I put in a long day today, probably 6 hours. I don't think I did as much as yesterday (square footage wise) but I was working on the eyes and upper face with tiny little areas, so it was very slow. But I'm liking it much more now so I'm glad I started over.
This is a quick post because the doorbell will be ringing soon - Halloween, you know. Boo you!
After two days of work on this portrait, I started completely over today. I just wasn't totally satisfied with it, and I wanted to challenge myself a bit more. I didn't sleep well last night (long story) and as I lay there in the dark thinking, I realized that one of the pieces I've been the happiest with lately was the tiny quilt using tiny strips leftover from the weird nine patch quilt. Ah-Hah! Would that work for a portrait? Isn't it nice how that monstrosity of a nine patch spawned a little bitty idea that I'm now using in this portrait? Just goes to show you, in this case quantity paid off.
I'm still using the same muslin foundation with the same pattern underneath. I put new freshly sticky Steam-A-Seam down on this section, and then I started chopping up fabric. The strips are approximately a quarter inch wide, but while I am using a rotary cutter and ruler for the cutting, I'm not measuring.
Is this a tedious process? YES! Each strip must be trimmed individually at each end to make it fit into place. But I'm enjoying it, so it's okay.
How long is it taking? I can do about one square foot in a day, at least that's what I did today. For me one day is about five hours, since I do take breaks and I quit around the time my husband is coming home from work. At that rate, it will take about 12 days, which is not too bad for a major piece, I think. Then it will have to be quilted of course.
This is a messy project, as you can see. I have bit of fabric, fusible web, and the paper backing from the fusible web all over the floor. I got this Chef's Mat for may birthday last summer. It's a wonderful cushy surface to stand on while I work at my table. I do these portraits on my cutting table or at desk, since everything is fused. This project is too big for any surface except the big cutting table.
I know this photo is not great, but I'm trying to show how I'm using a different technique than I normally use to do this portrait. I laid out my enlarged pattern on the table and then put a big piece of muslin over the pattern. Next I removed the paper from both sides of pieces of Steam-A-Seam Lite, and carefully placed them side by side on the muslin. I'm only working on a small section at a time. I can see the pattern lines through the muslin and fusible web. So now I can use small pieces of fabric to fill in the pattern lines.
Isn't Necessity always the Mother of Invention? Since I didn't have enough black Kona cotton for this pattern, I needed to use bits of dark grays and black prints in my stash. This technique allows for that without the need to do intricate piecing before fusing.
Here it is so far. I started in the center with the face, and I'm working outward. I'm not far enough along for you to really see what this picture is all about, and I'm not going to spoil it for you. I'll take more pictures as I go along so you can see it come to life.
Here's a portrait of one of my daughters playing her clarinet. It uses all fabric dyed by me on a background of Kona cotton in black. I did this portrait months ago but I finally put a border around it so it's ready to be quilted. This portrait is based on a photograph taken by my other daughter.
By the way, I love black Kona cotton. And I'm almost out! I always buy it with a 40% off coupon at Hancocks, and I usually buy at least 6 yards at a time. I use black in so many of my pieces. I think I'll have to ask for some for Christmas. I am allowed to receive quilting gifts, after all.
My gallery visit went well. It's the Soon Bok Lee Sellers Art Gallery in Hoover, AL. They showcase a different artist there each month, and I'll be sharing the gallery in December with a state calligraphy group. They're expecting me to put prices on most of my work, because this is how they are supported, a 20% commission on works sold. This is new territory for me. I've done a few commissions in the past, but that's about it. So I'm going to get busy and make some pieces that I think will be marketable.
I worked very hard today on a new portrait, and I may have cheated on my no buy challenge. You tell me what you think. I created a pattern for the portrait. But I want to make the quilt very large - about 4 feet by 3 feet. So I went to Kinko's to make an oversized copy. It cost $9.00. I felt I had to confess this! Please forgive me! I promise not to buy anything more! And I'm using my stash to make the quilt. Even though there is a lot of black in the piece, I'm vowing to piece together bits and pieces of dark gray to make do. Okay, now I feel better!
