Friday, December 4, 2015

Work Stoppage

The elves are on strike for better working conditions. Specifically, they demand a machine that works correctly.

The Gryla is going into the shop today.

Fare thee well, sweet Gryla!

(There's a weird mishmash of mythologies swirling around in my sewing room.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Modern Workshop at Vernon

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of spending the day with the ladies of Vernon Nutmeg Quilters. We worked on mini projects from Elizabeth Hartman's Modern Patchwork book. (It has been three years since I discovered this little gem, and I am still using these patterns all the time...way to go, EH!)

We had a lot of fun playing with color to make the Roller Rink projects. There is so much potential for unique variation on such a simple concept; for example, Maureen (far right) got an interesting fiery effect by using a graded floral fabric instead of pieced squares as her block centers. I believe Tammy had hers quilted by the time we wrapped up. (Nice job -- nobody needs more UFOs!)
Vernon Nutmeg Quilters with their spectacular Roller Rink minis

The Neighborhood projects were adorable too--look at that fun little quail! This is a project that I like to make as a housewarming gift, sometimes customized with the new address.
Vernon Nutmeg Quilters' Neighborhood minis

My own "Mother of the Year" Neighborhood mini -- no need to stick with birds in the center panel!!

As we move through this season of giving thanks, I want to make it clear how grateful I am to have the opportunity to lead workshops like this one. Thanks, everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2015

In Which I Announce My Seasonal Charity

Over the past few months, I have spent some time photographing things and putting them into my shop; I'm still adding things a few at a time, as opportunity allows, but there's a nice selection in there to get started. I'll be taking some small items to the Underground Gallery in Collinsville on Sunday to try my luck there as well.

For all sales that I make through my online shop before the new year, I will donate 15% of the sale price to Days for Girls, a group that is doing critically important work to serve the needs of girls and women around the world. Apparently there is a team already in Connecticut that works on sewing and assembling the kits; I have an email out to the local contact and I'm hoping to meet up with some other people to work in a group. Even if I don't hear back, I'll dedicate some time over the next few months to sew a few kits myself. Here's a brief (heartbreaking) statement from the Days for Girls website:
Days for Girls was founded in 2008, when Executive Director Celeste Mergens prepared to travel back to Kenya to continue working with orphanages and communities in the wake of great political and economic upset. One night she awoke with a burning question: “Have you asked what the girls are doing for feminine hygiene?” When she asked the assistant director of the orphanage she was workingwith,  the answer was shocking: “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.” 
The conditions were cramped, unsanitary, and would leave girls without food and water for days unless someone brought it to them. Furthermore, sanitary products were available, but only if girls were willing to suffer sexual exploitation in exchange. This moment was the beginning of awareness to the vulnerability millions of women and girls face throughout the world every month, simply due to this basic biological function. These women and girls suffer in silence, due to cultural ideas and taboos surrounding this issue. Because of this, girls and women can feel that they are tainted, or fundamentally flawed or less in some way. Washable, quality hygiene kits and accompanying education changes all that.  Join us.
We take so much for granted, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Party Games (with sewing!)

One (1) foam insulation-board design wall
+ one (1) Mr. Chillingsworth panel (Echo Park Paper Co. for Andover)
+ one (1) Hexed Heart ornament (design from Urban Threads, natch!)
= one ready-to-play "Pin the Heart in the Skeleton" party game for the spookiest little tricksters!
Pin the Heart in the Skeleton
Hexed Heart ornament, fun for parties!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

SAQA Trunk Show

The Connecticut regional chapter of SAQA has organized a trunk show that will travel through the northeast, and any other regions that request it. We were to create a 6 x 10" piece responding to the question: You're Doing WHAT?

Here's mine, along with the text that will be attached to the back.

We're doing WHAT? (2015, 6 x 10")
We’re doing WHAT? I started quilting just before the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, at which time I organized a massive worldwide effort to make quilts for the survivors and victims’ families. Only five years later, half an hour from where I’m raising my own family, somebody gunned down a classroom full of first graders. Since then – even by the most conservative estimates – there has been an average of another shooting every five weeks. I’m kind of tired of reading the same headline. I’m kind of tired of comfort projects – no quilt replaces a human life.

