Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time Flies . . .

Once again I have to write, "It's been a while."  I know I am a naughty blogger. . . too many days, not enough posts . . . but I don't know what to do about it. 

I love having quilting projects to show you and discuss but all of my projects are ongoing and it takes so long for me to get anything to a stage that I can photograph and post about that I'm getting very frustrated, (and if you can follow that sentence....well, you're more on top of it then me!).  I really need to find a way to speed up my working process but then that would necessitate kicking my son, husband, and dog out of the house.  Probably not a workable plan.

I assume that many of you are like me.  We really need to work on our projects, to jump on those great ideas that pop into our heads, to just clean our desks so we can find our keyboards.  But life intervenes, someone's yelling that they're hungry, they can't find their shoes, or the dog just threw up.  Then there's that pesky never ending laundry and dishwashing, the beds need to be changed, the toilets need to be cleaned, and then the dog throws up again.

Well, you know what I mean.

Sometimes I envy people who don't have this drive to create.  I've never not had it so I don't know any other way to be, but sometimes I think it would be great to take a vacation from it.  To just "be" for a while. 

But then I wouldn't be me and that doesn't seem right either.

Oh well, I guess I'll just carry on as usual!  I'm still working away on my usual bevy of projects and have a new idea that I hope to share with you next week.  In the meantime I'm going to try to not be so hard on myself.  I either feel bad because I'm neglecting my quilting or neglecting my family.  I definitely can't do the latter, but I don't want to do the former either.  Maybe eventually I'll find that balance but for now I'll just keep truckin' along .

Happy Stitching!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Art or Not?

I love doing this blog because it gives me a place to pull my thoughts together and discuss some of the things that are rattling around in my head, (and let me tell you, there's room to rattle!).

I guess it's in the DNA of creative people to be riddled with doubts about themselves and what they do.  Because we put so much of ourselves into what we create, acceptance or rejection of our work can be perceived as acceptance or rejection of us. 

I've been fortunate in having received more praise than rejection, but there's a simple wimpy reason for that.  I have a tendency to expose my work only to those I believe will like it.  Face it, my work wouldn't be a winner amongst a group of reproduction quilts in a Civil War quilt contest.  Nor would it receive favor in very traditional quilt guild shows. 

Of course there are people in all venues who may find some value in it.  Some might enjoy the technique, others the color choices, still others aspects of the design.  It doesn't make my work good or bad if it's attacked or praised, it just means that it's struck a positive or negative chord with a specific group of people.
As they say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

This is very true and something that more sensitive artists and craftspeople have not come to grips with.  If someone doesn't like your work it doesn't make you bad, and if someone loves your work it doesn't make you good.  It's about the work, not you.  That's a very hard concept for most people.

Face it, us artsy types are more prone to take things personally because we know that what people see in our "art" are the choices we've made.  It's not like accounting, where the numbers are what they are and they're the same for everybody.  So, when we put our work out there to be judged we put ourselves out there as well.

I've struggled for years with the word "art."  A lot of it is from my upbringing.  We weren't raised to "toot our own horns" and to call myself an "artist" seemed pretentious.  Even now after having done this for many years and having my work referred to as "art" for nearly as long . . . I still struggle with it.

I prefer to refer to my "art" as my "work" because that's what it is to me.  It's something I made with my talents and skills, the "art" part isn't up to me, it's up to other people to make that judgement.

Frankly it no longer matters that much to me.  I'd make what I make regardless of what others thought of it.  It's in me and it has to come out and if they like it great, if they don't, so what? 
I've recently had some great news that I'm not at liberty to share yet.  Suffice it to say that some good things will be coming my way soon.  It's exciting, and I'm thrilled.  I'm also glad that I'm at a place in  my life as an artist and a person that I can enjoy it without worrying about how others will receive it.  I am who I am and I do what I do.

Bring it on!

Happy Stitching!


Friday, June 18, 2010


I just picked up this magazine at Michael's.  I've always loved the Somerset magazines because the photography is great and the artwork is inspiring.   I didn't expect it to have much traditional sewing as that isn't what this mixed media craze is about.

