Thursday, January 31, 2008

January BJP Progress Report

Since it's the last day of January I figured it would be appropriate to show my progress so far with this month's journal quilt. I have a headache, as if I've been exposed to something again (but I have no idea what that might have been), so please forgive any lack of enthusiasm that might seep through.

I came up with the idea for this quilt at the end of December, after I got stuck on the Solstice quilt. The duality I experience in my world had come up again so I thought I would explore that from the aspect of my sign of the Zodiac, Gemini. I was a teenager the last time I gave any thought to how accurate or inaccurate the Zodiac descriptions might be. I did some online research, my primary source being As it turns out, I found it to be pretty darn accurate! It took a week or two of mulling that information over and looking at various depictions of the sign before I decided how I would approach this quilt.

Above all I wanted to keep it simple. That meant no renderings of twin cherubs or anything like that. Instead, it occurred to me that I might be able to create the sort of roman numeral 2 symbol by free piecing or stacking and slicing fabrics. I wanted to avoid any obvious light vs dark interpretations so instead of making one leg of the symbol white, for example, and the other black, I chose to use colors and to cut the symbol in half horizontally rather than vertically. By using the stack and slice method I could cut both halves of the quilt top at once. My first fabric choice was the green I'm trying to include in each journal quilt. Because the green I chose had pink in it I went with a pink print for the other fabric.

It took three tries to get the version you see above. I mis-cut the first time and got a rectangle instead of the symbol I was shooting for. On the second try I learned that I had to keep the legs of the symbol basically the same size or the symbol wouldn't show well. I was happy with this version until I realized that any beading I might do to outline the symbol would virtually disappear against the pink print or compete with it visually. Back to the stash...

This is my fourth try and I'm pleased with it. I have mixed a bead soup of shimmery white and silver beads with which I will outline the symbol. I chose the white per the information on the horoscope web page. I added silver to represent Mercury, Gemini's ruling planet. I don't anticipate doing much more than simply outlining the symbol with beads this time. There isn't really room for much more than that in my opinion. But who knows? Things change as we work, don't they?

And now it's time to think about what to do for February's journal page. I have a giant heart milagro I'd love to use as a focal point on a small quilt sometime, and February seems like the perfect time to use it, but I'm having second thoughts now. I'm leaning toward thinking of my quilts numerically instead of by month. Like, instead of December and January journal quilts they would be journal quilts 7 and 8. To sort of break free from the associations that might come with the calendar year. I guess my primary goal as I approach challenge projects is to do something unexpected, take it in a surprising direction. Watch; having said that I will probably turn out something completely trite for February!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

December Bead Journal Project - Finally!

DS#1 has been back in Arizona for a couple of days now. No sooner did we get him off than this area was hit with cold and snow. That messed up the roads, kept DH home, and consequently messed with my personal schedule. Not that my schedule is that intense or anything, but I can't work with a lot of interruptions. There were lots of interruptions as well as the normal let-down after having all of the family together over the weekend. So yesterday was the first day that I was really able to do any creative work. At some point I pieced the base for my January journal quilt but I will show that to you in another post.

I've been experiencing some frustration with my journal quilts for October/November and December. Both have been pieced for some time but for one reason or another I hadn't been able to move the embellishment stage forward. Yesterday I finally broke through the barrier on the December quilt. This is how it has been looking since about the end of December:

I pieced this near the end of December, inspired by the winter solstice and the accompanying lack of daylight at that time of the year (in this hemisphere). It is pieced entirely out of recycled silk neckties. This was also the time when southwest Washington State was was experiencing flooding. The wavy lines at the bottom read like a river to me. (We live about that close to a river too.) What occurred to me as I put the piece together and listened to the news was the old saying that, "This, too, shall pass." The days will get longer again, the floods will recede, homes and lives will be rebuilt (what choice do we have afterall?). The letter beads spelling out the quote filled the space over the river nicely. I wanted to make cloud cover by tacking down a sheer material with beads. That's where I got stuck. The first material I tried just ravelled out too much. Yesterday I went out to JoAnn's and bought a really simple lace. It's sort of a cross between netting and lace and doesn't ravel when cut. I didn't get quite the effect I was shooting for but it works. I didn't want the stars in the print to show through as much as they do but by that time it would have been too much work to do it over. This way I have both heavy cloud cover on the left side of the quilt and then lighter clouds and rain on the right. Very appropriate for this particular spot on the planet.