We’re doing a lot of crying, hugging, hand-wringing, blaming, blogging, memorializing, promising, hiding, waiting, bleeding, and dying, but overall? We’re doing NOTHING to prevent the next incident.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My First Juried Show

This was an exciting week for me, as three of my original pieces were juried into a Celebration of Fiber Arts show at the Arts Center East in Vernon, CT. None of my pieces won any of the prizes, but it was exciting to see them displayed and lit so professionally and beautifully. The pieces selected were:

The River Hexx (MCXI) (2013), which I created with 1,116 paper-pieced 3/8" hexagons and hand quilted. I loved how the lighting cast the shadow of the hex-shaped edge in the gallery.
The River Hexx (MCXI) (2013)

Nut and Geb Create the Earth (2015) is based on an ancient Egyptian story of the night sky and her earth lover being held apart (spoiler: they tricked Ra and ultimately had five children). It's a really beautiful story, and I love how this quilt illustrates it. I freehand-drew the shapes of Nut and Geb (no tracing!) using fabrics that must have been designed especially for this purpose. I made fabric beads and strung them together to evoke the carnelian tube pectoral collars that we have seen in a number of art museums. Arcs of lotus/palm leaves frame the central scene.
Nut and Geb Create the Earth (2015)
Perfect Square Dissection: 21 Black-and-White Squares (2012) is a solution to a mathematical puzzle. It's pieced from 21 squares, all of different sizes, and finishes as a square as well.
Perfect Square Dissection: 21 Black-and-White Squares (2012)

Yours Truly, with Nut and Geb Create the Earth
The show will hang until November 7 at Arts Center East, which is open Thursday through Sunday from 1-5 pm. Let me know if you go to see it!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Modern Quilt Guild meeting

Yesterday I drove to Northampton to attend a meeting with the local group of the Modern Quilt Guild. So glad I did! Their meeting space is the common house for the Rocky Hill Cohousing community just outside of Northampton, and it's spectacularly beautiful. Timna Tarr spoke about choosing quilting motifs that best finish a particular project, a topic that I've been particularly interested in recently. I shared a few of my Sol LeWitt projects that were inspired by my trip to MassMoCA several years ago, including my bed-sized replica of Wall Drawing #1112.

Wall Drawing 1112 (Sol LeWitt, MassMoCA 2003 installation)
"Log Cabin a la LeWitt" in situ (90 x 90")
This was a really fun project to work on. I cut the six basic colors of Kona into 3.5" strips, then rolled them onto empty paper tubes threaded onto an old broomstick. Starting from the middle (four squares), I determined which patch to use next by rolling dice: A six-sided die determined the color, a 12-sided die for the strip length in inches, and an 8-sided die for an extra eighth-inch measurement. The only limitation I put on the process was that a color was not allowed to touch itself in a previous row (from LeWitt's original rules for this piece). Once I had the 90" log cabin sewn, I quilted it using the lines in another of his wall drawings, concentric circles from the center and arcs from all four corner points. Again, I rolled a 6-sided die to determine which color of thread to use in each ring. LeWitt's work is perfectly "quiltable" -- about half of his wall murals are suitable as patchwork, and another set of his works are simply rules for groups of lines, perfect as quilting motifs. A complete quilt project like this one, then, superimposes the lines over the color patchwork.

I had initially made a smaller version of this same wall drawing as a sort of "test run" for the process. For the smaller one (1" strips, 27" finished), the quilting lines were from another of LeWitt's line pieces: 10" straight lines, overlapping in all directions.

Wall Drawing 86:  Ten thousand lines about 10 inches (25 cm) long, covering the wall evenly. (Sol Lewitt, MassMoCA 2003 installation)

I painted the tiny pig for the New Britain Youth Theater's fundraiser that year.

(I confess that I went through a really serious Sol LeWitt phase right after that first museum trip.)

I won't be able to make the NMQG November meeting way up in Shelburne, but once I see how the full-time spring schedule is going to treat me, I might try to go again...visiting Northampton once a month doesn't seem like a huge hardship. Thanks to the NMQG for their kind welcome!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Donation Day

I just shared half a dozen quilt tops (maybe eight? I already forget), along with a huge box overflowing with yardage, with Quilts2Heal. Here's hoping they end up finished nicely and in the homes of people who need them.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pillow extravaganza

I have been scavenging through my bins and shelves of half-finished projects and interesting bits, making pillows, ornaments, tableware, and little bits of loveliness. Recently I found a small embroidered Pi that was cut off-center in a hexagon, but with enough margin to become a circle.

I put some Dresden wedges together and appliqued the pi into the center, but at that point I couldn't decide if I wanted to make a pillow or a table mat (pumpkin pie season is nigh, after all!). The Facebook consensus was pillow, and my friend Liz suggested a braid-edged box-edged cushion...challenge accepted.

