Friday, March 17, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 03/17




It was warmth on Thursday to step outside
and take a photo of the view to the south.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

It's been another scattered week. Where has my focus gone? I feel as though I am leap frogging from one false start to another. The end result of my studio time appears more together than the emotions surrounding the work. Why? I think it is because although I am making progress I have a creative problem without a viable solution. Until I have a solution, that problem clouds my ability to sense the progress. I know I need to push through, to try, to test, and eventually something will come to me. One motivator is to sit down, as I am doing now, and record my week's work. It is a reminder of challenges I have overcome.

This week I:

Detail from Picking up the Pieces #3
1) Worked on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #3

I added a few more bees to Picking Up the Pieces #3. The bees are getting easier to stitch down as I develop a rhythm and standard stitching path.

2) Didn't finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Made pot(s) 

The bees are a perfect example of making pots. The more I make, the more I learn about whether it is best to cut out pieces in a clockwise or counter clockwise direction. The answer is counter clockwise, because  it gives me a better view of where I am cutting. I've been honing my "stinger" stitching skills. I've discovered I like to free motion stitch down the circumference of each bee first, then swap feet and finish with a satin stitch. 
My eighth knitted knocker

I have continued to make knitted knockers. This week I finished my eighth one. The beginning rounds, absolutely diabolically difficult for the first five or so knockers, are now stitching out much more easily. I no longer need to check the pattern to see what to do when. Most exciting of all, I have stuffed a knocker for the first time and HURRAH, the stitches are tight enough that the stuffing doesn't beard.

4) And even managed some free motion quilting practice

The challenge I referred to in the beginning is how to best introduce twenty-two names into Picking Up the Pieces #3. Should I free motion quilt them? Write them with a fine point pen? Should they be subtle, stitched in clear monofilament? Should I create them off quilt on a scroll, which I later attach to the quilt? Would they make more sense to appear in the background, on each bee, or on the hive? I tested one idea and learned what NOT to do. 
The most successful part of this experiment
is how using metallic thread was problem free.
I swapped out my standard #70 needle
for a #90, thus providing a large eye for the
thread to pass through.

Clearly, more testing is needed next week. When I am not testing ways to add the names I will give myself a respite from the struggle by working on the following:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 03/10




Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:


Check out the stripes in Lola's fur. They are
an excellent example of variable repetition.
I've been thinking about repetition this week. It is one of the principles of design. I have learned my preference is for variable repetition. In other words I like to repeat elements, but vary them in some way. Although, I still have quite a ways to go with Picking Up the Pieces #3, I can already see variable repetition occurring consciously  and sub-consciously. It began with the honeycomb background made from a single tessellated block, the hexagon. The variety is due to using nine differing fabrics placed in random order. Next up is the bee hive, built with stacked, curved rectangles of diminishing length. Now I am working on the bees. I have drawn out three different bees, representing different angles of flight. I have resized the drawings so that the bees vary in scale from 3" to 5". 
Progress to date on
Picking Up the Pieces #3.

One of the tools I depend on to do work of this sort is my printer. I love how I can create a pencil drawing, trace over it with a permanent black pen, scan it into my computer using my printer and store it as .pdf. Once I have the .pdf I can print the drawing out any size I want. My original bees are approximately 8" in length. In order to get a 3" bee, I simply divide 3 by 8 and get 0.375. I set the printer scale to 37% (could be 38%, or even 40% or 35%, it doesn't have to be exact.) and viola - a 3" bee.

This week I managed to print out the various scaled patterns and even create my first bee. That isn't all I did, as you can see:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3 - Done!

Finally, I finished piecing the over 400 half hexagons which make up the background. I have moved on to creating the foreground.
Close up of the bee

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 - Not yet.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I am continuing to work on various appliqué techniques. Picking Up the Pieces #3 is particularly good for this. The hive is large enough where it made sense to turn under the edges for a smooth finish. The bees, especially one 3" in length made up of eleven different pieces is far to fussy to do anything but fuse. When I fuse appliqué pieces my preference is to finish the edge with satin stitch. I set my machine for a vary narrow satin stitch and used Superior's Bottom Line thread. I don't want the stitching to overwhelm those tiny pieces. 

Most weeks I try my hand at an EQ 7 tutorial.
I find it helps me gain a better comfort level
with the application. I'm finally getting to a point
where I can take a lesson, learn from it, but
do my own thing. 
4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

I spent 30 minutes or so doing some more pebbling. 

