Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quilt, Quilting, and Painting

Much has gone on since the last entry.  Today will be the day of photographs and little text.

Four of us showed up with our almost finished Mystery Quilts on Sunday.  The fifth person forgot, and I forgot to send a reminder.  Here are the four in the order they were shown.

The first is a lovely blue and green version made by E.  Like most of us, she didn't like it until she added the borders.  The rest of us just swooned (the photos are from my cell phone and the colors are as vivid as I remember them).

ME did this version, and it is being held by two relatively short people - hence the sagging.  The borders made it for her, too.  Generally speaking borders bring a quilt together.  To me the most important border is the narrower striped one with all colors pulled in.  Stroke of genius, ME!

This one is mine.  It's larger than the others, and my borders include left over pieces from the quilt because I didn't have enough of the striped purple to go around.

S McG made a Halloween-themed version, and she is planning to do some very creative applique on it as well.  

During our Hand-piecing "Class", I worked on a project that has been hiding, unfinished, in my  studio closet.  This is the third of a planned four hand-quilted blocks.  I enjoy hand-quilting very  much, but this particular one is my least favorite - which may be why I set it aside.  But I also wanted a variegated thread for the center.

Finally, a brief look at one study I started in Saturday's class on how-to paint birch trees.  Mine are definitely not birches but as it is the most successful of three dismal studies, I show it.

Unfinished - but then they all were.  It was a four hour class which I found exhausting but full of information.  The studies will continue until I can produce some semblance of a birch!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mystery Quilt Closer to Being FInished

Sewing on the Mystery Quilt took much of my day - that is after an entire morning spent putting the pieces in what I hope was a pleasing manner. Thought I had it all done and whipped out my cell phone to take pictures.  This time the pictures were solely to help me make sure the sewing was being done correctly as the quilt was on the guest room bed (the better to see if it would be the right size!) ,and I had to carry the pieces to the sewing machine.  Usually I forget the orientation and need something to look at to make sure the sewing is correctly done. 

Naturally, half way through the stitching I discovered that sewing it the way it was laid out presented a real problem.  I had overlooked the fact that the large pieces I cleverly (I thought) laid out in such a way that they linked the pattern together much like interlocking logs made it almost impossible to sew.  It's hard to attach a 12" x 12" square to a 6" x 6" square.  How to solve this?  I had already sewed a third of the quilt together, and my options for moving pieces around had diminished.

Of course, there was a way to do it; it was simply difficult and had to be done carefully.  Right angle sewing is tricky.  And time consuming.

Ah well, that part is finished, and tomorrow I hope to get the main part of the quilt done with time left over for the borders.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Painting: San' Antimo Day 3

At the end of my last painting day, two versions of Saint Antimo (aka San' Antimo). The first approach was less than successful as a painting, but I think it was (and is) quite successful as a study, a practice sheet.  If I needed it, it certainly proved the importance of practice.  Intellectually I know that practice is always worthwhile, but being slow to learn, I have to have it proved over and over.  Someday I will automatically start a painting knowing that it is a study only.

And maybe my hair will be wrinkle-proof nylon when I wake up!

Anyway, here is proof if you need it.  Revisiting what went before so one doesn't have to scroll through entries to find the earlier works:

 This is the first study.  I did forget to show the third pass from the weekend, but I didn't take a picture of day 3.  I will continue to work on it as long as what I do on it helps me with the second version seen below.

Second Draft, Day 1
Second Draft, Day 2

Second Draft, Day 3

As far as I am concerned, this version is much closer to what my eyes see when I look at the photograph plus what my emotional eyes see.  That's always an important part of what one paints.  That is something else that I am learning.  For a long time I have been focused on making an accurate representation of what is in front of me or in a photograph.  Now that I feel that I can do that reasonably well, I have to work on trying to infuse what I feel or felt when in a particular place. 

What I don't know is whether I'm doing that.   

Monday, January 25, 2016

Improvisation #1: Your Opinion?