I'm not going to say that I was disappointed as I found a lot of very cool and interesting projects, and I can't resist the more colorful art.  For instance, this piece by Roxanne Padgett is after my own heart.  I love the colors, the text, and the use of black and white polka dots, (a weakness of mine), as well as all the embellishments.
I'm really torn about this stuff.  I like it but I can't imagine doing it myself, even though the style is similiar to my own.  I was thinking about it last night as I was thumbing the pages of this magazine.  Why am I so resistant to this rougher style of fabric art? 

I've been seeing these machine stitched mixed media pieces for a while now and although I admire their artistic value and in many ways envy their "out there" sensibility, I just can't bring myself to join the club.  The hard part is that I'd kind of like to.  I know it's not easy to do these things and I'm not devaluing it at all, it's just that if I deconstructed this piece and put it together the way I'd do it it would take so much longer.  Just hand appliquing the text would take me forever, not to mention piecing or appliquing the wedges, adding the embellishments and getting rid of all of the rough edges.  But would all my fussing and doing things the "right" way make it a better piece of art?  I don't think so.

Of course, I doubt this artist considers her work to be "quilting" so it's like comparing apples and oranges.  However, it got me thinking about why I do things the way I do them.  Maybe I should lighten up a bit, back off of the intense needle turning and have some fun with my sewing machine for a change.  The real temptation to me is that if I backed off of my insistence on perfect "technique" that maybe I'd get more done, and have more fun doing it.
Have any of you tried this kind of work and what do you think about it? Part of me doesn't want to give up my traditional ways, but then, it would be great to finish a piece in a few days as opposed to a few months.  Very tempting.....

Happy Stitching!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Embellishment Ideas

As usual I have a few things I'm working on right now.  I finished pulling my embellishments for this quilt which I'm calling my "school" quilt for now.  I decided to use objects that were education related and inspiring.  Hence the embroidered labels . . . which are scrapbooking supplies!  I discovered that most of these are easy to use; the adhesive pulls right off the back and the edges are finished enough that you can stitch them on easily.  I'm sure they'd fuse beautifully too.

A quilt like this is a great place to use up any old buttons you might have around.  I collect them from everywhere and no opportunity to acquire more escapes me!  We usually donate gently used clothes to Goodwill but those that aren't are always clipped of all buttons before they go into the bin.  As you can see the buttons on the right side of the photo look like they came from a man's shirt....they probably did!
I love using embroidery floss and stiches to accentuate fabric patterns.  In this case I outlined the butterfly wings and then used a chain stitch to flow to the flower button and then continued with a cream colored quilting stitch across the printed fabric....ending with a dragonfly button.  I love finding a way to integrate different fabrics and in this case I needed to do something with the printed fabric.  The "LOVE" label changed things up a bit and the free flow of stitching kept it from being too boring.
In this case I outlined the "A++" with a delicate chain stitch, and used a quilting stitch around it.  The most fun is using an assortment of square buttons to accentuate the pattern in the fabric.  Note the quilting stitches between the squares.  As you can see I didn't start doing them until a few buttons in when I noticed the pattern.  What a gift!  Now I'm able to add some more stability and texture and still go with the flow of the fabric pattern.

I usually lay out these buttons in advance and sometimes I'll use my digital camera to remind me where they should go.  If I don't have a camera I have another technique to keep things in sequence.  I simple use a pin to pick up the buttons one by one with the last button I plan on stitching going on the pin first.  I usually work counter-clockwise, (no idea why, it's just how I do it!), and always start in the upper left hand corner or edge.  This way, even if I can't start stitching right away, I'll know where the embellishments go.  I just poke the pin into a pincushion or my little tool carrier.  See below:
I always love to follow the patterns of the fabric when I do my quilting and embellishment.  In this case, you can see I followed the rings, changing thread colors when appropriate.  I also moved down into another fabric to tie the two together.  Notice how I don't do all of the rings, just enough to keep things interesting.  I've done the "everything" before and although it looks good it's sometimes "too much."
I also love to use beads as a way to add interest and texture.  In this case I used coordinating blue beads to give the blue of the pattern a little kick.  In this case there's tons of red and I wanted to give the eye something else to look at.  The shimmer of the beads will lower the red "read" of the area.