(This quilt is very hard to photograph because of the reflective qualities of the silks, the beads, and the sequins.)

I haven't bound the quilt yet but that's about all that's left to do. I had quite the quandry when it came to choosing a backing. I hadn't complied with my personal challenge to use lime green somewhere, somehow, on the quilt but I couldn't bring myself to use a green binding like I did on a previous journal quilt. So I went through my stash to see if I could find a lime green print for the back. Nope. Nothing felt right. Eventually I came across my pile of Hawaiian and tropical prints. Ah ha! Where would I rather be at the winter solstice? In the tropics of course! This morning I have pieced this for the back of my December journal quilt:

There's no lime green in it either, but this may have to be the quilt that is the exception that proves the rule. Maybe I'll be able to use lime green for the quick triangle pockets I'll use in place of a sleeve for hanging. Now I need to get off the computer and put this all together!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Peace, Man

Okay, I always wanted to be a hippie but never really suspected that I could be a hippie... As it turns out, I am!

You are a Hippie

You are a total hippie. While you may not wear birks or smell of incense, you have the soul of a hippie.

You don't trust authority, and you do as you please. You're willing to take a stand, even when what you believe isn't popular.

You like to experiment with ideas, lifestyles, and different subcultures.

You always gravitate toward what's radical and subversive. Normal, mainstream culture doesn't really resonate with you.

(Probably the people who know me best are not surprised by this finding at all.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another 2" Square :- )

DS #1 is arriving from Arizona later today for a short visit so this will be a quick post about a quick project... another 2" square for Monica's Pink Artist art doll project (click on the badge in my sidebar).

I finally started feeling like myself again late yesterday afternoon. When I finished the first 2" square I immediately made another top but hadn't been inspired yet as to how to embellish it. So I set it aside and got my scrap bag back out and made another top. Then I pulled out a sun bead I'd bought along with my green beads at my LBS and liked the look of it on the green ground. That led to flower sequins... and eventually I came up with the little dog button to finish it off. What a fun way to spend a couple of hours!

I also pulled out a couple different fabrics to have another go at a base for my January journal quilt for the Bead Journal Project. We'll see how soon I get to that, what with the son's visit and all. But the sun is shining ~ for a change ~ so it could happen. It's amazing how much more energy I have when the sun is shining!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January Take It Further Challenge Done!

Forgive me if I sound a bit terse this post. I did, in fact, go out shopping yesterday (and took my new tote with me and received at least one compliment, thank you very much!). I forgot it was a holiday for a lot of people. The stores were crowded. More people means more exposures for me. It's going to be a few more hours before the full effect wears off.

You may recall that the challenge for this month's Take It Further challenge was to create a resolved design based on someone you admire. I chose to depict (or try to depict as the case may be) the quality that I admire rather than any specific person. I'm still not sure what the best word is for that quality but it has to do with having a very strong sense of self. Being very sure of who you are and what you want out of life. The best symbol I could think of for that was a queen. A good and righteous queen, not someone wicked or evil or power hungry.

I had originally pulled a Burmese silk that I thought I would use for my base but I couldn't stand using just one fabric, and a solid color at that. Cottons didn't seem appropriate as I wanted to convey the feeling of royalty so I went into my stash of silk ties. I wanted to use purple because it has always been associated with royalty. I found the coolest hand-dyed silk! To get the colors I wanted I had to piece sections of it to cover my little 4" x 6" batting. At first I thought I would use it this way, with the seamlines creating an inverted V in the center of the quilt:

But then I turned it around to see how my button and charms would look with the V at the bottom of the piece. I liked that better.

It occurred to me that cats embody the quality I was trying to depict so I found a cat button to add to my piece. I cut off the shank and filed the back down smooth with an emery board, then secured the flat button with a couple of strategic stitches.