I've searched (albeit quickly) through my photographs, but I could not find an early photo of the texture art quilt.  Now I can't even remember when it was begun, but now it is very close to being finished.  Not to long ago I showed you this picture:

At this point I was beginning the embroidery of - well, of a weed.  Now it the weed is as far along as will be until backing is added (or not) and the quilting is finished.  At that point I will attach the leaves, give it a last pat, and put it  . . . somewhere.

However, I am currently on the horns of a dilemma.  Should I put a background fabric on in such a way that it can be seen or just use a backing that follows the shape of the front (and can't be seen)?  Thinking that the first idea might be the correct one, I am going to ask for some help.  I will show you three possible backgrounds, and, if you will be so kind, you will tell me which one you think looks best.

I love fabric with script, type, or numerals.  The above has that as well as plants and birds - more favorites.

This selection has "duck" cloth as a background, and the fabric is virtually the same color as the quilting cotton on which I worked.  I haven't ironed the duck so that is a fold crease on the right.

This choice is one my very favorites of all time.  I bought a lot of it, wrapped on a cardboard bolt form, and sigh over it from time to time.  A bit of it has been used, but I hang on to it thinking I will use it for a quilt for our bed.  

The photographs were taken in natural light - no flash - so you might be able to see which looks best to you.

This is a close up of the weed's seed head (and my needle!).  I took four strands of raffia and of different embroidery threads to make the stem using my oh-so-rusty macrame (hadn't done that since - well, a very long time).

Once again, I'd like to know what you think about the possible fabric choices.  Or would you rather I don't use any and let the central piece stand on its own? 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Serious Assessment of My Day

Another good day, but one with no pictures. Let's see:

  1. Laundry - two days late, but there was still clean underwear in dresser drawers.
  2. Grocery shopping - one day later than scheduled, but no one starved (I'm the only one home).
  3. Banking done - unscheduled errand.  Score one for me.
  4. Bought more ink cartridges.  I printed a lot of photographs, but they're for painting. No demerits for that purchase.
  5. Bought ribbon, beads, and background fabric for finishing touches on Improvisation #1 in White.  Background fabric was a remnant on sale.  Points added.
  6. Made a birthday card. I remembered before the birthday passed.  Double points.
  7. Cut fabric for extra pieces to enlarge Mystery quilt and sewed some additional blocks, BUT I still cannot get my head around that first block!  Both plus and minus points on that one so it's a wash.
  8. Thoroughly enjoyed making this list
I win!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Painting - San' Antimo

Today painting was as usual; a wonderful, happy time full of serious work and lots of laughter.  Even when our numbers are down as they were today (some have flown south and others have family obligations), we have a tight-knit group and know we are lucky in our support for each other and very fortunate in our teacher.  

Sharon was quite kind about the first go at San Antimo including the background wash! She pointed out that it was too early to make rash decisions (though I wasn't thinking about discarding it - yet!).  Still and all, I wasn't happy with it as I've said, but I was determined to continue and learn from it as a study for the second attempt.

Here is the study before today's work and after:

I could tell you what I think isn't successful, but then, you could probably tell me!  It clearly isn't finished, and we'll see what can be done about its shortcomings.

Next is the new San' Antimo painting.  In this version, I put the perspective back to the way it is in my photograph.  In the first go, I thought I could give the building a more straight forward look but forgot what I had decided and angled the forward part the way my photo showed it.  Sigh.  Another reason to start taking notes!

Today all I did was work at getting a very light color for the walls which are nearly white in the photograph.  I thought I had it with burnt sienna and Antwerp blue which gave me quite a pale restrained green.  Then Sharon pointed out that in this version my background is mostly cool so I might want to use a warm color for the church.  And of course,she was right.  I did.  Back to the palette box I went and managed to mix up a batch of  a pinkish color that I thought looked like putty.

Don't judge it yet, and I won't either!  The roof  and windows will add a punch of color as is evident in the first painting.  That may work magic in this one.  We'll see.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mystery Quilt - Again

This quilt has me changing my mind several times a day which is not a usual thing for me once I've started a project.  First, I was quite excited about the idea of making something I knew absolutely nothing  about.  Second, I chose fabrics I really liked - a lot.  Third, when I signed up to take the class, I didn't pay any attention to the finished size of the quilt.