Oh, and great news!  I did get my Tufted Tweets fat quarters.  They arrived only a couple of days after I ordered them and they came from the East Coast.  I'm impressed!  I bought them from Sew Fresh fabrics on Etsy and can't say enough about how easy the process was.  I also love the way the package arrived, check it out:
Now I have to find the time to do something with them!  Oh well, I've got to clean up my office first, (again!), I'm still living with Baseball stuff that needs to go.  The decks must be cleared!!!

Hope you've got lots of fun stuff to do and (if you have them), your kids aren't driving you too crazy.  Mine's 12 and always bored, no matter what.  I swear he could be bored in the middle of an amusement park!  It's been two weeks and I'm beginning to be able to tune out the whining, but I'm not sure if I'll get there before school starts up again in 5 weeks.  He has a short summer, (they get 2 weeks off in October and March), which would be good but it seems like he just gets in the swing of getting busy having fun and then it's time to go back to school....and a whole other set of whining begins.   I don't know what happened to him, he never used to whine, was always cheerful and helpful and so easy to have around...must be those hormones!  Yikes!

Happy Stitching!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Why Do Birthdays Mean Less ... When They Should Mean More?

Yes, I admit it, today is my birthday.  It used to be that my birthday was a huge deal that I would look forward to.  Now, it's more like every other day with the one advantage that everyone's nicer to me and I don't have to cook or clean up anything.  You gotta love that part of it!

Anyway, I've noticed a trend amongst my friends and family.  Once you get over 40 the birthdays become less exciting and more like something you have to get through.  I know people who don't even tell people it's their birthday and do absolutely nothing to celebrate.  It seems a shame to me.

I have to admit that I feel the same way, once you reach a certain age celebrating your birthday seems kind of, how shall I put this???  Self centered???  Everyone I know looks askance at older folks making a big deal of their birthday, it's considered a bit unseemly.

I've felt a bit awkward about it myself in recent years but it occurred to me that if there ever was a time to truly celebrate another year going by it would be when you're over 40.  Face it, you aren't going to have as many birthdays, and Lord knows when the last one will be.  So, you might as well enjoy it and make a big fuss about it.  Whenever I'd whine about another birthday someone would always pipe up with "It's better than the alternative!"  Of course they're right, so why not party down?

Well, part of it has to do with not having the energy to party down like I used to.  Not to mention that I probably shouldn't be eating all those party foods, imbibing those party beverages, or even dancing to those party tunes because I will definitely pay the price for all three the next day.  There's also the threat of party photos showing up in someone's Facebook page and putting a real damper on employment and business opportunities, (does anyone really want to hire a middle aged woman wearing a hula skirt with a lampshade on her head?).  Unlikely!

However, with a group of people you trust, (without cameras), a cooler full of adult beverages and a few platters of nachos, there's no better way to enjoy the day.  I'm not going to do it this year, (still recovering from baseball party Saturday night), but I am considering getting all of my Gemini girlfriends together next year for a major (or whatever we're capable of) blowout.  I don't think us older gals have forgotten how to have a good time, we're just going to have to make sure we'll have time to recover!

Happy Stitching!

Susan (one year older....but I don't feel any different!)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In Search of Tweets

I don't know about you but sometimes I get obsessed with getting my hands on a particular fabric or fabric line.  A few days ago I posted about the new Tufted Tweets line by Laurie Wisbrun for Robert Kaufman Fabrics.  As soon as I saw this fabric I knew I had to have it so I set about tracking it down.

It was supposed to be released in June, which usually means the first part of the month but not always.  So, I looked for sites that were offering to send me an email when it arrived.  Hawthorne Threads offered the service so I signed up.

Well, yesterday afternoon I got the email.  Yippee!  So, I sped on over to Hawthorne Threads only to discover that they had already sold out of the fat quarter packs.  Now normally I don't order fat quarters, I prefer to buy 1/2 yards, but since I didn't think I'd need a lot of any of these and since I desperately wanted all of them, I decided that a fat quarter pack would be the way to go. 

I frantically checked on line only to discover them at a site on Etsy, sold in the three colorways for $10.00 a pack.  I thought the price was right and I was getting antsy because they only showed 3 in stock of each.  So, I quickly placed my order.  I haven't heard yet if I'm getting them but I haven't heard I'm not so I'm assuming I'll be tweeting up a storm soon.