I've got a winner for my giveaway! It's Donna B. Even though she sent me an e-mail instead of posting a comment, she was the first and only one to get it exactly correct. The correct answer is: buttons, pop tabs, zippers, and copper from my walk a few days ago. Several of you thought it was foil. The copper was a bit tough to cut through, but I managed it with my trusty bandage scissors. Donna, I'll get your prize to you soon!
I was a bit in the Christmas spirit over the weekend, why I'm not sure. Maybe it's the cool weather we're having. Tomorrow night the temperature will dip below freezing for the first time this fall.
See if you can spot the four recycled items in the little quilt. You might have to click on the picture to see them all. I'm planning to have a photo of this piece printed up for our Christmas cards this year. Please leave a comment to this post if think you've figured them all out. The first person to get all four correctly will get a very GREEN prize!
In addition to making this little Christmas quilt over the weekend, I also celebrated (quietly) the end of the second month of my self-imposed challenge. It's gone by so quickly! And I might add, it's been so much easier than I expected. But these tiny little quilts need to give way to something bigger soon.
I have three bigger projects rattling around in my brain currently. One is a larger portrait, one is a 36" round quilt for a guild challenge, and one is a quilt-in-progress that I need to pull out again.
Tomorrow morning, I meeting with a board member for a local gallery, where I've been asked to exhibit some of my quilts during the month of December. I'll get to see the space and take measurements to decide which pieces to display. Should be fun!
I did this little portrait today and I love it! Let me introduce you to Prince. I've talked a great deal about Mickey Blue Eyes because it seems like he's always into something and demanding attention. After all, he's only a year old.
Prince is our older dachshund. He's about 6 years old. We adopted him at 6 months old when his owner had to go to boot camp. Because Prince is older, he's quite content to sleep away the day, preferably buried under a quilt on the sofa. Mickey loves to torment him, bite his ears, and chase him around the house, and although Prince would deny it, I think he loves playing with Mickey.
If you're familiar with my book, Fabric Photo Play, you know I developed an easy technique to make quilted portraits. But I'd never done one in felted wool. This portrait is done entirely in colorful wool roving using my felting/embellishing machine. The background is black felt.
Here's a little piece I made this morning using selvages, old zippers, and those green things I picked up on my walk a few days ago. I call it "Hugs and Kisses." Is it a masterpiece? Not hardly! Which brings me to my topic of today.
Fiction writers are taught to write every day, not worrying about spelling, punctuation, wording. Just get something down on paper. The more you write, the better the chance that you'll write something worth reading. For every ten pages, maybe you'll end up with with a couple of paragraphs that are really great. Not many writers end up with a great novel without many rough drafts, editing sessions, and wadded up papers.
I think it's the same with art quilts. You try lots of different things, make lots of little quilts, and sometimes (if you're lucky) you end up with one you really like. Then you can take that good idea and expand it into a bigger quilt. The not-so-great quilts are not a waste - they are part of the quilting journey.
So "Hugs and Kisses" is a Journey Quilt. And that's okay.
I'm back behind the camera. I did have to spring for a new memory card - I never found the old one. I've been more diligent about keeping my studio clean, and I think I may have thrown it away while clearing scraps off my cutting table. I looked through the garbage to no avail. Luckily I found a great sale on the new one.
Yesterday afternoon I took time off to walk around my neighborhood. I was just looking to get a bit of exercise, but it turned into a treasure hunt. First I spotted this pile of knotted fibers along the street. It was tangled with pine straw, but that was easily picked out. I'm not sure if it was meant to be a scarf, or was from a knitter's stash, but I took it. It's going to rain tomorrow, so it would have been ruined if I didn't save it. Next I found a nice bird feather. Then near a construction site, I saw the jagged piece of copper and the little green things. A good haul, I think. Somehow they'll end up in quilts. Here's some of my rusty fabric. I especially like the top one which has a crown shape near the bottom. I'm not sure what to do with them yet... The selvage flower is done, complete with binding and little knots on embroidery floss for the quilting. Click on the photo to see more clearly. And now for the nine patch...