The first point - the enthusiasm came and went as I worked my way through the process.  That's easy to explain. I like to have a clear pathway from the selection of a pattern to the fabric, to cutting and sewing. Through all those steps, my imagination works throughout the process picturing how the final product will look.  Having occasional anxiety about my choices was normal given my usual desire to make all decisions and have a way to put my personal stamp on a piece.

The choice of fabrics was the second item I mentioned.  I find making decisions about fabrics very easy, and I rarely second guess myself.  When I do, it usually rights itself as I continue with the pattern. Here I found one fabric really stuck its tongue out at me and just kept blowing raspberries at me.  Last night I went to bed trying to figure out what I could do with a quilt that I thought was definitely on its way to "unattractive" at best.  This morning I got up and looked at my design wall, and while I still was not a fan of that particular fabric, I found I really like the way everything is falling in place.  It's bright and cheerful as you can see from the last five blocks I made:

It turns out that the third "problem" - the finished size - was the real issue.  This pattern is for a wall hanging measuring 48" x 60".  I don't need another wall hanging and don't know anyone who does.  At first I thought I'd make it into a bed quilt for our full size guest room bed.  Okay, not such a good idea; that would take a bit of work and fabric.  Next I thought I'd make a twin-sized quilt for D's cousin's baby girl.  But that would mean the parents would have to store the quilt for - oh, maybe two years?  Another not very good idea.  Yes, it could be a donation quilt, but,well, I do like it.  Finally, I asked D.  He likes the idea of a second guest room quilt.

It'll be bright and cheerful if you come for a visit!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Painting - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Italy

The painting I was working on for our friends who took us on a whirlwind tour of Tuscany is not only done; it is also in their hands as of early this week. They called and were very pleased with their gifts including the painting.  I'm very pleased both that they have it - finally - and that I can now post the painting.  So here is "Castelnuovo di Garfagnana" (couldn't remember the name of the town so it's not on the painting - there wouldn't have been room for it anyway as it's a very small painting):

It's hard to see the painting clearly because it is photographed through glass.  Below is another attempt to get a better picture.

The landscape in the foreground is exact.  It consists of rows of grapevines, the grayish olive trees, and the typical-for-Tuscany cypress.  I did take liberties with the olive trees close to the town; they are much to large, but I love the color and wanted the mass so I painted them that way.  Where I really took creative license was in the town itself.  The tower was there and so were buildings, but the size, shape, and number are strictly imaginary. 

It was fun to paint, but I haven't decided if I will do another one for us.  What do you think?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pine Bush and Mystery Quilt

After eating a very tasty luncheon, three of us headed out to the Pine Bush where we spent a happy time exploring the exhibits (and gift shop, of course).  Our main purpose was to gather some information and possibly some inspiration for the next challenge.  It's a small "Discovery Center", but it manages to pack a lot of hands-on, interesting exhibits in that small space.  It was too cold to take advantage of the many hiking trails, but when the weather is a bit better, I promised myself I would return to explore further.

Once back home, I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing the materials and the blocks made this past weekend for one of the "new quilts".  There was just enough time to finish a set of blocks started last Sunday.  It was the first free time to sew, and while not a lot was accomplished, it was still forward movement.  The blocks that are completed are:

"Evening Star"

"Broken Dishes"


"Pin Wheel"

Each block was made five times in different combinations of five fabrics for a total of twenty blocks so far.  Of course, after choosing the initial five fabrics and while cutting them, I decided to enlarge the quilt.  There wasn't enough left of the original fabrics so another five fabrics were added.  The "mystery" was that until near the end of our sewing time last Sunday, we had no idea what the finished quilt would look like.  We had no picture to go by or sample to look at.  

It will be interesting to see how this turns out with my ten colors and enlargement.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Quilting and Painting with Photos!

Picture Day!  The first is Improvisation #1 that I have been working on - again - after discovering what I want to add to it.  You can see the beginnings of the embroidery in the "big empty space".  This is only one day's work, but maybe you can tell that it will be what is left of a flower head in the fall.  It's not a Queen Ann's Lace but another weed that looks like it.  During the fall it has a lovely skeleton which I am trying to capture.

