hold of the magazine and read it!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Inch by Inch

Busy day after a fashion.  I managed to get something cut out, worked on the house plaque, and took out the canyon quilt and fabrics.  Again.  This time, I checked the fabric colors I have stashed away rather carefully.  I think I have everything I need though once I get started there's bound to be something additional - or seem like there's something additional needed.  Then I turned my attention back to the drawing.  I will need to add some details but that can easily be done.  Now that I've checked everything 47 times, I guess I'll have to actually get to work on it. 

Then I decided to draw the quilt for the upstairs bathroom - another one of those things making noise in my head.  It will need more work but the lady driving the bathtub and the gentleman helping out by pushing the tub are started.  There will be some birds, deer, and maybe a monkey or two.  Now all I have to do is figure out where to put the umbrella.  

Tomorrow is another day.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Special Mittens

This may not have been the best of ideas, but these mittens and their name lured me into the knitting trap.  First, the name "Thrummed* Mittens".  That word seemed familiar, and it tickled the bag of my brain until I remembered.  I had purchased a second-hand book by J.M. Barrie (remember?  Peter PanCrock of Gold?) that I didn't get around to reading, and I think I may have put it in the library sale box.  Anyway, the name of the book was Window on Thrums.  Having been a student of 19th century English Lit, I know many and have a vague knowledge of more British vocabulary.  I thought the word "thrum" had something to do with weaving, looked it up, and found I was partially right.
Below is a picture of the start of my mittens.  Notice that every few rows, there is a stitch that is larger and sort of blobby looking?  That's the thrummed stitch.  Not too intriguing?

Look at the second picture.

Those are the thrums.  So who want to have a mitten full of soft pieces of wool?  People who want to have warm hands while outdoors in the winter; that's who.  When I looked at them in the shop, I thought how cold my hands get when we walk, when I take the compostery or garbage out, or when I start driving on cold winter mornings.  I've managed to make do with gloves covered with my sister-in-law's wonderful wool mittens, but . . .  

No reason to make my own.  These mittens are unique, and a challenge so I'm making them.  It's slow going; I wish I knew how to knit with the "Magic Loop", but I don't.  

There's another class I need to take!

noun of the ends of the warp threads in a loom, left unwoven andremaining attached to the loom when the web is cut off.
2.thrums, the row or fringe of such threads.
3.any short piece of waste thread or yarn; tuft, tassel, or fringe ofthreads, as at the edge of a piece of cloth.
4.Often, thrums. Nautical. short bits of rope yarn used for making mats.
verb (used with object), thrummed, thrumming.
5.Nautical. to insert short pieces of rope yarn through (canvas) and thusgive it a rough surface, as for wrapping about a part to prevent chafing. furnish or cover with thrums, ends of thread, or tufts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bump in the Road

Despite the snow, class was on for the day, and I spent my time in the humbling exercise Chinese brush painting.  It could take years to do well and years to become so-so and even years to do poorly.  Do you get the feeling it's difficult?  That's not even a sixteenth of it.  But the up side of class was having Sharon agree with my assessment that the most recent watercolor is finished.  I signed "Painswick Rococo" and took it to the framer after class.  

Many errands later I was back home where I finished the quilt I thought would be finished a few days ago.  That should have left me open to begin the first of the "Canyon Suite", but D asked me when I would start on a project he asked me to do quite a few months ago.  He was right.  I had forgotten.  And since I had promised to do it, I took out my acrylic paints and started to work on another representation of our home.  I had painted one years and years ago, and it hung in our kitchen ever since then.  D wanted me to do a new one with the new outline of the house as it is now to add to the empty spot in the kitchen.  "Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I went . . . ."

Maybe tomorrow for the next quilt.  Today the idea for the second quilt occurred to me so now all three are there in my head complete with their names.  I do know that important things will intrude, and I will be sidetracked from time to time, but I have a plan.  Keep all three in sight (i.e., in my minds eye), and they'll have to be made real.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sherlock Holmes

More progress today; quilt binding on now only the sleeve to be completed by hand.  A bit of organizing and tidying in the studio (have decided that doing a little each day I am in there will get more done in the long run than saying I'll do it all in one day and not doing it at all) and laundry done - neither as exciting as sewing or painting but necessary.  