Next week will be a repetition with some variety of this week. I have approximately 14 more bees to cut out, fuse and stitch down. They may be small, but they do take several hours each. Hopefully, the more I make the faster I will get. If I need a break, I have several other things to work on such as:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 03/03




Guns: Loaded Conversations is the
most recent SAQA call for entry.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Many of my posts subtly or not so subtly suggest a primary reason for my not putting in as much studio time as I hoped for each week is due to my responsibilities as Chair of SAQA's Exhibition Committee. Why do I put so much time and effort into this volunteer job which clearly pulls me away from spending unfettered hours in my studio? When the going is tough and demanding, this is a question I ask myself. Is it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. 

One of the reasons it is worth it is because of the call for entry uploaded to SAQA's website this week. It is for an exhibition titled Guns: Loaded Conversations. The premise of this exhibition is to use art as catalyst to conversation. It will not be an exhibit with a single perspective on guns. Instead work accepted into the exhibit will be selected because it starts or responds to one of multiple conversations on the topic of guns. Those conversations could be about guns as a right of passage, used for hunting, their place in history, as part of a prized collection, for protection, and yes, used in acts of violence. 

Look who was looking in at me as I
worked in my studio this week.
Guns: Loaded Conversations will premiere at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in April 2018. The museum is large enough that we are able to include work which meets SAQA's definition of an art quilt be it 2D, 3D, on stretcher bars, framed, installations, wearable and even video.  

An exhibit of this nature takes the time and talents of many people to pull together. Kudos will go to the artists whose work make up the exhibit and to the museums which showcase it. They should also go to the unsung people behind the scenes who flesh out the theme, handle the computer side of things, design the logo, write and proof the prospective and so much more. I stay as Chair of the SAQA Exhibition Committee because it is an honor and delight to work with such a dedicated and talented group of SAQA volunteers and staff with the courage to tackle difficult topics through art.

Look at all
those half hexagons
I managed to piece.
Despite the final work required to get the Guns: Loaded Conversations prospectus to the point where it could be uploaded to SAQA's site, I was able to spend a couple days in my studio this week. First I cut just over 400 half hexagons and then beginning the process sewing them together. Thank you to LeeAnna Paylor, who reminded me there is a way to sew hexagons without the Y seam.  I treated myself to the Fons and Porter Hexagon Ruler. What I love about it is it gives you the strip width to cut for a range of hexagons and half hexagons. Also, the way the ruler aligns with the strip the alignment notch is automatically cut. In other words there is no need to mark the seam allowance or pin adjoining pieces together or as I have done in the past, make my best guess, but only be accurate about 75% of the time.

Here is how the week went:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3 - Done!

Actually this is basically all I did this week. Cutting out 400 half hexagons and sewing together more than 200 of them takes time.

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 - Not this week.

3) Pot(s) made this week - You bet

I'm half way through piecing the hexagons
for Picking Up the Pieces #3. Don't the
seams align nicely?
There is nothing like cutting and piecing all those half hexagons to fine tune one's ability to work with hexagons.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Just couldn't squeeze it in.

I am looking forward to finishing up the hexagon background so I can move on to the next phase of this quilt. The current plan is appliqué the foreground to honeycomb background next. Hopefully, I will have time to work on a few other items on my list, too.


1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 02/24



Every year the flock of turkeys seems
to grow exponentially
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I looked up from my working in my studio to see the turkeys grazing. What you can't see in this picture are the two standing right up outside the window, peering in at me. By the time I had switched my iPod from listening to camera mode and made my way to the window they had started meandering down the lawn. 

Am I meandering? It sure feels like it. It seems I have spent February pursuing one idea, then abandoning that in favor of another, only to be moving on to a third concept. A positive from my inability to settle on a design is I continue to build up my technique skills. I may have swapped butterflies for bees and a treasure chest for a bee hive, but at least I have an idea of the appliqué method I will use to create the bees, based on playing with techniques to create butterflies. I may long for a direct journey from point A, idea of what to make next, to point B, the finished artwork, but the reality is the shortest route is rarely the one taken when making art.
Testing out the layout for the honeycomb
background for Picking Up the Pieces #3

I did manage some studio time, enough time to accomplish the following:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3 - Done

I have let go, at least for now, my earlier ideas, when it occurred to me the message I want to convey with my piece needed to be less gentle and innocuous, and more lethal. Once I had settled on the bee with its stinger, I knew I had to make a honeycomb background. 