Today was also painting day, and I started an experiment.  Keep that in mind as you look at this "beginning" and wonder, "What on earth was she thinking?"  I really enjoy pen and ink work, and I also like watercolor.  So I decided that I would lay down a wash of color, do a bit of ink work, then paint the image followed by heavier ink where needed.  Complicated?  Maybe, but I think I could really enjoy the end result - if I get it right.  Here is what I did today:

This is St.Antimo's Church in Italy where we listened to the monks chant.  I think I hate the background wash; it was an attempt to be completely free and uninhibited.  However, I will continue working on the church itself; studies are an important part of the process for me.  However, while I work on this, I will probably do another wash.  Just to have it ready for the next trial.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Art Quilt Time

Surprise, surprise!  No photos today because I was having too good a time hand sewing and celebrating a birthday with my art quilt group.  We met here and discussed - oh, a lot of things. 

One member had an older, unfinished landscape quilt with stunning colors as well as a new project with circles on a golden background (I mentioned this one in an earlier entry).  Her work on the landscape project consisted of trying new adhesives and seemed to be meeting with success.  The circles project also had a new approach; she asked me to place the circles on the background (I over thought the task as usual).  She then took a photograph of my placement.  Then the second member of the group was asked to do the same thing.  It will be fun to see how she uses the three (hers included) ideas on effective placement.  

The second member had still another in her on-going series.  That led to an interesting discussion on the value of working in a series.  In each one, she has approached her subject in a different way - tried new techniques, perspectives, colors, materials - you name it.  Today was no different.  She was trying out a new fusible to which she could adhere tiny pieces of fabric.

It's such an education just watching what those two are doing!

I picked up my Improvisation piece and started filling in the large empty space with free-hand embroidery.  Wait, that's not totally accurate.  I did draw some swooping lines with chalk which were intended to be merely an optional guide, but when I couldn't see the chalk line, I went over it with mechanical pencil.  The darker line that resulted made it far less optional (if I didn't sew on it, it would be visible).  Another lesson learned.  

I still like where mine is going and continue to be both inspired by and fascinated with the work of my friends.  Photos will come of what I am doing, but I'd better not promise when they will appear.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mystery Quilt

Sunday, the end of a terrific weekend. I spent both Saturday and Sunday at LC working on a "Mystery Quilt".  There were six of who spent the weekend laughing, talking, and oh yes, sewing.  One woman (a new friend) talked less than the rest of us so she actually finished her quilt top. Two others worked very hard while listening, laughing, and talking (though not as much as the last three!) and are very close to being finished.  The last three participants, talked more than they should have (if they wanted to finish the quilt top in one weekend), laughed as much as they could, and sewed with the best intentions but possibly less well than the others.

I'm one of the last three.

Of course, you knew that already.

We have a deal to meet at LC at the end of January with our completed quilt tops, and I expect to be there.  Over the next few days I will show various parts of the quilt that I am working on, and at the show-and-tell when we display our work, I will show as many of the finished ones I can.  I think you'll really like to see how very different they all are.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Good Days for a Quilter

Yesterday there was no entry because I returned home from the Guild meeting rather tired from a long day.  It was a long but good day in my quilting life.

First, the sew-in at my other Guild was a smashing success as far as I was concerned.  Two of my art quilting friends were there sharing the table with.  C was working on a really wonderful art quilt consisting of fabric scraps in the shape of very thin, very long isosceles triangles with William Morris designs that she had cleverly crafted into circles.  She then scattered them on a rich background  . . . well, you'll just have to see it some time.

KR was beside me mending an older quilt she had given her daughter.  Ten or so years of love and dogs had had their toll, and KR said she'd do the mending.  Don't even think of asking me to mend a quilt!  It's a job times 10 to the nth degree.  But she did it; that's devotion to family and to craft!

One of my five "resolution quilts", the donation one, went with me, and I made 24 nine-patch blocks.  Then with the very last half-hour we were there, I managed to sew complete one row of six blocks with sashing between.  I was very pleased with that.