Now what? The center had stuff going on in it but the perimeter of the piece was blank. What to do, what to do? Eventually I thought of spiders and how unflappable they seem to be when their webs get damaged. They just repair or rebuild (and we never hear them complain about it!). That's an element of the quality I admire in others so I put a spiderweb in one corner with metallic threads. Then then other corner cried out for some embellishments too. I have a deck of playing cards that have illustrations of flowers and the meanings the Victorians assigned to them. Going through that I found a card for Canterbury Bells which apparently stand for Constancy, another element of the quality I admire. My flowers in the upper right corner are not exactly Canterbury Bells but they come close ;- ) Then, yesterday, I went to my LBS and bought a few more beads in the right shade of green to finish off the bottom edge. Technically this piece still has to be mounted or finished somehow but the design is resolved:

I also pieced three prototypes for my January BJP journal quilt yesterday (before I went out!). I thought maybe the third try was going to be the one I would use for my quilt but, looking at it this morning, I'm thinking I may have another go with a different set of prints. The ones I chose yesterday are too busy to allow any beading to really show up. Whether that happens today or not remains to be seen...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You May Now Address Me As...

So it turns out that Maggie, (Magpie's Collectables) who was so helpful with my Pink Artist button, is also known as Her Exalted Highness Duchess Maggie the Tremulous of Chignall Duntisbourne. I clicked on the link and discovered that I am:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Baroness Sue the Mirthful of Happy Bottomshire
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

After the success I had yesterday I had to laugh at how appropriate this was for me!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm So Proud of Myself!

I haven't been to my favorite blogs in a couple of days so I started to make the rounds an hour or two ago. My first stop was Beading at the Beach. There I saw that I could become a Pink Artist for a worthy cause. I clicked on the button and landed at Girl Gone Thread Wild where I learned that simply by making a 2" square using my favorite art medium I could contribute to an art doll that will eventually be auctioned off to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation (which, in case you've been living on another planet that does not have breast cancer as part of its' world, is a research effort to find a cure for said breast cancer). For whatever reason I immediately got into my scrap bag and pulled out a couple of bright pieces that I sewed together and then trimmed to the requisite 2". A square of batting, a scrap of the puppy dog print left over from my tote bag for the back, and I was ready to go. This is how I decorated it:

A few flower sequins and one of my precious bluebird sequins. Then I did a detached buttonhole stitch around the edge with one of the new varigated embroidery flosses from DMC. I really like the look. It reminds me of a crocheted or tatted edge. Then I took its' picture and discovered the macro setting on the camera! Woohoo! There's no stopping me now!

I'm proud of myself for acting on the impulse so quickly, for doing the hand stitched edge (over a raw edge no less), and for photographing it successfully. So much progress in one tiny piece and so little time! All I have to do now is figure out how to get the button on my blog to actually take you to the Pink Artist page on Monica's blog...
Thanks to Maggie for the code to make the Pink Artist button functional :- )

The Puppy Love Tote Bag

Let's see if we can post this before the granddaughters arrive and completely disrupt my train of thought!

I meant to take the camera with me to the meeting Thursday so I could get shots of everyone's tote bags for you to see. I even put the camera bag with my tote and purse. Maybe because the camera bag is black so I didn't see it, maybe for some other reason entirely, I walked off without it. {sigh} The only bag you'll get to see is mine. Which is sort of a shame because no two bags were alike, even in size. So what you see here is in no way representative of what the other ladies produced. (At least one bag was painted, and the challenge fabric used as an appliqued shape. One artist attempted needlefelting her bag but ended up covering it up with the challenge print and another piece of fabric for a pocket. She added a sprinkling of sequins to the pocket and got a bag that was very clean and contemporary looking. We also had a bag with a pocket trimmed in red rickrack. Her color scheme was sort of black and white, lime green, and red. Very striking.)

I'm just going to show you a full view of one side of the bag but then give you close-up shots all the way around the bag:

It turned out to be a very "Elle Woods" kind of tote (from the "Legally Blonde" movies). My original intention was to use one or more of my Halloween/skeleton prints. Turns out the challenge fabric (which you can see in this post) has a blue base rather than a black base. It didn't look good with any of my skeleton prints. I have quite a pile of doggy prints so that's where I looked next for inspiration. I found this fat eighth that seemed to work, and off I went! Once I have a focal fabric I pull other colors/prints that I like with it. I generally pull more than I end up using but I like having choices.

