Sometimes between larger projects, I find doing something simple and straight forward helps to tide me over and can respark my creative fire. A few days ago I decided to make a table runner after attending the Westshore Quilt Show and finding an Easter coloured fabric. I had seen some amazing quilts brought by Montana art quilter extraordinaire Barbara Olsen, who dropped into the show for a surprise visit after taping an instructional DVD here on Vancouver Island. Her colourful machine appliqued florals led to me imagining doing a collaged floral table runner (and a quilt), yet when I actually went to sew, I decided I liked the fabric as it is and I wondered why make it so complicated? So I kept it a simple oval shape and one fabric without further embellishment. Then, a day later, I decided I wanted to expand and improve my technical skills and with that end in mind, I headed to the studio with a paper piecing book in hand, planning to make one simple block. Somehow, enroute, my eye was caught by an old pink sweatshirt I had decided to one day make over into a jacket. I suddenly found myself auditioning fabrics to collage to the front of it - and I never even cracked open that book! I love how this seems to just 'happen' - some new creation is born when I listen and follow what wants to arrive. The seed was probably planted a few years ago when I first thought of making over this sweatshirt and with sun from the recent quilt show inspiration and a little fertilizer from the table runner, it began to grow. I've used two fabrics I cut into pieces and then free motion sewed onto the shirt. Bias tape, a fancy stitch and a frog completed it - and I laundered it to fray the raw edges. I did have some technical challenges when I came to overlapping the bias tape and there were suddenly multiple layers to get through while using a fancy stitch. I substituted a jeans needle, which I imagine helped somewhat, although there are still a few brief places that the stitch distorted. I noticed that when I would start sewing on a flatter piece next, the stitch would remain distorted for awhile, so next time I was going to stitch after a thicker part, I turned my Pfaff off and then on again and voila, the stitch had reset and came out as it's supposed to. I wonder what I'll make next?
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
About a month ago a I downloaded my first lesson from 'Fertile Earth', an on-line course offered by Susan Sorrell. Our inspiration for a first project was to be a vegetable. I had great fun choosing vegetables to photograph instead of eat, because it felt like an art adventure choosing them for an entirely different purpose, instead of being a weekly chore. By the time I had them home to photograph I was falling in love with their beauty and I began to wonder why I hadn't really 'seen' them before. While I eat them, knowing they are good for me, I also have negative associations because of old messages such as 'Eat your vegetables before you can have any dessert'. Getting more curious, I googled 'vegetable' and learned the 'root' of the word relates to 'enliven', which really made me puzzled because I sometimes use 'vegetable' to describe an inert being - a lack of aliveness. This sent me to thinking about the revitalizing effect of vegetables on us from their nutrition - and then I revamped my eating habits (again), which led to exercise changes... That's the power of vegetables!
I felt most drawn to the beets I'd chosen, so I decided to work with them. One of the photos above shows the print I made by painting the beet leaves and using them as a stamp on hand-dyed fabric. I decided I liked the opposite side better, as it was more subtle and that's the way I used it in my quilt. Another thing I did was to alter my beet photos by replacing the original brown wood grain of the table they were on, with bright green. I wanted to provide greater contrast and unity of colour. I then printed one of my photos onto water-soluable embroidery paper and positioned it in the center of the leaf printed fabric, using it as a guide to hand stitch the outline of one beet. When I was done, I thought it would be faster to remove the paper by ripping it instead of immersing it, and when I pulled, the stitches loosened vastly, which surprised me, as I'd used a hoop, but I really like the resulting 'sketched' appearance of the beet.
I didn't know where I was going to take the vegetable project when I began - I could have just stopped here, but I kept having ideas I wanted to pursue further as part of a quilt. The course went into the background - as in - I haven't particpated other then to download the remaining lessons. I put the leaf fabric onto beet-coloured fabric I had dyed previously, brought in the velvet bottom portion, positioned some of my fabric photos, free cut a beet leaf and around a beet stamp I had made when I stamped with the leaves, made a quilt sandwich, quilted around the central beet then coloured the circles with shiva sticks, quilted the backdrop and stitched the photos down. At this point I encountered major sewing problems with my Pfaff - thread breaking over and over with me trying all the possible solutions until I've taken it in to be serviced and have resurrected my old manual Janome workhorse to attach the mulberry bark around the photos. I find that the mistakes I make so often lead to a better outcome - the bark covers unsightly blanket stitching from the Pfaff :) I also added purple fringe to the bottom sides of the quilt and the beaded fringe bottom after first satin stitching the edge. The top edge is also satin stitched with hanging loops sewn on after. And I've sewn narrow ribbon along the back of the two sides to secure the sandwich. Definitely a step-by-step process and I enjoy the challenge as I encounter each design or technical 'problem' and solve it.
Right now I'm waiting for some fabric to dry to print a label on. It's the first time I've used Digital Ground by Golden for inkjet printing purposes. My beets are on pre-treated cotton sheets that come ready to print on. I plan to experiment further with print-on-able materials, as there are lots of options.
Other bits and pieces from over the past month: I checked out the Coast Collective Gallery - such a beautiful location in a historic old beach house on the edge of the lagoon and with a stream and tall trees on the large grounds. I hope to enter a fibre piece in one of their juried shows. I also have been mulling over what I might teach, dipping my toes into workshop creation - but that's a slower work in progress. I have 'Making My Mark' back from the show it was in - no sale, but few items sold and most that did were the lowest priced ones. I wasn't attached to selling - it was more of an experiment. I enjoyed the afternoon shift I took at the gallery and when I dropped in on another day, I was told my piece had attracted a fair bit of extra close-up inspection - so that was a pleasant surprise. I also attended the Victoria Sketch Club's 100th anniversary show - Emily Carr once belonged to this group and her paintings had been hung behind a door, at first, since they were considered to be so 'different'. I love her art. And I also went to the Sewing Show, where I bought several books, including 'Stitch Magic' by Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney - drool, drool. Inspired by the book, I took a little piece of velvet that I had stamped with paint and began adding hand stitch. The result? I have the utmost admiration for these two women and what they can do with a needle!