At the night-time Guild, the Snowman block ME had made was a smash hit - even at $3.00 per block because of the included embellishments.  We could have sold 27 Snowmen if we had had them; they were really super!  The Pine-Tree-in-the-Snow blocks all sold also because they make a good accompaniment for those snowmen.  I hope no one has problems with the construction of them and that all blocks are returned on time.  With 27 blocks, we are going to pull three winners from the hat so three people will have great wall hangings.

Today was the other Guild's meeting, and I think it was a real success.  Our speaker had almost 30 quilts, some antiques which she discussed and then many, many of her own.  There is a woman who is prolific and who does not turn her back on any opportunity to stretch her mind and ability.  I think she's successfully tackled just about every new technique out there.  What an inspiration!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Quilt Resolution Report

Here is the "Official" list of the five quilting projects I plan to complete before starting anything new.

Old Projects:  

  1. B. A. Bag #2:  Okay so this one is a bag, not an actual quilt even though it requires quilting.  It's on my list because I really don't enjoy making bags although I sometimes like the finished piece.  This way it will be finished and off my studio floor.
  2. Biggest Binding Project lying around:  Here's something else I truly don't like doing - even if I now do it on the sewing-machine.  I must, must, must get started on my pile of non-bound items.
  3. Off the Beaten Path:  This is the art/story quilt I started making for the main bathroom upstairs.  It got pushed to the side when other more urgent projects claimed my attention.  This will a fun thing to do.  
New Projects:
  1. Boy's Quilt: This is the donation quilt I've mentioned this week. It qualifies as new even though my intention to make one is old. It's new because the actual work on it started this month; I got the fabric out and organized, cut all of it out, and am taking it for tomorrow's Guild Sew-In day.
  2. Mystery Quilt:  Even though I signed up and purchased fabric for this one last year, I cut out all the fabric for it this week, and it will be started this weekend.  Once started, my goal is to finish it.
If you've thought about this, you now realize I will soon be juggling five projects in the air.  That is part of the balancing act this will require.  But, you see, it really isn't any different than what I already did except that it is minus the "Look, there's a chicken!" anymore.

I will report on my progress from time to time.

Next I need to organize my approach to my art.  I'm not sure it will be quite as easy, but I hope, that now one part of my life is on the road to organization, the other will join in more easily on the trip.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Crazy Art

Art class was crazy today; or if the truth be known, it was crazy for me.  I was delighted to be there, but my brain hadn't gotten the news.  Even though I packed my bag for class, I didn't check my photo folder (try saying that several times in a row!) carefully enough so I got to class without the necessary reference for the painting I had started.  Okay, I thought, I'll use a similar picture from a different angle and make up what I can't see.  What???  Clearly, the brain was strolling down a bougainvillea strewn boulevard without me.  Finally I had to admit it and tell everyone that Noel wasn't present; they were seeing a hologram.  Maybe next week she'll return.

After class I went to my favorite art supply store to purchase materials for a new project.  I am eager to start a painting of the Grand Canal in Venice, but I needed some different supplies for it.  It was exciting to get what I need so I can start - oh, wait.  I have the supplies, but do I have the time?  Tomorrow I have to cut fabric for a two-day weekend quilt class, Thursday I have a sew-in, Friday there's a Guild meeting with a possible free afternoon, Saturday and Sunday = class, and Monday?  I believe Monday is completely free (except it's laundry day).  That means I have one-and-a-half days minus laundry time to work on the Grand Canal with the newly purchased supplies.  Nope, the brain was since not in evidence.

Then I went to crazy class.  You probably thought I was the teacher since I was so obviously highly qualified, but no, I was a student.  The class was Crazy Quilt, and I felt right at home.  Finally!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Some Success

Yesterday I wrote about my new approach to resolutions and made a list of this year's "to do" list.  While writing about my quilting and most especially about my "stash", I said,

 . . .  although my stash has a lot, it doesn't have everything . . .  If I need something to add to what I have, I will purchase it.  If I find something I can't resist, that's because it speaks to me, and I call that inspiring fabric so - 

Today I had occasion to test my resolve.  I was cutting out fabric for a donation quilt, this one for a boy, when I realized that I really needed an appropriate fabric for the large blocks.  So when I went out to run some errands, I stopped at the dangerously-convenient-quilt-shop and looked.  I found fabric with dogs and some with cats. Both were perfect for a young child (cartoon-ish but not babyish).  I bought some, but here's the good part.  I bought only a fat quarter of each (that's a piece of fabric 18" x 22").  It allowed me to cut 3 blocks of each to add to the quilt with a only a little left over.  

