Sunday, November 30, 2008

November's Take It Further Challenge

The Take It Further challenge for November was to use typography as inspiration. You may recall that I had quite a bit of fun doing research for this challenge. You may also recall that I said I hoped to make this month's challenge postcard quilt do double duty as the second embroidered piece for the Sumptuous Surfaces class I'm taking. Ha! How many of you guessed that that little plan would fall by the wayside? Gold star on your forehead if you did because you're right.

I got stalled on my monochromatic piece for the Surfaces class because I needed to refresh my embroidery skills. To that end I put together a little band sampler...

but have not taken a single stitch yet. Meanwhile I was playing with design ideas for both the TIF challenge and the color assignment for the Sumptuous Surfaces class. As Thanksgiving came and went I realized that there was no way I would even come close to meeting the deadline for the TIF challenge if I were to embroider it. The plans I had for a stitched piece were far too intricate to pull off in a pieced version. So I went back to and had another look around. There was one photograph that stood out in my mind, one that I really wanted to interpret in fiber. One that would also be very easy to piece. After a while I realized that I could, in fact, make it work for this challenge because the shape of the composition creates an 'L'. Voila! Typographical inspiration! You can see the photo here. And here's my version of it:

I have added the address designation "L11" in simple straight stitches to reference the typographical inspiration and the month of the challenge. The stitches themselves and the color I chose to do them in are the only two elements I might change if I were to do this over again. Black was too harsh, but the natural thread is almost too light. It's a bamboo floss that I have used in my monochromatic embroidery piece so it was right at hand, easy to use.

Now Sharon has posted the challenge for December: "For the final challenge of the year and since it is the gift giving season and many of us run ourselves ragged either making gifts or buying them I want to ask what is the idea of generosity to you. That is the theme for this month. So just take a few moments and think about what it is to give and how would you represent that visually." Oi vay!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

However you choose to spend it ;- )

Thanks to Calamity Kim for the lovely holiday postcard!

Of course, Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for our blessings. I'm grateful for many, many things. Near the top of the list, however, are my internet friends. I would give you all a big hug if I could. I appreciate your friendship and support ~ all year long.

As I write this I expect DD will be hosting dinner for her in-laws in her little house. Our sons will be here, and their dad will cook. Sounds like we'll be eating roast beef instead of turkey this year. The guys don't care for turkey all that much; I happen to like it a lot. I'll miss having freshly roasted bird but don't blame DH for not wanting to prepare food he's not excited to eat.

DH would love to spend the day watching movies. I'd rather sew. Probably we'll meet somewhere in the middle. In the meantime I am thrilled to report that I have put borders on the Christmas round robin top, pieced up a back, and delivered the all the parts to my local long arm quilter!

Ta daa!

I had enough of the border print to cut binding strips from it too. This is all that's left:
(That's two pieces 2.75" wide by about 10" long and one 5" x 9" piece.)

It took some doing to find holiday prints in my stash that were big enough to use for backing fabric. I didn't want to get caught up in piecing a bunch of stuff together to make the back. I had a couple of pieces of yardage that were beautiful but had been purchased back in the days before I knew what a difference there is between cheap chain store fabrics and quilting cottons. Those will go to the thrift shop for someone else's holiday craft or decorating projects. I did eventually find two prints that worked together and make sense with the top. Now I just have to be patient while Heather works her magic. Time to turn my attention to one of my other WIP's!

Monday, November 24, 2008

One More Time

Finally feeling more like myself again. It's always a relief to come back to the normal levels of energy and enthusiasm. Deep in my being lies the fear that one of these days I won't make it back - perish the thought!

Since my last post my sweet little MIL passed from this world to the next. Alzheimer's has claimed another victim. That makes three from my world during the course of the past month. If you check out my sidebar you'll see a couple of ways you can help contribute to the research efforts. One is to make and donate a little quilt for Ami Simms' Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (or bid on and buy a quilt!), the other is to click on the big purple ribbon. The first click contributes $10 towards Alzheimer's research. After that I'm not sure how much each click earns.

I couldn't attend the funeral for my MIL of course. {sigh} But all the rest of my family were able to be there, which left me with the whole house to myself for the weekend. Did I sew like a mad woman?


I cleaned house.