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 - Not yet

Isn't this glorious? I continued to work
on the sample I started last week. I love
the Arts and Crafts, William Morris feel of it.
3) Pot(s) made this week - Done

I was so, so tempted not to create a honeycomb background because piecing hexagons is not easy. In the past I have used the English Paper Piecing method. I actually enjoy this, but it takes time, since it is all done by hand. Before I committed to this project I wanted to see if I could piece hexagons by machine. The issue is all those inset seams. I did find several tutorials on line, basically sharing the same method. I tested this method out on a sample. Hopefully, it will get easier with the larger pieces and practice.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done

One thing I want to improve with my free motion quilting is my ability to vary the scale of my pebbles, those background circles you see surrounding the flowers, leaves and swirls. This sampler is giving me plenty of practice.

I will practice more pebbles next week, in between cutting out additional hexagons and then starting the process of piecing them together. Also on my radar are the following:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 02/17



I did take time to dash out on the balcony
and capture this glorious sunrise.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I'm having difficulty focusing these days. It reminds me of being a young mother trying to have a professional conversation on the phone, while my toddler hanks at my pant leg with pleading eyes for attention, and a pot is boiling over on the stove. I do not excel at multi-tasking. 

The reality is there is no such thing as multi-tasking. Instead we may rapidly switch between focuses, appearing to be multi-tasking, but we are really do only one thing at a time. A good way to understand what is meant by this is to write out your full name. Next write out the numbers from 1 - 25. Finally alternate between writing out your name and the numbers, interspersing the numbers with the letters. So, for my first name it would look like this: G1w2y3n4e5d6. Even typing it is a nightmare.

The result of a week being pulled in numerous directions is I have very little completed work to show for it, as you can see:

Last week I shared a possible design
for Picking Up the Pieces #2. This week
an idea for Picking Up the Pieces #3 
wouldn't let me go. It will require many butterflies. 

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 - No

Instead I moved directly into playing with designs for Picking Up the Pieces #3.

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 - No

Didn't do this either.

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I attempted to make butterflies three different ways. One was so diabolically difficult with such poor results, I tossed it. I 
think for the purposes of this quilt, I will stick to fusible appliqué, backed with a stabilizer, and surrounded with black satin stitch. The stabilizer keeps the satin stitch from distorting the work and was very easy to remove without tearing stitches. 


4) Free motion quilting practice - Done

I wanted to see if I could recreate the combination of motifs I saw on Pinterest post without marking the top. I could. 👍
There will be lots of open space for free
motion quilting in both Picking Up the Pieces
#2 & #3
. Time to test out some ideas I've
found in Pinterest.

5)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song - Done

I finally took the time to just sit down and do it. 

Next week will probably be more of the same. I have several appointments and another active SAQA exhibitions week to attend to. When I can manage to make my way to the studio this could be the plan, or maybe not. I'm comfortable going with the flow for now.

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2 and/or #3

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week


4) Free motion quilting practice



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 02/10


We frequently see this fox walking
in front of our condo, or dashing across the
lake. This photo was taken by our neighbor
Lynn Riviere from her condo. This could
be the view from my studio. :)
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Sometimes before you can make pots you have to start with the basics. I recall from my grade school days being taught the importance of working the clay before you began to sculpt with it. The goal, if I remember correctly, was to meld the clay into a unified blend with no air bubbles. The point being, before you can begin to create, even to experiment, there is prep work to be done. 

I focused one of my studio days on working out the basic structure of my design on EQ7. I'm still a relative newbie with the program, although I have made it a point to do a tutorial of 15 minutes to an hour most weeks for a while now. The design I wanted to play with pushed the limits of my knowledge. It is part of making pots, trying this, testing that, a step or two forward only finding I must start further back. 

Possible design for Picking Up
the Pieces 2
created with EQ7
With my other studio day I began the experimentation of the best way to piece the compass block. My instinct is to turn to paper piecing whenever I need precision piecing of this complexity. Where I have gotten stuck in the past, though, is combining paper piecing with curves. I decided to give it a whirl anyway. Much to my surprise, since the seam lines are straight, the piecing worked well. Even more exciting, I was easily able to turn under the outside and inside curves with an iron. This meant I didn't need to use glue or starch. No glue or starch means those products don't have to be washed out after the work is quilted. 

