Friday, April 7, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 04/07



Click on the image for an
enlarged view.
Front side of Picking Up
the Pieces #3.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Every Christmas season from 1974 until I became an empty nester in 2005, I made dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies to share at holiday gatherings, give as gifts, provide as treats for my family, and yes thoroughly test myself. It wasn't unusual for me to make up triple batches of cookies and bake most of the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By the time the last tray was in the oven at the end of a baking session, I was physically exhausted and to put it diplomatically, a little frayed. One afternoon in the midst of this self induced Herculean task I made the choice to stop for the day. I would put the remaining dough in the refrigerator and start again the next day. I can't begin to express how liberating it was to give myself permission to stop. It was so liberating I shared this story with a fellow "driven" parent. She was shocked. She admitted she could never stop a task like baking cookies part way through the process. 

Back side of Picking
Up the Pieces #3.
I like to use fabrics from my stash or
leftover from the front side
on the back side of my quilts.
I knew it was a long shot, but I hoped to quilt 100% of Picking Up the Pieces #3 this week. I had the usual known interpretations of three meetings to attend. I had the usual unknown interpretations of an additional meeting and new work with a deadline requiring it to be given immediate attention. I refused to be distracted. I focused on using the in between times to quilt. Honestly, I could have finished the background quilting. I made the conscientious decision late yesterday afternoon to stop. Why? Basically, for the same reason as my choice to put the dough back in refrigerator. I might have been able to push my way through to a finish. But would the quality be up to snuff? I could feel the long days both physically and emotionally draining my reservoirs of energy. Sometimes it just makes sense to stop. There is always tomorrow.

It was a focused week as you can see from what was and wasn't worked on:

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

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

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

I wasn't happy with the flames
I practiced last week. They just
didn't dance the way I wanted.
So, I spent several hours
researching other ways to draw
flames. I also wanted to hide
Satan in flames. He isn't hidden
on this practice piece. He is more
subtle on the actual quilt.
I made pots in several ways this week. First, I played with different flame designs for the background for Picking Up the Pieces #3. I did this through researching flames on the internet, lots of doodling, and one more free motion practice piece before I put what I learned into quilting Picking Up the Pieces #3. Since I opted to use the flame motif throughout the whole background, I made hundreds and hundreds of flames - pots. My prior free motion quilting gives me the experience to manipulate designs around other elements in the quilt (bees) and quilt a design right to left, left to right, top to bottom and bottom to top. 

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Next week will be focused on getting closer to the finish on Picking Up the Pieces #3. I doubt I will finish. I can see the finish line. I know what I need to do to get there. Although my to do is list remains constant, as evidenced below, I suspect 100% of my efforts will be driving me towards a finish.

1) Work on  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 31, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 03/31



Picking Up the Pieces #3 
is ready to quilt. If you look
closely (right click on image
for an enlarged version) you
can see the novelty bee fabric
I used as part of the backing.
It is peeking out from the sides.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I read once that people tend to underestimate the time it takes to do something they enjoy, while overestimating the time it takes to do something they find difficult or tedious. This doesn't seem to be the case for me with the different phases of creating a quilt. No matter how many times I baste a quilt, no matter what method I use (hand stitch, pin baste, or fuse) the time to do so is always longer than I expect and it is one of my least favorite parts of quilting. Perhaps this is due to my eagerness to get to the quilting. 

I spent a good deal of this week's studio time going from completed quilt top to basted quilt. Actually, I basted two quilts, because I needed a quilt sandwich to practice ideas for how to quilt Picking Up the Pieces #3. Since this was for practice and experimentation only, I opted to piece together my batting from "small" pieces I save just for this purpose. Of course, it takes time to piece the batting. I also pieced the backing for Picking Up the Pieces #3, since I have a fabulous novelty print fabric which has been in my stash for several decades which is almost a mini, more neutral toned version of the front of my quilt, complete with rounded hives, honeycomb background and bees. And so it goes. Each simple project somehow morphs into something more complex. Nevertheless work was accomplished as you can see:
Why a rainbow bee? The answer
should be revealed once the
banner is in place.