That shows you just how out of myself I've been. I would rather do almost anything other than cook or clean house. There are still areas that need attention but now that I'm feeling better it's unlikely they will get that attention. ;- )

Instead I have caught a bit of the holiday spirit and pulled out this Christmas round robin quilt top that I last worked on two years ago (almost to the day):

Back then I was trying to make it big enough to fit our double bed. This morning I decided to scrap that plan and just get the thing done so we can have it on the couch during the holiday season. (I reluctantly put the Halloween quilt away while I was cleaning up.) As you can see, Reilly wanted to help too.

I found a holly print in my stash that should be big enough to border the top and bottom edges of this quilt. If I play my cards right I may also be able to use it to bind the quilt. Otherwise I'm thinking I'll bind the two sides with what's left over of the holly print (which has a black background) and then just use a solid black to bind the top and bottom edges. What I need to figure out before I get to that point, however, is how to quilt or tie this puppy. (The quilt, not the dog!)

Duh. I just realized I should have rotated this photo for you since the quilt top is directional. Oh well. Everyone tip your head to the left! (Hopefully you can click on this photo and get the picture in greater detail.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Days of Whine and Comfort

If I were a braver woman (or more shameless perhaps) I would show you a picture of my working surfaces at the moment. Let me instead simply tell you that even if I were to take that picture you wouldn't be able to see my work surfaces. They have somehow become buried under studio journals, piles of fabric scraps, piles of paper, including pictures ripped out of magazines, and a whole bunch of embroidery threads.

I filled up the journal I was using during the Studio Journal class. Before that class began I had two other sketchbooks going. Since the class I've been trying to use them up, and I've been referring back to my class journal while doing so. Not being able to pass up a sale, I just picked up a new sketchbook too, to use when I have finally filled the others. Too many books!

The magazine clippings will eventually end up in one or more studio journals. I've run out of scotch tape (I thought I had at least one more refill in my drawer) and can't use glue or glue sticks so they have to wait until someone runs to the store for me. The rest of the papers need to be filed in the appropriate places. What I wouldn't give for a secretary who dusts.

The fabric scraps are the leftovers from my Fungly quilt. How insane is that?! I wanted to use them up, not just put them away, but that hasn't happened. So there they sit. And now I have ideas for new quilts I want to make that don't call for those kinds of prints. Of course.

The embroidery threads are for my current project, the monochromatic postcard I'm stitching as part of the Sumptuous Surfaces class. I want to get my band sampler set up so I can practice stitches I once knew and try out others. That would be much easier to accomplish if I had a little more room in which to work! But I'm just not feeling all that well today. Some days I can work in spite of how I feel, other days it's better to simply give in and be a vegetable. I think I may need to be a vegetable for a day or two.

To tide you over I thought I would share a little quilt I made back when I first read Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking. I don't think I've shown it before. I call it "Comfort" because it's made of what I think of as comfort fibers: soft wools and flannel. They were all scraps given to me by a dollmaker friend. I carried out the comfort theme (in my mind at least) by tying it with a red crochet thread and adding a few buttons I had inherited from my mother's button tin. It's about 14" x 18".

And now I'm going to go comfort myself under a slightly larger quilt... ;- )

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Itchin' to Stitch

First of all, let me share some news: Sharon Boggon has moved her blog and all of her great resource material to There are links to all of the tips and tutorials and eye candy on her sidebar as well as links to the various challenges and activities she has or is hosting. This woman is a walking, talking, blogging font of embroidery and textile information and is constantly on the hunt for something new to share with us. I stitch in awe of her.

And speaking of stitching, here's where I am so far with my Sumptuous Surfaces piece:

Can you see the bits of turkey work I added? That's the fuzzy Whisper thread I bought on my last shopping excursion. I also did a bit of feather stitching with it to sort of fill in the shrubbery on the top right side.

It needs more but I'm afraid to go any further. It's simply a fear of the unknown. I am not fluent in the language of embroidery stitches so I don't know what can be achieved. Seeing pictures of what others have done is one thing. To make those stitches yourself is another. Only after you have stitched them can you begin to fully comprehend the possibilities they hold. To that end I have made up my mind to begin a band sampler a la Sharon's and Annie's:

Sharon's is the wider, longer version on the right, Annie's narrower sampler is on the left. Sharon has been teaching for some time so she had lots of little bits of stitching that she had been hauling around in folders and things. The folders got to be heavy and at least one piece of stitching got lost along the way so she decided to piece them all together into one long strip. Now she just rolls up her sampler and takes it with her. Students can still see and touch but it's much easier to transport and much harder to lose!