Did I stop there?  Well, no.  I saw some packets of "fabric samples" That were less than $5.  Did I buy them all?  No, I looked at them very carefully and chose three.  One I've already used in the boy quilt I'm working on.  The other two both have birds in them and the colors quite pretty.  My plan is to use them in a donation quilt for a girl.

The boy quilt is all cut out and ready to sew on Thursday.  This doesn't count as one of the "unfinished projects" to work on because it was pre-resolution.  I am determined to get it finished, though, so I can donate it this year which will take care of my obligation to my second Guild.

It's been a good day with a successful foray into a quilt shop.  Spending was kept to a minimum!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Year = A New Approach

This has been a lovely, long break from writing entries, but I'm back again!  With everything we had going on, I just didn't have the energy at the end of the day for writing.  

Once again I have decided to make a few resolutions for the new year, but resolutions with a difference (for me, at least).  In the past, I've tried to make what I thought were reasonable, attainable resolutions, but my resolve never lasted more than a month. In hindsight I realize that I was going about this all wrong, but I thought resolutions and/or the making of them was the problem.  Last week on one of the news programs on BBC, I heard a few things that may help me change some behaviors more easily. What follows is the type of resolution I would have made in the past with the what-I-hope-will-be-more-successful type I'm making today.

So - instead of: I will lose 10 pounds (or whatever specific number) or even I will lose weight (a more general resolution), here is this year's version:  

1.     I will try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, but if I decide to eat something not usually acceptable or skip my walk, so what? It's not the end of the world (I've had experience and know that to be true!).  "Tomorrow is another day."

Instead of: I will finish my unfinished projects and use only my stash on new projects; here's this year's more realistic version:

2.  I will make a list* of five quilts that I will work on. 
     First list of five: Three of those quilts will be unfinished projects, and if I don't want to work on them, I will analyze why not.  If I just don't like the quilt any more, I will give or throw it away.  If I just don't feel like working on it because I'd rather work on something else, I will allow myself to do so.  Two of the quilts will be new projects that I feel like doing using either the fabrics I set aside for that project OR choose as many as possible from my stash.  If I need to purchase something to fill out the list of items needed, that's all right.
     Second list of five: The numbers will reverse - three that are new projects that I want to work on and two are unfinished projects.
    If something comes up and I have to deviate from this plan, that's all right, too.  Both opportunities and inspiration arise; I'd be a fool to ignore either.  I can always return to the plan after dealing with the opportunity or inspiration is dealt with (notice I didn't say "completed").  Also, although my stash has a lot, it doesn't have everything.  If I don't like what is there at all, I'll give it away.  If I need something to add to what I have, I will purchase it.  If I find something I can't resist, that's because it speaks to me, and I call that inspiring fabric so - 

Instead of: I will spend 2 hours every morning on art; here's a better statement:

3.  I will work on art as often as I can.  If I can work everyday, terrific!  If I can't, I won't just give the resolution up, I'll continue to keep the idea of drawing, painting, planning (what have you) in the forefront of my mind so I can snatch the moment when one becomes available.

And here's the one that should be first:

4.  In order to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible (as well as keep the above three resolutions!), I will work my hardest to keep my calendar from getting overfull.  I will honor commitments, but choose wisely those that I accept.  If a time comes when there is too much on my plate because I've ignored wisdom, I'll accept those that I cannot change, but I will also remind myself that I am retired and do not have to do everything.

Finally, Keep the list as short as possible.  I have left things out that in previous years I would have listed.  It's the old, "Keep it simple."

*My list of projects will be exchanged with ME, and I will have her list.  This way she and I can encourage each other and make working on projects more fun by working together when we can.