The other artists used the challenge fabric more prominently than I did but hey, I used it! I just covered it up with appliques and sequins and things!

I love the ball fringe! And the pink check ribbon was a serendipitous find. I thought I was going to use some pink rickrack on this but it didn't need it in the end.

This is a tote I will use so there were a few other embellishments I decided against using because of their fragility. I was concerned about getting all the parts back together (I had removed the original handles to make longer ones) but even that process went smoothly. I don't think I could be more pleased with this project. {whew!} How nice to be able to say that!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Tote Bag is Done!

Woohoo!!! And it turned out pretty much the way I envisioned it too. Color me happy :- )

Apparently I misunderstood the weather forecast on Monday or the weather guys didn't see the break in the cloud cover coming. The sun shone all day yesterday. Yippee! Of course it's back to light gray again today. But it's not raining. I'll take every little blessing I can get!

Since you've been so patient I have photographed a little quilt I made in 1994, shortly after we moved up here from Texas. It's possible that this is the first completely intuitive quilt I ever made. I was suffering from homesickness at the time of its' construction, therefore the name "Blue Monday."

It measures 14" x 16.5". There are scraps from at least one maternity dress I'd made for myself in it. My favorite element is the pink button featuring the mother mouse and her baby. They remind me of Beatrix Potter's drawings (for all I know it could be a licensed image from one of her books).

We read several of Beatrix's books to our children when they were little. The tales of Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle were a couple of our favorites. Now the movie "Miss Potter" is one of my favorite things to watch on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Okay. I have two more challenges to work on. Onward!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Enough is Enough!

It has looked like four o'clock in the afternoon ever since I got out of bed this morning. (Around here it's dark by five.) We had sunshine all day yesterday - woohoo! But life has since returned to normal. I was awakened by high winds, our lights flickered during breakfast, and it has been raining pretty seriously, even for the Pacific Northwest, ever since. The forecast is not predicting sunshine in any amount until next week sometime. HELP! If you don't hear from me again by the end of the week call the Coast Guard!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Catching Up

While I was out of commission last week not only did I not post to my blog but I didn't even feel up to reading the long list of blogs I've made a habit of visiting. I think I've been cruising around Blogland for almost 3 hours now, catching up! I know there's a way to subscribe to a lot of the blogs, I just haven't taken the time to learn the details or figure out how to do it yet. I'm not a techno-geek, just a fiber geek!

I have finally put in some time on the tote bag challenge that's due later this week. I'm not showing pictures of what I've done so far because I know at least one member of the group reads this blog and I want it to be a surprise. This is what the tote bag originally looked like:

And this is the fabric that we're supposed to use on the tote bag somehow:

One of the group members suggested pre-washing the bags because she was leery of shrinkage. Good thinking! Once washed and dryed the bag was significantly smaller. Shorter and skinnier. What I will tell you is that I removed the handles from the tote bag, intending to replace them with custom-made handles. Well, that little experiment didn't work. It's been a long time since I've had such a complete failure. I finally gave up and went out to buy more webbing ~ because the handles will have to be longer than the ones I took off the bag. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

The bright spot of the last week was when my friend C~ stopped by to drop off a piece of fabric she'd found that had my name on it!

This is a flannel print she found on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics. My first thought was gift bags a la Tonya at Lazy Gal Quilting. You can see her bags here and here. (She also has a tutorial for making them; check the sidebar on her blog.) C~ also brought me a couple of ties she'd picked up at a new thrift store in the area. I didn't photograph them as they were rather fragrant. They went straight into the laundry and have now been washed, ironed dry, and assimilated into the stash.