I'm not at all sure it lives up to expectations, but I had fun making it, and that's what counts in the end, isn't it? The holes (where you can see my design wall peeking through) are my ode to the start of this project - the Beloved Nine Patch. The flowers (meant to be mums) are felted wool, and the leaves are nubby silk with yarn outlining them. Again, click to see it close up.
I decided to add binding, which you can see is not stitched down on the back yet. I'll get to that tonight.
So now it needs a name. I'm much better at making quilts than naming them. SO PLEASE HELP. I need some ideas...
No, not this one. But I'll tell you about it first, since it's here.
This is a work in progress, obviously. The flowers are all machine felted to the background, which makes for very FAST applique, no turning under, no tiny stitches, no thread. I love to do this. If you click on the picture, you'll be able to see how the border is gathered.
Now about those holes. I'm talking about the nine patch wannabe piece. You probably won't recognize it when you see it. And you won't see it today, because I've misplaced the memory card for my camera. Which is why the photo above (which had already been downloaded to my computer) is shown on this post instead of the photos I really wanted to show you. Mea culpa.
I won't give too much away about the nine patch quilt (if you can still call it that), except to say that it's been through a rough time this week. It's been quilted, and quilted more. It's had painted slopped on it and paint spattered on it. It's been chopped into many pieces, some of which have been stitched back together, yes, with holes. I purposely left holes in it. After all the above trauma, it then went through the (I'm sure) painful process of machine felting. I'm know the quilt is relieved that the worst of the process is over. All that is left is a sleeve for the back. I'm still debating whether to add binding to the piece. The edges are zigzagged, so I could go either way.
I'm so sorry to keep you waiting another day. I've decided if the memory card doesn't turn up by morning, I'll buy another one. After all, I don't only use it for taking pictures of quilts. I also sometimes take family pictures.
I also finished the little selvage flower piece this afternoon. I'll show it also tomorrow.
It's a sad day for the Birmingham Quilters Guild. We found out today that two of our beloved members, Dr. Tom Caldwell and his daughter, Kathy, died instantly in a car accident in North Carolina yesterday evening. Dr. Tom, as we called him, was a retired pediatrician and an active member of our guild. Just a couple of weeks ago, he demonstrated how to tie a quilt using a hemostat. He was a favorite when he visited schools to talk about quilts. And Kathy was always by his side. We will miss them.
One of my friends in the Birmingham Quilters Guild is Judy Cloe. At our annual retreat, she usually sews directly in front of me, so I get to see everything she works on up close and personal. I've always been impressed with her fabric choices. She uses unusual prints and colors, and puts them together in amazing ways. For a few years, she's been working on this New York Beauty quilt at retreats. I've seen many of the blocks in progress.
A few days ago she sent me this photo of the finished quilt. WOW! Isn't it gorgeous?! I've been telling Judy for a couple of years that she has changed the way I buy fabric (that is when I actually DID buy fabric). The coolest fabrics I used to purchase were set aside in my "Judy Cloe Collection." She probably thought I was pulling her leg, so I'll prove it here: Sorry, Judy, that you have to share a drawer with small squares!
Here's another slice of our guild's Starry Night slice challenge. Someone in the group has had some recent deaths in her family and wasn't able to do her slice. I decided I'd do it for her, using only my felting/embellishing machine. So it's all done with wool felt, and silk and wool roving. I started it yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. While I was surfing the Net last night, I ran across a blog with the most creative dress I've ever seen. - a dress made completely with fabric selvages. It's worth a peek - click here to see it.