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

I had fun finishing up the satin stitch around the hive, the final two yellow and black bees, and then adding my rainbow bee in the doorway.

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

3) Pot(s) made this week - Done

I have been researching and doodling numerous free motion quilting motifs for Picking Up the Pieces #3.

4) Free motion quilting practice - Done

The free motion quilting motif I am thinking of using is an all over flame motif. I wanted to make sure I could work successfully around the hive and especially around the bees. 

Testing both the Golden Threads Quilting
Paper and potential motifs to suggest flames.
I took the time to experiment with Golden Threads Quilting Paper. This is a product I've been curious about for some time. The advice I read is it works best when the there are no narrow channels of paper between the quilting stitches to remove. Since I just wanted to layout a few bees on my quilt sandwich this seemed the perfect tool. It was very easy to remove after quilting. I was easily able to trace the bees onto the paper with a permanent black ink pen. I attached the paper with quilter's tape at the four corners and this was sufficient to hold it in place. 

Next week I will begin the quilting of Picking Up the Pieces #3. I may even manage to fuse the banner with text on the hive. I did figure out how to curve the text using WordArt in MS Word. The hold up is I want to be absolutely certain about what text to include. Should I get stuck, there is always something to turn my attention to as my next week's list can attest to:

1) Work on  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 24, 2017

Week in Review 2017 - 03/24


Now that the clocks have been set
an hour ahead, this is the view
from my studio when I open the
curtains and settling in to work.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques: 

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of being read to, even after I had learned to read myself. My mother would read Grimm's Fairy Tales, to me and my brother. Many of these are fairy tales we all grew up on. Other books I listened to are more obscure. A favorite, which my third grade teacher read to the class during rest period, was The Trouble With Jenny's Ear. As an adult, I still love being read to, or more precisely listening to audio books. I particularly treasurer stumbling upon a book which takes me by surprise by exceeding my expectations. When you listen and/or read 150 books a year, happening upon a stellar book is uncommon. I admit, I have love of books told from varying perspectives, coming of age stories, and set in high school. No surprise, a favorite is Up the Down Staircase. I can recommend it with zero hesitation. My current "school" genre read is The Most Dangerous Place on Earth. The story is set in a contemporary school system full of privileged students. The strength of the book is how the narrative is carried forward by various characters in turn, the spot on voices of the students, teachers and parents, and the character development.
The two bees needing finishing
touches are the ones without
antennae and stingers.

Yesterday, when it was time to move on to the next book available on my audio list, I wasn't expecting to be captivated by The Most Dangerous Place on Earth. I wasn't even sure why I had placed it on my wait list. I'm so glad I did. Much as I enjoy the repetition which naturally comes with fiber art, it can get boring. Add a good book and it is easy to stay behind the sewing machine outlining bees. Only two more to go and then I can move on to other parts of this project.

Once again, I feel as though I accomplished much this week, but have little to show for it, as my list reflects:

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

I cut out, assembled, fused, outlined and secured twelve more bees and have just the securing of two more left to do. I secure each piece of the bee with satin stitch and while doing so, add the stinger and antennae. Not bad, considering each bee represents approximately 90 minutes of work.  
How the piece looked when
I stopped working on it this week.

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

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

Those bees have been a great pot making learning experience when it comes to creating small fusible appliqué elements. 

4) Free motion quilting practice - Not this week.

I am eager to move past bees and onto other aspects of this piece, sort of. I am struggling with a banner/label I want to place on the hive. The issue is how to create small legible writing on a curved line. Handwriting the text is out. I've played in Photoshop Elements, EQ 7 and MS Word. I haven't found anything which will allow me to place text on a curved line. If you have a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

When I am not struggling with text options I will turn my attention to:

1) Work on  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 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.