It used to be that if you wanted a particular fabric you could find it fairly easily, at least online.  I've found that not to be true anymore.  There are lines I've been waiting for that I never see anywhere, then I find out that they're already sold out.  I wonder if all of these even make it to the online stores. 

I know that the fabric companies are producing in smaller quantities than they used to.  It's great for us fabric collectors because there's a lot more variety.  However, it means if you see something you like you better be prepared to track it down like Sherlock Holmes.

I used to encounter this with the Kaffe Fassett fabrics but I've noticed they're a lot easier to find now.  As a matter of fact, I was shocked to discover that Fabric.com has some of his lines on sale for $3.95 a yard, (act fast!).  I've also been in search of the Rio Grande fabrics by Terri Mangat and have only been able to find a few patterns but not in all colorways.  Come to think of it the last couple of month's "Inspiration" fabric lines have been difficult to find.  Either I have excellent taste or a knack for fabric frustration!

I'm beginning to think that my fabric obsession has taken over my quilting one.  It wouldn't be so bad if I made enough quilts, but my progress lately has been slow and the stacks of fabric are growing.  I know I'm due for a marathon of quilting mania soon, at least I hope so.  My perfectly clean studio is starting to get stacks around the edges.  I've been able to get away with it for a while because I've been working on my son's baseball team posters and DVDs.  The party's on Saturday so I won't have any excuses next week.  Hopefully I can clear it all out before the "tweets" arrive in the mail!

I wish I had a great quilt store nearby.  My local store is OK, but they never have the stuff I'm really looking for.  This weekend I was in Livermore at In Between Stitches.  It's a lovely store with a nice selection, but again, nothing I was looking for.  My husband was shocked when I walked out empty handed as I'd been looking forward to doing some in-store shopping.  Do any of you have any luck finding hard-to-find fabrics in the local shops?  All I ever see are the same lines; tons of Modas, some Amy Butlers, and if I'm lucky a smattering of some of the better Robert Kaufman lines.  I have my best luck finding Alexander Henry stuff at Joann's! 

Oh well, maybe it's just as well!  If I could get everything locally I'd have even more fabric I haven't done anything with and less time to do it with....I'd spend all my time at the quilt shop!

Happy Stitching and Hunting!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cherry Season

It's cherry season out here in East Contra Costa County in California.  I grew up near here and remember how every May we'd look forward to my father bringing home flats of cherries.  I also remember all of us holding our breaths that we wouldn't get any rain or frost.

Of course, this year there's been a lot more rain than usual, (when they're skiing at Lake Tahoe during Memorial Day weekend....well, that's not good news for cherry farmers!).  So, after I created my little cherry patch during my straightening post a couple of weeks ago I decided to make a little quilt commemorating this rainy cherry season.

In order to get the sparkly, "rain" look I wanted I used beads to outline the patches.  I used a mix of lime greens for the lighter fabrics with emerald shades for the darker ones. A small clear sequin anchored by a crystal bead shows the shimmer of water on the cherries.  I also randomly stitched clear seed beads all over the black and white dotted sashing.  Mother of Pearl buttons were used to amplify the shimmer.

Here's another look at the pattern.  Notice the buttons are not the same, I love mixing them up!  I also love the look of the black and white with the red and green, and the touch of aqua.  In this quilt I used the black and white prints as neutral backgrounds.  I wanted to address the black in the background of the cherry inserts while still keeping the overall look of the quilt light.

Here's a detail showing the red mix of seed beeds sewn around the edge of the cherry print batik border.  I also used a mix of aqua beeds around the aqua batik print interior border.  If you look closely you can see small clear sequins anchored by clear seed beads interspersed in the black and white floral border.  It's hard to see the effect in the photos but when it's hung up you can see the light reflect off the beads and sequins giving the quilt a raindrop spattered look.

This was such a fun quilt to do and didn't take too long, (considering I was able to finish it in less than two weeks with everything else I have going on!).

My main frustration is with the photos!  I worked so hard to get this little quilt straight and when I measure it and line it up on my gridded mat it's square, but you can't tell from the photos.  They're always curved in some way!  It drives my crazy!  My husband is a pretty good photographer but even he can't get my quilts to photograph square. 