Of course that got my brain rattling! If someone can make an entire dress with selvages, maybe I could make a simple little quilt. So here it is. I think I may use embroidery floss and tie it. My husband and I have been married so long now (almost 25 years!) that nothing I do surprises him very much anymore. He often comes home from work to find something unusual in the kitchen, because often whatever project I'm working on seems to migrate down the stairs from my studio.
But today even he may be a bit confused or bemused because this is currently on the kitchen counter: It's a metal sculpture of a dog that holds two bowls for my dogs to drink water. I've been wanting to try the recently publicized technique for using rust to dye fabric. This was the only rusty thing I could find around our house. So I got a few pieces of my PFD (prepared for dye) fabric, saturated it in vinegar, and wrapped it around the rusty spots. I'll show the finished product tomorrow when it's dry.
Maybe my husband will think the sculpture is going to be a mummy for Halloween.
This afternoon my husband and I went to Northport, AL (about an hour from Birmingham) to the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, a two day event showcasing folk and contemporary art, craft demonstrations, regional cuisine, and live music. I've always wanted to go and finally did! What a fun time we had!
It was a visual explosion of color and creativity. Though there were only a few quilters there, I came away inspired, with new ideas rattling around my brain all the way home. I learned one thing for sure...
I'm not the only one who collects bottle caps:
The West Alabama Quilters Guild had a booth. But instead of the generic white top on their tent, they had an elaborated quilted roof over their heads. And I loved this sign. I agree wholeheartedly, even with the forgotten "N." I thought it was so funny that the 'regional cuisine' was corn dogs, fried onion blossoms, funnel cakes, and freshly fried pork rinds! I wonder if people in the North really think we Southerners live on this sort of food? Though I have to admit, the smells wafting from the food area were pretty yummy.
Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with leaves? I adore them, and use them as a theme in my quilts frequently. Here are a couple I made last week that I haven't had a chance to post here. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but I'll figure out something.
Speaking of leaves, it's finally feeling a bit like Fall around here. It was actually cool this morning, which was a nice change. I had only a few minutes free to quilt today, and I spent it working on that nine patch wannabe piece. By the time I finish with it, I think no one will ever suspect it started with a few nine patch blocks.
I won't show you my progress on it again until I've done a bit more to it. I will say that I've added to its leafy theme. I may experiment with a few more techniques on it before I'm ready to call it done.
It's pouring rain today, but I'm not complaining. I spent the morning in my studio playing with the chopped up nine patch quilt. It's turning into one big experiment. I dreaded the thought of piecing it together, sewing the two halves of each block together, and then sewing the blocks themselves together. BORING! Plus the piece would have ended up so much smaller, too small I think.
So fusible web to the rescue! I fused the blocks down to black batting, side by side. So I pieced the quilt without sewing and without seam allowances. So what to do next? I feel like it's asking for more than just simple quilting. So I pulled out some yarns and tried them out.
The yarn didn't do anything for me. On to the next idea. I found this yardage tucked away and loved the oversized leaf pattern. So I decided to use it for the back of the quilt and do the machine quilting from the back, outlining the leaves. I stitched around one leaf, but it didn't show up very well. On to the next idea.
This piece may be ready to be chopped up again before I'm done with it unless another good idea comes to me. Actually, there is something I could try....I'll keep you posted.
The mail just came and I got a quilt magazine! And no, I didn't cheat on my pledge not to buy! As far as magazines go, if I'd already subscribed to a magazine before my pledge started, then no problem. I'm allowed to enjoy them. But I'm not subscribing to any new ones now, or buying any at the store. Today I got Quiltmania, a French magazine I subscribed to last spring. It fun to see quilts made across the pond. I think I'll spend the afternoon curled up on the couch with Mickey and the magazine.
Speaking of our little Mickey Blue Eyes, today is his 1st birthday. I found an old bone which was his gift. He was thrilled! Here he is enjoying it.