I want to thank everyone who has been leaving comments for me. I may or may not get back to you (it often depends on whether you are a no-reply commenter) but know that I appreciate your input and your good wishes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mystery Gifts Revealed (part 2)

It's been kind of a rough week. I've had several chemical exposures ~ a couple of them unexpected. (Since when do "perfume and dye free" dryer sheets have scent?!) My SIL sent me some gorgeous fabric from her recent trip to India. I should have known better than to open that package without my mask on but... you can guess what happened. It actually smelled good to me (most of the scents that make me ill are now offensive as well) but apparently wasn't good for me.

Now, for the rest of the mystery gifts I made at Christmastime.There are two more pillows and a wall hanging to show you:

The pillow above was given to my brother and his family who are into horses big-time. I thought the strap-and-buckle print on one of the ties was very appropriate for them.

You should be able to click on these photos to see them up close and personal.

The wall hanging started with the house block. It was a 12" block (kitties included) I made about a decade ago. The SIL who sent me the fabric from India saw the block shortly after I created it and loved it. She asked me to make a pillow out of it for her. Obviously I didn't jump right on her request. But when I was going through my orphan blocks I came across the block again and also found the little 9-Patch blocks made out of 1930's reproductions prints. They seemed to want to go together. (I want to make it clear that those blocks were perfectly straight when they went into the quilt. It's the rickrack that is wonky!)

I added the applique for the cloud, the bluebird sequin (for happiness), the lace curtain on the window, the doorknocker button, a ceramic mailbox button I'd purchased at the IQA quilt show in Houston one year (again, more than a decade ago), the little flower trim at the edge of the "yard," and the rickrack around the 9-Patch blocks. It was a challenge to find enough of the right pink to bind the quilt, small as it is.

I've had a request to show my Bead Round Robin block again. Rather than taking the time to load the photos once more, here's the link to the page where I first showed it when it came home. There were six ladies in our group; only one wasn't able to work on my block. I haven't done a thing to it since it came home. It's curently hanging on my design wall, patiently waiting for attention. It's going to be awhile before I do anything with it though. I have less than a week now to fulfill the tote bag challenge for my local artist group and then I have both the Take It Further and Bead Journal Project challenges for this month to work on!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Baaad Mommy

I went out to my Darling Daughter's over the weekend. Saturday she and I drove to a nearby town neither of us had really explored before. We checked out the quilt shop and made a brief foray into a thrift shop. I only bought a few ties and one piece of new fabric for myself. DD, however, was overcome by the lure of color and print and went hog wild on new fabric! I'm such a baaad influence. ;- ) DD doesnt' even sew! (Yet.) In her defense, half of it will end up as gifts for people she loves. She bought the fabric, I get to make the gifts. Not that I needed any more projects!! But when someone else is buying the fabric who can resist?

First, the ties:

I want to make more of the pillows I made at Christmastime. I just have to find a more reliable source for tassels. Affordable tassels.

These fabrics will be a baby quilt for DD's nephew. The top two are flannels for one side of the quilt, the bottom print is regular cotton and will be the other side of the quilt. I will be basing the design of this quilt on a receiving blanket I made for DD when she was expecting Miss M.

The fairy print below (on the left) will be a pillowcase for Miss M. The blue/green fish print is what I bought for myself. I have no specific plans for it at this point.

These are the fabrics DD bought for herself:

The fairies will be the starting point for a wall hanging. The two purples and the print on the bottom are for new potholders. I'm going to take apart the frog potholder you see in the picture and use the frog in one of the new potholders.

I was pleased with how well I held up throughout this shopping expedition. I did suffer a reaction to the quilt shop but it wasn't severe and didn't last as long as it could have. More disappointing is the discovery this morning that the Bounce dryer sheets we bought 6 weeks ago and that are labeled "Dye and Perfume Free" are NOT. The box has been open, airing out, and still has more fragrance than I can tolerate. Guess it's time to go on the hunt for an acceptable substitute... {sigh}

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mystery Gifts Revealed (part 1)

I almost forgot to share with you the pictures of the gifts I was working on at Christmastime! These pillows were made out of the silk ties I've been collecting from local thrift shops. I backed them with dupioni silk.

These are only two of the four pillows I made. There's also a wall hanging that I'll show in another post.