Simple radiating quilting inside the wedge seams.
I had the perfect coordinating shade of maroon cord for the corners so after I did a little quilting on the top I basted the cord along the edges of the circle.
Cord basted along the edges 
I fused some DecoBond to a nice coordinating stripe for the back and basted more cording along those edges. I was operating without a specific pattern or tutorial, so I'm not sure if this is the most elegant way to make a side panel, but I started by edging a 20" zipper with some of the same fabric that the wedges were cut from. I then added length with the rest of that same stripe. (Geometry review: Circumference = Pi x Diameter.)
Zipper for the side panel
Many pins were pressed into service when it was time to stitch the side panel to the top. Many, many pins.
Pinning the side panel on
There must surely be a more elegant way to stitch such a seam, but my wrangling did the trick in the end, and I was very encouraged by how the first seam looked.
Side attached to the top panel -- halfway there....
Stitching the bottom on was a little anticlimactic (if you try this at home, don't forget to unzip the zipper before finishing the second seam) and the finished cushion came out terrific!
Finished cushion, fig in the background

Back of cushion

Zipper for cover removal
Pi cushion

Pi cushion, approx. 17.5" x 3"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dimensional Pyramid

My art group decided to make something dimensional for the September meeting. I have literally hundreds of ideas of things that I want to assemble...for now, I made a simple project to try out some different construction techniques. (I learned, for example, that ladder stitch is far superior to whip stitch if you don't want to see thread in the finished seam.) I have some small triangles cut from DecoFuse to try some smaller polyhedra in the future, but sometimes quite a bit of time passes between idea and execution.

This pyramid is made from four 9" pieces of very stiff double-fuse interfacing (Fast2Fuse? I don't have a label anymore). I adhered the pieced triangles to the separate triangles, wrapped the edges around, completed the decorative quilting and embellishing, then hand-sewed the pieces together. Each face is quilted or embellished differently, and each point of the pyramid has matching fabrics on all three faces.
Paper-pieced hexagons appliqued onto Side One
Free-motion flower on Side Two
Spiral in metallic thread on Side Three
Isometric grid of beads on Side Four
View from above

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Neon Brights

Neon! What else is there to say? Just looking at it makes me want to find some jelly shoes (ouch) and big dangly earrings. I love this quilt so much, and I am so pleased that it will soon be on its way to brighten the nursery of a fresh new baby girl!

  • Pattern: Oklahoma, by Villa Rosa Designs
  • Finished size: 45 x 57"
  • Quilting: freehand free-motion posies in Superior Threads Rainbows, variegated Neons colorway, used on top and in the bobbin
  • Eye-popping Factor: 11

Neon delight!
Stitching detail of neon quilt
Back of the neon quilt. I couldn't believe I found a fabric with neon polka dots on soft brown

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Quilting lessons: Young protégé #3

A few months ago, a young friend asked me to help her make a quilt. I like to use the Cloud Nine pattern as a first quilt for a couple of reasons. First, it's very easy and fast to make. Second, the pieces are big enough to use some great large-scale prints. Third, it's forgiving. If a seam or two goes off by a few threads, it all comes out in the end. We went to Quilting by the Yard to pick out fabrics, and she was unerring in her preferences. She found every one of the prints in a single line, even though they weren't arranged together on the shelf. (I can't find a selvage strip, so I can't remember what the line was called. ...Edited to clarify: the line is "13 going on 30" by Maywood Studios, very chic and bold!) She chose a pretty sky blue as her background neutral.

We got all the fabrics pressed and cut in an afternoon. She had already done a few small sewing projects in her 4H club, so she was pretty familiar with basic machine operation. We had to figure out how to set her up with a nice 1/4" seam, and she got the hang of it right away. It took one or two short sessions to get the blocks assembled, then she sewed one entire row together. But then the project went into a box, as projects so often do, and waited...until finally last week we managed to get together at her house one evening and she got two more full rows done. This afternoon she came to my house and worked straight through 95+° heat to get the whole top finished!!

Next, she's on the hunt for some fabric to use on the back and we'll get together to baste the layers.

Diligently working in the summer heat
A finished top!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cephalopod Transfers

In honor of Cephalopod Week, I have been experimenting with some different transfer methods, featuring old scientific illustrations of various Cephalopoda. Lots more to do over the coming months.
The first attempt with gel medium came out well, and has a lot of potential to become an interesting finished piece.

The Citrasolv technique was more ghosted, but I already have some ideas for using it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Monkeys of the World, Unite!

How do you like the new blog look? It's feeding directly into my newly overhauled website as well!

Last night we enjoyed a great JAM (that's "Journals and More" because we've really expanded our reach from our original task of monthly journal page-size projects) meeting. The theme to kick off summer was Games. I had literally dozens of ideas for this topic. I love the graphic elements of board games; you really get a glimpse into the design zeitgeist of a particular era from the illustrations used in board games. I considered projects based on some really ancient games like Ur and Senet...
The Royal Game of UR, played in ancient Mesopotamia well over 4500 years ago. 

...some classic traditional choices like checkers, backgammon (both of which other group members ended up interpreting for their projects), and Chinese checkers, which would have enabled my hexagon addiction...
Chinese checkers...on an isometric triangle grid!