My studio time was truncated this week by other obligations. This can be an advantage. It kept me focused. Here is what I managed to do:


1) Finishing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - Done!


2) Design Picking Up the Pieces #2 - Started

The design may change. The one shown is my favorite from multiple false starts. I'm going to play a bit more with color placement. I do want lots of open space. Where you see white, will be more of the background (sky blue fabric). I want to make my quilting a strong part of the design, and lots of open background is a good way to showcase it.

I used my yellow scraps to test the advocacy
of paper piecing an arch. The arch is machine
appliquéd with a blind hem stitch. This method
was comfortable to do. I'm pleased with it
technically, too.
3) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1 - Not yet.

4) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I made many pots on EQ7 as I worked out how to translate my design concept onto the screen. Most of the attempts were deleted. Sometimes it is just easier to start over, rather than fix problems. This is precisely why I like using EQ 7. I can make many more pots designing on the computer, than working with fabric.

5) Free motion quilting practice - Didn't get to it.

6)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song - Started

Next week I plan on trying another method or two of creating the arches for Picking Up the Pieces - 2. I also want to spend more time on EQ7 playing with my design before I commit to actually making it. It is good to have plan, while staying flexible. Here's mine for next week:

1) Work on the design for Picking Up the Pieces #2

2) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

3) Pot(s) made this week

4) Free motion quilting practice

5)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 02/03



View from my studio.
January 31, 2017 at 9:00 am
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

When the weather outside is frigid (yes we are back to single digit nights here in Appleton, Wisconsin) witnessing the sun, albeit hidden by a cloud, from my studio warms my heart. Life may be busy. Life may seem crazy. In my studio, I am warm, engaged and able to stitch one piece to another. 

The plan for this week was simply to play with my scraps. Actually, I need a more concrete plan than that, otherwise I would simply stare at the fabric. This is why I maintain a notebook of ideas for experiments to try the next time I feel so inclined. I'm not sure where I stumbled upon Elizabeth Hartman's Mod Mosaic Quilt Blocks, but the tutorial was in my notebook. 

Picking Up the Pieces - 1
What attracted me to Mod Mosaic Quilt Blocks was how the thin strip of a unifying fabric pulled together a cohesive look. An advantage for me is a 17" square quilt works up very quickly. My normal speed is tortoise. I have accepted this about myself, most of the time. Still, I am secretly envious of other fiber artists who speak of making up a quilt from idea to completion in a couple of weeks. So, when I stumble upon a way to work faster without compromising quality, I am going to give it a try.

I actually began Picking Up the Pieces on Monday and had it quilted by Thursday. This was not my sole focus. My job as Chair of SAQA's Exhibition Committee kept me busy for a half day each on Monday and Tuesday with a few more hours on Wednesday. It is always busy during the final days of a call for entry as a team of us help entrants with their questions and concerns. Once all the entries are in they must be vetted for eligibility and some prepped for blind jurying. It is worth the effort, but definitely cuts into my studio time, although this may not be obvious by looking at what I got done.

1) Finishing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - Started

Detail from Picking Up the Pieces
Click on this or any other image in the post
to see an enlarged view. 
I made the sleeve and started attaching it. 

2) Pot(s) made this week - Done!

I have been pinning quilting designs which speak to me on Pinterest. Many of these involve ruler work. Some are made up of a combination patterns. I am drawn to designs with clear changes in texture. I used Picking Up the Pieces as a way to make pots with free motion quilting. 

What I seem to need to learn over and over again, is don't bother to do any intricate free motion quilting on fabrics with patterns. It just doesn't show up. It is worth it to go to town on solids or fabrics reading as solid. Sometimes a patterned fabric comes to life if you choose the right free motion quilt design. 

3) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Detail from Picking Up the Pieces
Enhancing the rose petals (lower right) was
a bust. However micro stippling around brown
spots brought them to 3D life as pebbles.
See above.

4)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song Not Yet

When I began making Picking Up the Pieces I thought I would make a series of blocks in varying hues. What I learned by making it, was for me, once was enough. However, it has me thinking about a new direction to explore, one where I can showcase some of the quilting designs that are calling to me. There is nothing better than finishing a week eager to start all over again. Next week's plans will likely include:

1) Finishing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? 

2) Design Picking Up the Pieces #2

3) Finish Picking Up the Pieces #1

4) Pot(s) made this week

5) Free motion quilting practice

6)  Attach a sleeve to Siren's Song

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.