Also, I came to a decision about the canyon quilt.  It won't do for the quilt I now have in mind, but since I still really like the original design I am going to make it.  But . . . it is going to be the first of a series of canyon quilts!  Now that that decision has been made I am really excited about getting it started.  The first and the third are clear; it's the second that is the mystery and the biggest experiment.

Tomorrow is a painting day, and I have decided to take my painting things so I can do whatever Sharon thinks is necessary for the Painswick painting.  However, I am also going to take my supplies for Chinese brush painting.  That's what I hope to spend the bulk of my time on - practicing and practicing with the brushes - the way to hold them and the strokes that are made . . .

Then I will come home, tidy, finish the sleeve, and start the first canyon quilt!  

I feel like Sherlock Holmes, "The game's afoot, Watson, the game's afoot!"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

List Lost? Forge Ahead

Writing a list really helps me get things done. Except when I lose the list!  

Ah well, here's a new list, but this one is of progress made on sundry fronts:
  • quilt that was nearly finished now has binding sewn on
    • it needs to have binding ends attached, binding turned to other side, and sewn
  • art quilt - the Canyon one - drawing has been unearthed, bin of fabrics taken down:
    • decisions have to be made if the original drawing will do or if another one needs to be made to fit with the "new" vision I have of it
  • knitting: mittens are progressing but it's too attention consuming to carry and work on while out in public
    • new "top down" cardigan has been started to fulfill that need
    • black cardigan has been worn (I'm wearing it now), and I like the buttons a lot!

  • hand sewing: I found the missing "ring" so I now have all five again.
    • spent time sewing  - I'd like to have all blocks made by March, but that may not be possible with all my other activities
  • painting:  I "finished" the painting I started last Tuesday (quotation marks because Sharon may find some tweaks that need to be made - let's hope they're tweaks only!).  Here's the photo I used:

Painswick, England May 2014

and the painting:

At one point I was disgusted with the painting and was ready to throw in the towel.  I felt I had been too tentative, done too much "dabbing" and that it looked nothing like the photo.  Then I thought "what the heck!"  It needs to be tossed so if I slapdash at it, what does it matter?  And I thought, this is my painting so it doesn't have to be identical to my photograph.  I kept on going, I had fun, and I like what I did.  So there, Noel!

And that's about it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Decisions Made, I Think

Okay, so I procrastinate because I'm afraid.  So what do I do with that information?  Get on with it, woman!

Today I finished quilting (badly) a quilt that I am making (for those who follow FaceBook it's the one Sue Pritt took a picture of me holding).  Tomorrow I will machine stitch the binding, and that quilt will be finished.  

And then?  Then I will take out the southwest quilt I designed the second year after I retired.  Do I have other more recent quilt designs to work on?  Yes, but this one is really calling, crying out to me and has been for a while now.  It started out as a very simple landscape that has over the past year become something far more. My last quilt, the hexagonal one, is responsible for some of that, and my brain for the rest of it.  

While I work on this new quilt, I will continue to paint and knit.  I will live my life as usual except with a bit more focus.  I've always done better when I have a list of things to do each day, and I may begin this project the same way.  It helps me juggle activities, keeps my "eye on the prize", and makes me happy each time I cross something off.

Now I know about that fear, I will face it and deal with it as well as I can.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Art Quilt Challenge

Today a friend asked me to join a challenge posted on FaceBook for the members of an Art Quilt Group.  The challenge is to post three photographs of one's quilts each day for a week.  I accepted the challenge even though I cannot complete it, and my inability to complete it is because I don't have enough "art" quilts for 7 days . . . not even enough for 3 days!

So why did I accept a challenge I cannot fulfill?  

I thought it would help me figure out why I have so few.  So the following will be my usual thinking-while-writing, my not quite stream of consciousness approach to problem solving.  If I can stay out of my way, I might have some answers at the end of this entry.