...some more obscure games that I played growing up in the 70s and 80s, like Bonkers, Connect Four, and Tri-Ominos (which is still going to happen on a larger scale, probably as soon as I get back from the Vermont Quilt Festival...). Take a look at this commercial from 1980 -- can you believe how much wholesome fun that family is having?!? I demand to know why they don't show at least one, if not both, of the kids scowling and threatening to flip over the whole damn table. And the parents haven't once checked their cell phones or gotten up for another drink. LIES, I tell you! Corporate lies!

I even considered some video games like PacMan and Q-Bert, which of course was played on a tumbling blocks screen:

QBert must have been designed by a quilter.
Ultimately, I chose a childhood favorite that was more of a plaything than a game, even though it did come with some vague "rules." I found a simple clipart, enlarged it in PowerPoint, and traced it onto some solid red Kona prepared with whatever fusible I had handy. (I don't know if it was Steam-a-Seam, Heat-n-Bond, or Wonder Under.) After a few evenings of painstaking scissor work, the rest of project went together in a flash:
Barrel of Monkeys! quilt: "Ex unitate vires" (2015, Angelina Kendra)

The only quilting I did on the solid yellow background was the curved barrel lines. These were tricky to implement, not least because I was working without a functional walking foot. I used a 12-wt yellow Sulky thread, and I started and stopped between every segment of the hanging monkeys. Once the monkeys and the quilting lines were finished, it was a very cute little project that would look adorable on a nursery wall. Someone should get on that.

The little monkey on the bottom looked like he was exhibiting a little independent streak. There's a Polish proverb that translates as "Not my circus, not my monkeys" (meaning, of course, "not my problem") which was just PERFECT for this little guy. I can pronounce written Polish (thanks to six weeks of a continuing ed class that I took during the grad school years in Blacksburg, VA), but I had to rely on a Google search for the original Polish words for his protest sign.
Not my circus, not my monkeys
In contrast to Mr. Not-My-Problem, I realized that the others were stronger for hanging together. Their Solidarność flag is the emblem of the 1980s trade union in Poland that was the impetus for the fall of the Communist regime in that country. The day I was finishing this, the NY Times Magazine cover was "Labor's Last Stand." I couldn't stop thinking of how cunningly the current crop of union busters have secured the sympathies of the people who would seem to benefit most from some united strength. I guess we can thank modern globalization for the continuing unraveling of worker's rights in this and every other country. There's always a hungrier mouth willing (or forced) to produce for even less reward. The name of the finished quilt is "Ex unitate vires" ("Strength in unity"). Good luck on your own, little guy.

Fun fact: "Solidarity" (solidarność) was the answer that I missed in the 1990 New Castle News Citizen Bee, thus dropping me out of competition. I did a lot of flirting with my now-husband Barry at that Bee event:
That's Barry and me, front and center. Not thinking about Solidarity one little bit.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Taking the next step

This summer I'm taking the effort to put together a shiny new website, which is nicely underway. I even got brand new business cards, which magically and instantaneously made me feel more professional and serious. I'm trying to figure out whether to start a whole new blog wrapped directly into the new site, or continue this blogger site and just link back and forth. If you're reading this and you have any advice on this decision, I'd be happy to hear from you.

My gypsy wife is en route to the Vermont Quilt Festival, along with Cedric's MTG quilt. If you're at the show, make sure you hunt them down!

In the meantime, I've been stitching up a storm, making a whole bunch of new things of all shapes and sizes, practicing new techniques, refreshing old ones, and improving with every stitch.

I saw an inspiring and thought-provoking piece this week, so I'll close this post with a link to it:

I'm jealous of your success...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Color book

I just found some photos on my boy's computer, accidentally downloaded there from my camera card. These are from a little color book I made for a sweet little girl's birthday. The pattern was in the 101 Patchwork Projects magazine that I've gotten a whole lot of mileage from. For such a simple concept though, this project made a grand mess, since I needed to get out every. single. color. bin of fabric in my closet.

I started with a strip of gray gridlines from my Best. Day. Ever! jelly roll to cross stitch a simple title. I didn't want to use a lot of words, though, so this was the only one.
Colors birthday book
I didn't have any trouble with the first few pages:
Colors birthday book: PINK
Orange is particularly a snap for me:
Colors birthday book: RED and ORANGE
This is my favorite 2-page spread, so citrusy and cheerful:
Colors birthday book: YELLOW and GREEN 
I had to really dig for these ones. I have a lot of blue fabrics, because I never use them, and they just don't all seem to go together. (I think it's time for a major purge of this bin.) Tardis courtesy of my husband's shirt scraps (a Spoonflower splurge); swan courtesy of my mom's birthday purse scraps.
Colors birthday book: AQUA and BLUE 
The purples are fun; I tend to use these up as soon as I find them, but I have lots of little treasured scraps around. I especially love the chair!
Colors birthday book: PURPLE