Annie's sampler is unique because she has included references to historic or meaningful events inbetween her stitch samples. You can see in the photo I lifted below that she has documented the Australian government's apology to the Aborigines. (There are more detail shots on Sharon's blog post. Just click on the link above.)

Annie blogs at Annies Crazy World. You can see all of her stitching there, usually in great detail.

The idea for a stitch sampler that incorporates personal history has been tickling my brain ever since I first read about this pair of samplers. When I was introduced to embroidery it was through kits and charted projects. Samplers were a static thing that someone else had designed and really didn't perform the function of giving experience with a lot of different stitches. (Can you say 'boooring'?) I played around with a greater variety of stitches when I was doing needlepoint, and that kept me interested for several years. Now that I have a desire for a working knowledge of embroidery stitches I have the perfect excuse to start a band sampler of my own! :- )

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Been a Busy Week!

It all started with a full day on the computer, doing research for the typography challenge for Take It Further in November. I played around with fonts and monogram arrangements for my initials, but eventually ended up on looking at hundreds of pictures of signs and then house numbers and the cornerstone/date blocks of buildings. There's some great stuff out there! Especially in England where they have really old buildings with stonework and carvings the like of which you don't see anymore. It was fascinating to note the different typefaces used in different time periods. I discovered that I am more drawn to numbers than letters. At least for the time being ;- )

If you go to along the top of the page you'll see a horizontal menu bar. 'Groups' is one of the buttons. Click on the tiny triangle and you'll get a drop-down menu. Choose 'Search for a Group' and then type in the word letters or typography or numbers or signs or whatever you can think of and you'll get a list of groups fitting that topic. Who knew there would be a group for "beautiful numbers?!" Click on the name of the group that seems the most fitting for what you're looking for and voila! hundreds of pictures to peruse. But be careful - I wasn't kidding when I said I spent a whole day doing research. Most of that time was spent on Flickr!

The next thing I tackled was my assignment for the Sumptuous Surfaces class. Everyone has designed their own piece to embroider and texturize. I chose to depict a house built into a sand dune. Sort of a hobbit hole if you will. This piece is to be done in a neutral monochromatic palette. I have the faintest touch of green in a varigated cotton floss I've used but other than that everything is pretty much the same color so far.

I've only just begun the stitching; there's a lot more to do. I keep thinking I need to introduce at least another shade (darker probably) but haven't succeeded in finding the right threads so far. Yesterday I went out to look locally and came home with another texture, but it's the same color. Oh well.

The next assignment will involve color. We don't get that lesson until next week or the week after though so I don't know what I'll be doing yet. I am severely tempted to combine that assignment with the November typography challenge though. How fun would it be to illustrate a single letter or number in color and texture?!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Magpie's Nest

I have finally completed my postcard for October's Take It Further challenge.

The challenge itself was straightforward enough... it just took me a couple of weeks to realize that the answer - the design - was right in front of my face! (Which is where it usually is. When am I going to save myself some time and start by looking there?)

Sharon's challenge for October was to think about our textile workspace and how we feel about it or what role it plays in our lives. I mentioned in an earlier post that I spend nearly all day, every day, in my studio. It's the best-lit room in the house and I need lots of light. It wasn't until I journaled about the topic one morning that it became clear to me that I feel about my studio the way I think a bird would feel about its' nest. It is a place of safety and refuge. I go elsewhere to get food (which may or may not be consumed in my nest/studio), and like a magpie I keep (nearly) all my treasures there. (When I settled on a name for this blog of mine I didn't realize quite how accurate it was! At the time I was thinking about the stories I'd heard of magpies collecting sparkly things and decorating their nests with them.)