Today I have been working out my ideas for the tote bag challenge I'm participating in locally. I didn't think to get a picture of the challenge fabric yet; I'll have to do that before I cut into it. It looks ~ to me ~ like a black fabric that has been discharged in a very controlled way. Turns out it has more blue in it than I would ever have guessed. That threw me for a loop when I first began to audition other fabrics. Another element of the challenge is to include bright lime green. That wasn't nearly as difficult as finding co-ordinating fabrics/prints! I think I'm ready to begin cutting and sewing but will probably have to wait a couple of days. (The bags are supposed to be finished and presented at our next meeting on January 17.) I'm going back out to my daughter's house so DH can have a movie fest with the volume turned WAY UP. A movie theater experience featuring his favorite action movies is one of the things that recharges his batteries. I find the noise overwhelming. Since he has to return to work on Monday I'll go visit the DGD's and let him have his experience. :- )

A couple of other items: Is anyone else out there hooked on Project Runway? Did you see the Hershey's Chocolate challenge this week?! What fun! It's sheer torture having to wait another week for the next episode.

And on the Take It Further Challenge front, I'm wondering whether I want to completely finish each piece as I make it or whether I could leave them "raw" until the very end to give myself more options for setting them together somehow. I have no interest in making an official quilt out of them. There are some interesting plans for assembling some of the Bead Journal Project pages that are being made. My concern is that if I leave them raw I will then have a lot of finishing work to do at the end of the year and, honestly, finishing is my weak point.

One more thing: I had my name on the waiting list for a new book from our library (Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair). When it came to be my turn to read the book I couldn't get past the first page because of the cigarette smoke that had already permeated the pages. How disappointing! I've ordered the book from now and would really like it to arrive before I leave for DD's so I can read it during quiet moments there. {sigh}

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Take It Further Challenge #1

The January challenge for Take It Further has been issued:

The key concept for January is a feeling we have all had, the feeling of admiration for another. Ask yourself who do you look up to and admire? Why? What is it you admire about them? This is the first Take it Further challenge in 2008. Take the idea, develop it into a resolved design during that month and apply it to fiber or paper.

Every month there will be two options. The second option is a colour scheme. This means that if you don’t like the concept you can work the colour scheme or if you don’t like the colour scheme you can work with the concept. Or you can work with both. (Click on the link to see the colors.)

The concept challenge took my breath away when I first read it. That's exactly that sort of thing that made me think two or three times before committing to the challenge at all. But working with the color scheme would be no challenge whatsoever for me. So I've been thinking about who I admire and what it is about them that I admire.

The list is surprisingly short. Shorter than it used to be in fact. And they are all women. Two in particular stood out in my mind so it became a debate over which one to base my piece on. My preference was not to highlight either one but to showcase the quality I admire that they represent.

The next question was format for my challenge pieces. There's going to be a challenge every month. This will be in addition to all the other projects I have in the works. (I have reached the conclusion that last year was my year for finishing older projects and weeding out. Obviously I didn't get everything done or out of the way but enough was accomplished to allow me to put that stuff back on the back burner for the time being and focus on new endeavors this year.) My goal is to keep these pieces as small and simple as I can without sacrificing design integrity. I'm pretty sure that I will be working within the 4" x 6" postcard format at this point.

We are also supposed to blog about our progress (or process). I've already developed a habit of recording most of my design decisions, etc. as I work on a project so this shouldn't be too difficult for me. However, instead of making my notes in my regular 8.5" x 11" sketchbook I decided to dedicate a small journal to this project so all my notes would be in one place at the end of the year. This notebook features cover art by Dottie Moore.

I have gone so far as to pick out a potential background fabric and two embellishments for my first TIF piece. The quality I admire in other women (I think because I don't seem to possess it myself) is a strong sense of self-identity. They know who they are and what they want to do in the world. I see these women as queens of their respective realms. One of the colors in the challenge color scheme is what I think of as a royal purple. I'm not planning to consciously use the given color scheme but in this case it worked out well. In terms of my construction process, I intend to keep doing what I've been doing with my journal quilts: piece and embellish intuitively. What I want out of this challenge is more practice in the magic of transforming ideas into imagery.
I am Elinor Dashwood!

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