I took one look at those blasted nine patch blocks on my design wall this morning and realized I was going nowhere fast with this piece. So I did what every self respecting quilter should do. I pulled all the blocks off the wall and sliced them up!
I cut them all in half the same way, with a diagonal cut. Not all the blocks were nine patches; some were strip pieced, or whatever, but I cut them all exactly the same way.
So now I had a big pile of mixed up, cut up blocks. So I went to work putting them back on the wall, all mixed up. I didn't put any thought into how they went up except for trying to spread the orange around a bit.
I like it so much better now! Click on the image if you want to see a close-up. This is much more free, much less contrived. And that suits me just fine.
Today I quilted yesterday's scrap project. After looking at it for a few minutes, I decided it was a background piece and needed something more. So I pulled out pieces of wool and cut out a flower and bud vase. If you click on the picture, you'll see that the round flower is three dimensional.
I pulled most of the nine patch stuff off the design wall and rearranged a bit: I still don't like it.
I realized I still had quite a pile of itty bitty scraps on my work table (okay, so I didn't clean up yesterday!). They were calling my name. So I made another one: This time I turned the scraps in different directions. I really love this one! It told me (don't your quilts talk to you?) it wanted to be hand quilted with embroidery floss. So that's what I'll do. It will be my Pushing Daisies (another favorite show) project tonight.
Finally, I thought I'd show you my last metal star for my deck. This one I painted and then glued buttons on every other section. They're still not hung yet...
I made more nine patches today, still inspired by yesterday's quilt guild meeting. I added some orange to the greens because the colors remind me of the season. Here in Alabama, the trees are still mostly green with hints of color coming. Here's what I have so far. Nothing is sewn together yet. I want this to be a horizontal piece, so I'll add more to both sides.
As I trim blocks, I ended up with this lovely little pile of scraps. Little scraps! Normally, they'd go straight in the garbage, but I just couldn't bear to do it. So I pulled out a piece of Steam-A-Seam fusible web and pulled the top paper off. As I worked on the nine patch piece, I placed the tiny scraps side by side on the fusible web. Before long I was done.
In all honesty, I like this little piece more than the bigger nine patch piece on my design wall. But if I keep doing little pieces like this, I'll never, EVER, make a dent in my stash. Am I going too far to be green? Who knows, but I do like this little piece. I think I'll quilt it tomorrow.
Today was the monthly meeting for my quilt guild - the Birmingham Quilters Guild - always a fun thing! Several of my fellow guild members came up to me to say they are reading my blog; I didn't even know you guys were out there in cyber-land! So glad you are.
Our speaker was Pricilla Hair. She was extremely entertaining, really laugh-out-loud funny. And her quilts were amazing. She's teaching a two day workshop for guild members, and I was tempted (very tempted!) but no, I'm still not spending on quilting. I paid close attention to her quilts, though. I especially loved her nine patch quilts. They were scrappy, but with close attention to color. The colors seemed to flow across them. Many of the blocks had very little contrast, while some had plenty of contrast. And the nine patch blocks were set on point. So what did I do when I got home? I made nine patch blocks and set them on point on my design wall. I used my greens. Think I'll make some more tomorrow.
One of my interests is making slice quilts with groups of quilters. Slice quilts are made by taking a picture and cutting it up into pieces. Each quilter makes one piece of the quilt, and someone (usually me) sews the pieces together. It's always fun to see how each person depicts their piece of the picture, and how great the pieces look together.
Currently I'm in charge of such a challenge in our guild. We have 20 people participating. We're depicting Van Gogh's Starry Night, a beautiful piece of art. We'll end up with 3 finished quilts, each with seven pieces. The deadline for turning in the completed slices is next month, but many of them have already been turned in. After making the nine patch blocks, I had to pull out a few of the completed slices and check them out. Was I ever impressed! I'm so proud of the women who completed stepped outside of their comfort zone to take on this challenge. I saw painted swirls, beads, crystals, yarn, and even a hand drawn face tucked within a swirl. These three quilts are going to be magnificent.