Once I decided to give in and just make a nest all sorts of other design issues cropped up. Realistic or no? Try to fit in some of the things you'd find in my studio? How to construct it, how to embellish it, what colors to use? Finally I got into my scrap bags and pulled out some colors I wanted to work with. I thought it was going to be bright pure hues but that didn't happen. Instead I found myself trying to achieve a sense of depth by manipulating the values of the colors in the nest. Not sure I succeeded on that point. But using the leaf print to indicate a tree and finding the scrap of the 1930's reproduction print of the scottie dogs were serendipity. Because the scotties are so small it gives the illusion of distance between the nest and the dogs. And it was appropriate to use because I always have a dog or two running around the tree my nest is in!

I have tried to load this so you'll be able to click on the picture of the whole postcard and see it larger. I also did a detail shot of the nest so you can see the short little 'sticks' of yarn that I used to try to make the log cabin piecing look more nest-like.

Those were yarn color samples I collected back when I was making dolls. I was pleased to have finally found a use for some of them. I used another yarn to soften the seamlines of the leaf print and to try to give a stronger impression of leaves or a tree. Magpies always have to have their sparkle so I used as many beads as I could get away with too :- )

Now I can turn my attention to November's challenge, which is to use typography as inspiration. That means using the shape of letters or numbers as design elements rather than interpreting any particular text. Should be interesting. GuzzieSue has already done a 3-D piece based on the letter 'S'. Since I am also a Sue the letter 'S' would be a logical place for me to start as well. But that would be obvious, right in front of my face, and we can't have that!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hooray! Hooray!

The political ads end today! (And yes, I voted.)

That little couplet was on a reader board somewhere in our area. I saw it on our local news broadcast and looked all over to try to find the still photo but had no luck. The only downside to the end of the political advertising is that now we'll be inundated with ads for pharmaceuticals again. {sigh}

I've finally done some actual sewing. The scraps on my work surfaces have been reduced by 75% or so. There are still the leftover pieces from the Fungly quilt to deal with but I haven't been able to decide what to do with them yet.

These will probably go into my orphan block tub:

This may become another donation quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative:

I'm glad I got as much done as I did yesterday because today I have been recovering from my trip to the food co-op yesterday afternoon. I was assaulted by perfume on another shopper and the exhaust fumes of an old VW van that was burning oil. We have a lovely little food co-op but I don't really enjoy shopping for the few foods I can still eat. (I don't enjoy cooking at all.) It's even more discouraging to go shopping for boring stuff and be made sick in the process.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Post-Halloween Doldrums

It's definitely November here in the Pacific Northwest. It rained a bit Halloween morning but cleared up in time for the trick or treaters. The sun has managed to peek through a couple of times since then, but for the most part it's been gray and drippy. And thus it begins... {sigh}

After all the finishes during the last couple of weeks of October I've felt singularly unproductive these past several days. I still haven't tackled my Take It Further postcard for October, and now there's a new challenge out for November. I have a pretty good idea what I want to attempt for October's challenge; it's just a matter of sitting down and doing it. (Or getting up, moving away from the computer, and sitting down at the sewing machine!) I also have these blocks I am desperate to get off the sheet and into some sort of quilt top:

That sheet has been hanging in front of the closet for two years now. It's time to move on! It's in the way and I'm tired of it being in the way. I think my original plan for those blocks got sidetracked once I pinned them to the sheet. (If I'd been a little more diligent in keeping my studio journal back then - when I pinned those blocks to the sheet - I'd have a better idea what it was I was planning to do!) Now I'm just about ready to mash them all together like I did for my Orphan Train quilt and call it good.

Another obstacle in my path of late has been the piles of scraps that accumulated with the creation of my Fungly quilt, the Halloween quilt, the Alzheimer's quilt and the kitty quilts. Yesterday I finally began the process of sorting them according to which ones were big enough to go back into the stash and what needed to be dealt with in another way. I like the concept of the Floor Scrap quilts that are being made a la Gwen Martson. (here and here) I just haven't had the motivation to pick up two pieces of fabric and sew them together. Yet.

Soon, maybe even today, I expect the doldrums will wear off and I'll be sewing again. I may even put on my witch's hat to see whether I can channel any creative energy from it...

It's so nice having a hat that actually fits. I have a small head so it's rare to find one commercially that will stay put as I move around. I've heard of other artists who signal themselves that it's time to get to work by donning an apron... why not a hat? And why not a special hat?! Ooo, maybe I'll piece some fabrics together for my son to use to make the body of a special new hat! ;- )