I once had a quilt photographed for an advertisement, (Fire Mountain Beads), and they sent it off to a photographer who specialized in commercial photography of all different kinds of items. They told me that he has this camera that is mounted on some kind of crane-like frame that he can move up and down over an item that's laying flat on a table.  I'm not sure if that's how the quilt magazines photograph their quilts but it sounds like it would work pretty well, at least the photographs he took weren't distorted.

Speaking of which....I got some great comments about my inspiration fabric line, Tufted Tweets, in my last post.  I find myself getting on my high horse about things sometimes and may have spoken too harshly about the quilt design for the fabric line.  I suppose I'd have to see it close up, (I'm sure the photograph doesn't do it justice), before I can give an informed opinion. 

I think that part of the reason it bugged me is that I was taught that linear patterns needed to be linear, or that their line had to be addressed in a way that made sense to the overall design.  I learned most of my sewing skills via dressmaking and spent hours matching stripes and plaids and even hand setting zippers with different color threads so the line wouldn't be distrupted.  There are advantages and disadvantages to having the kind of training that I have.  It makes it possible for me to do more unusual and interesting things because I have the fine hand sewing skills, but it also may limit my creativity.  After all, rules are rules!

As a graphic designer I work mostly with businesses and event planners that want to make sure that whatever I design is accessible to their clients.  Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of selling my own stuff without the filter of my client's needs.  This has made me less likely to take chances that I know my clients won't go for.  I've had some very cool designs turned down because the client thought it was too radical for them.  Oh, the joys of art for a living!

Oh well, it'll be so much fun to see what we can make with the Tufted Tweets line.  As soon as it's out in the stores I'll let you know and maybe we can get some kind of gallery going.  It will be interesting to see how we all deal with it, who knows, I might surprise myself!

Happy Stitching!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Inspiration: Tufted Tweets by Lauri Wisbrun

Tufted Tweets by Laurie Wisbrun for Robert Kaufman Fabrics

It's already another month, and June no less!  Seems like I was just beginning to get over Christmas and schools nearly out already. 

I'm always a fan of bright fabrics, (duh!), and when I saw this latest line I thought...."I've got to get me some of those!"  My birthday's coming up so this is definitely on my wish list.  It's supposed to be available this month but it seems to me that it takes a while for the fabrics to show up in the stores or online.  Oh well, I think this is worth waiting for.

I have a terrible weakness for unusual fabrics like these.  It's so easy to work with calicoes, florals, and cute little novelties, but these prints are a challenge and I can't resist a challenge.

I discovered this line on the Robert Kaufman website where they also offer pattern downloads for their various fabric lines.  I have to admit I was very disappointed with the one for this line.  What do you think?


Now, don't get me wrong, I like abstract quilts but this really jars my sensitivities.  The patterns are very linear and yet the pieces are cut at angles.  It really drives me crazy visually. 

Because I do graphic design I'm always very aware of what attracts attention, both positively and negatively.  Our eyes are programmed to look at things in a certain way.  For instance, that's why most people look better in shirts with collars, they bring the eye to your face, (and your fabulous smile!).  Why do you think fashion designers spend so much time trying to find ways to make us look thinner?  We aren't actually thinner in well designed clothes, we just look that way.

The same goes for design.  Cutting linear patterns off their line sends your eyes in all kinds of funky directions.  The eye needs a place to rest.  It's one of the principles of graphic design, to make sure that the viewer's eye rests where you want it to.  We go through all kinds of machinations to make that happen.  So, for me this quilt is not the right design for the fabric.

I'm looking forward to getting my hand on this line because I have an idea of how I'd work with it.  As soon as I can get my hands on it I'll go through my design process with you.  These kinds of fabrics are so fun but very difficult to work with.  I think it would be fun to tackle challenging fabrics like these.

In the meantime my vaunted cherry quilt is nearly done.  I decided last night to add another element, so I hope to finish it this evening.

I really need to learn when to stop.  It's a problem I've had for many years.  When I was in high school my art teacher used to walk up behind me and snatch my drawings away before I went too far.  He put them in a drawer and then a week or so later would call me into his office to take a look at them.  He was trying to teach me when to stop, but I claimed the artist's right to take it as far as I wanted to.  At least he tried!

Happy Stitching!