It turns out that I found three pieces that fit together in one of the quilts, so I trimmed them and hung them on my design wall. Here's a sneak peak:
You can see parts of three different slices by three different quilters done in three unique ways, but don't they go well together? I love it!
Next on my afternoon list was adding a border to a quilt I'm making for the Amelia Center here in Birmingham. This is a wonderful place, full of hope and counsel for people grieving the loss of a loved one. These blocks are each decorated in honor of a lost loved one by those left behind, sometimes by a child, sometimes by a parent. Some have photo transferred a photo of the person. Some have written poems, or sweet messages. This is the third such quilt I've made for the Amelia Center, and each is very meaningful to put together. I try to use bright, cheery fabric to put the squares together, trying to celebrate their lives, rather then mourning them.
After adding the borders, I pieced the back using the two fabric from the front. Since I was on a roll, I went ahead and basted it all while I was at it. Maybe I'll quilt it tomorrow.
I spent another day cleaning my studio. I'm all done except one corner. I miscalculated how many corners I had left. You see, my studio has four dormer windows which jut out from the room. Each dormer has two corners. So my studio room has twelve corners, not just four like an ordinary room. And I tend to pile things in corners, hence a very time-consuming cleaning weekend. I vow to start putting things away when I'm through with them. Now that I've written it here, I'm hoping I'll actually do it. I'll keep you posted.
While cleaning and sorting, I realized what a collector I am. I collect bottle caps:
I collect clothing labels. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but they'll probably end up on an art quilt someday.
I collect little tins leftover from tea, mints, eyeglasses, whatever. Again, I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but someday I might need them. I should store the bottle caps in them. I collect Pillsbury Doughboy memorabilia. Did I mention that I am a two time finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off? In 1998, I was a finalist for my recipe for Lebanese Pizza, winning a trip to Orlando to compete. In 2000, I was a finalist for my recipe for Pesto Crescent Twists with Pesto Spread. I won a trip to San Francisco to compete this time, and was actually a Category Winner, going home with $10,000. I was within four people of winning the grand prize of ONE MILLION DOLLARS! But I try not to think about that. And of course, I collect fabric. What quilter doesn't? (This is only about half of my stash.) Maybe now you understand a bit more about why I'm undertaking this No Buying Challenge. I already have SO MUCH! I'm so very proud of myself. No cheating yet. I did buy some new clothes last week, but I promise I won't cut them up to make a quilt. Now I may pull out the labels though...
Do you have any strange collections? Let me know, and maybe I won't feel like a hoarder.
I spent the ENTIRE day cleaning my studio. Yay me! Believe me, it needed it! Here's where I sew. My sewing machine is in the lower left, barely visible. Behind my chair is a counter top from Home Depot that I got years ago. It sits on two wire drawer organizers. And you can actually see the surfaces now! I should have taken before pictures so you could see the difference. Above the counter I have a small peg board with hooks to hang a few important tools. I've pinned many of my small pieces above.
I love my studio because it's a finished attic - the only room on that level of our house. I can shut the door at the foot of the stairs and no one can see the mess. However, I hate it because since no one ever goes up there except me, I don't have much impetus to keep it straight. Plus I don't have any closets in the room, so everything is in view. I have two of these shelf units, which I further loaded down today.
I wish I could say that I'm done, but no, I got another day's work ahead. I hope to finish tomorrow. I still have to three more corners to clean out and sort through. Plus the stairs to the room are piled with stuff. I'm surprised I haven't fallen going up or down and broken a limb or two. I'm pleased with what I accomplished, though. A productive day!
I am a wife, mother to two daughters, an avid art quilter, cooking contest entrant, and dog lover. My book, FABRIC PHOTO PLAY, AQS, 2005, demonstrates my original technique for making portrait quilts. My second book (with Peggy Rhodes), Quick and Easy Hexie Quilts was recently released.