First, in no particular order, some things I know about myself and quilting:

  • I am not a fast worker
  • ideas may come immediately upon inspiration 
  • ideas may come slowly
  • the time between idea and completion of a quilt can be weeks or years
  • I work well with a specific date - deadlines
  • I know each quilt will require a lot of thought and hours of work
  • I question my ability to put my ideas into fabric - can I sew well enough?
  • I question whether my idea is worth the time and effort - and money! involved
  • One idea I have delayed a very long time over because the pattern requires real experience and facility in stitching and because the fabric is so special
  • I am good at excuses; there are always other, easier projects that "need" to be done
  • I am afraid
Some other things that have an impact:
  • my painting takes a good deal of my free time
  • my painting is subject to some of the same issues listed above
  • family, friends, and home deserve my attention
  • daily chores demand time
  • I am good at excuses; there are always other, "necessary" things to be done
Doing something like this certainly isn't easy, and it certainly isn't always pleasant.  However, two things worked their way to prominence during this exercise that have an aura of truth.  

First, I make excuses.  Second, and harder to admit, I am afraid.  Now that I know perhaps I can begin to deal.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Snow Day

Today was painting day.  By leaving home early and driving slowly and cautiously, I managed to get safely to class.  Quite early.  Hm mm.  

Half of the class was spent in a brief introduction to the art of Chinese painting in which I have an interest and now have the materials with which to attempt it.  The other half of class was spent in laying down the initial washes on the English landscape.

I haven't taken any pictures.

After painting, I ran quite a few errands of both my own and D's.  Due to the snowstorm, there were more errands than usual - or at least there seemed to be more.

No pictures were taken.

Home again, home again to make soup, bake cookies, knit mittens, cut out material, craft a quilt, fold and put away laundry.  I did knit a bit, make a few preparations for soup, and watch a lot of "taped" Public Television programs.  

The camera remained on its tripod in a corner.

Perhaps getting up at five a.m. had something to do with it.  Perhaps the frigid weather froze me into a state of inertia. 

Perhaps, but I don't think so.  I think I just took the day off. I took a . . . 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Quiet, Snowy Day

What a snowy day!  D went out to get our newspaper before breakfast, but of course, it wasn't there.  Why we thought it would be at that hour, I don't know.  Anyway, D realized in that short walk that not only could we not get to the Post Office, we would probably not leave the house all day (except to shovel the snow).  

Knowing that, I decided that I would put the Vermont Quilt Festival entry in our mailbox.  I was amazed at how early our mailman came!  Who knows whether it will be there early enough for my quilt to be accepted, but as I said yesterday, my life and/or happiness does not hinge on that.  I did what I could, and if it isn't selected, there will be other quilt shows.

As we expected, we weren't able to get out so we had a quiet day and were able to get some things done that had been hanging fire for a while.  We weren't the only ones who stayed in.  As far as I know none of our neighbors went anywhere either, or if they did, they were gone long before we woke up and came back after it was dark.  Snowplows both town and private were the only vehicles we saw.

What a day!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Vermont Quilt Festival Entry Forms

This snowstorm, if it materializes and I suspect it will, poses a problem for all those within its radius.  Tomorrow, February 2, 2015, is the first day quilters can submit their entry forms for the Vermont Quilt Festival.  That show is a non-juried show and entries are selected by the date stamped by the Post Office on the envelopes contained their entry forms.  It's a first come, first serve basis.

I plan to enter this year and had discussed the time I wanted to be up and out to the Post Office with D.  Now I don't know if I'll be able to get there safely tomorrow at all.  It isn't worth risking life and limb - or at least it isn't to me.  I will be disappointed if my work isn't selected due to an act of nature, but far worse things could befall me.

To my friends who also plan to enter, I wish you good luck and, as Wordsworth said, " . . . years that bring the philosophic mind."  If our quilts aren't accepted, so be it.  There will be more quilts and more years, and I would rather have the pleasure of your company than lose you to a road accident.

Be safe and warm and happy!