Saturday, July 31, 2010

Funky Fun with Purchased Embellishments

This is one funky, fun kitty! 

As you've probably gathered from previous posts, I'll use just about anything to embellish my quilts.  Recently I've noticed a lot of improvement in what's available in the big chain stores. 

The square above is from the quilt I'm currently working on, (and close to finishing...whoopie!).  All of the embellishments on this square were purchased either from Michael's or Joann's.  The buttons on the corners were purchased (on sale) from the scrapbooking section at Michael's.  They had adhesive on the back of them but it was easy enough to remove.  I love the simple design, and of course anything with red on it gets my vote!

The central kitty was a button from Joann's.  I got two of them on a card and I actually went back and bought another card because I love them so much.  Of course, I waited for the 50% off button sale and saved a bundle.

The "funky" is another one of my faves,"Softies" from the scrapbooking aisle.  Some of them are actually made like buttons, but the ones that don't have holes are very easy to sew on.

The interior border is embroidered in a combo of chain and satin stitch, just to give it a little texture, and the two floral buttons were added to the side.  The large translucent pink button with the smaller red button center both came from Joann's, the blue flower is a "Softie."

All in all it's a fun and very simple square.  It also proves that you don't have to go all out and make your own embellishments to have a unique, creative embellished quilt.

I'm going to go back to working on this quilt and see if I can finish it this weekend.  Unfortunately, I've managed to catch myself some kind of summer cold/flu so I'm going to have to take it easy.  The only good thing about it is that I'm forced to rest and therefore can work on my quilt.  I guess there's a silver lining to every cloud.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Make Your Own Layout Tray

One of the things you'll discover when you start doing a lot of embellishment is that what you want to do in a certain period of time usually takes longer than you think.  In my case, a lot of that has to do with those sudden inspirations that I just have to follow up on right now.  I realized years ago that if I wanted to keep the ideas I'd already laid out I'd better find a way to do it, and quick!

I love beading and jewelry supplies and came upon a traveling bead tray.  Basically what they are is a two sided box that clicks shut.  The inside of the box is lined with foam.  If you put your layout on the foam and close the box, the foam will keep the design from shifting.  This is great for extensive jewelry designs because it's often difficult to finish a project in one sitting, and you don't want all of those carefully laid out beads to be knocked over accidentally. 

Most of these boxes are indented on one side with the traditional grooves for jewelry making.  I have one like that and it doesn't work very well for me unless it's for larger pieces.  I also have a large one that I bought at Joann's that doesn't have the grooves and it's great for laying out larger embellishment designs.

However, most of the time I work pretty small and finding something that works for me to tuck into my sewing box has been impossible.  So, in the spirit of American ingenuity I decided to make my own!

The materials are inexpensive and what's really great is many of you will have these on hand at home.  In my case the box is a diaper wipe case.  I bought this one at Target for a buck in their dollar section, (unfortunately, my baby wipe days are well over).  The foam I used is a piece that was used to package some electronic equipment.  It needs to be dense and not thick enough to come to the top of the box interior, usually about 1/2".  I'm pretty sure you can buy it at the fabric store if you can't find any around the house, (ask your techie friends, they probably have some lying around).

All you need to do is cut the foam to fit the two interior sides of the diaper wipe container.  Make sure the box clicks securely before you glue the foam down.  I ended up having to make the top foam a little thinner, (shaved off with a razor blade).  It doesn't matter if you do a perfect job because the beads will be held in the box by being compressed into the foam. 

I used an all purpose spray adhesive but you could probably use good quality double stick tape.  I wouldn't recommend a hot glue gun because the glue beads will change the height of the foam.

Above shows the interior of the box with some embellishments laid out.  In this case I closed the box and came back to it a while later.  When I opened it, this is what I saw:

See how well it works?  It just saved me a ton of time having to layout everything again.  Now I don't have to worry about pieces getting lost or redoing my layout.

Hope you find this helpful.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An "A++" and "problems"

Here we go again, this is the next square in the "school" quilt, (which is what I'm calling it now!).  This square earned an A++, Wow!  Of course it also has "problems" but then don't we all?

I've posted about this square before so I won't spend a lot of time on it.  The main thing that happened here is that I used an assortment of square buttons to replace the square shapes on the fabric.  I used an assortment of greens with a few mother-of-pearl  buttons just to add interest.  If they were all the same it would be very boring to look at.  The "A++" is simply outlined in a fine chain stitch. not a whole lot to do here.
The next square has a lot more embellishment.  Because the outside patterns were so busy I decided to keep the center of the square simple.  In this case it's a purchased wood button surrounded by a circle of running quilt stitches.  The outer border derives its' dimension from a selection of yellow buttons, (two sizes), and some red heart buttons.  The interior border is accented by seed beads stitched inside of the lines of the fabric's pattern.  I selected different color beads so they would stand out against the background, or if I wanted the look to be more about texture than color I used a matching color.  What I love about this is that the little "dots" of the seed beads tie the dots of the round border into the yellow dots on the outside border.
Pretty dotty!

My theory about embellishment is that it's a way to improve the look of the original fabric in some way.  Either by adding luster, texture, color, whatever....the point is to help the fabric integrate with the surrounding fabrics.  My quilts aren't about making a grand statement from across the room.  They're about getting up close and personal, each viewer seems to notice different things instead of being shouted at by one aspect of the piece.  To me every inch of a quilt is an opportunity to "seize the eye."  It's literal eye candy and that's the way I like it.  I've tried to do different kinds of quilts but always come back to embellishing the heck out of whatever I'm working on.  I just can't seem to help myself!

Speaking of which, I've got some more "eye candy" to work on!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I've Been Up To (Instead of Blogging!)

BEFORE
AFTER

It's hard for me to believe that I've been blogging for a year already!  I realized it when I got my renewal notice for my domain name.  Wow, what a great year it's been!

Unfortunately, I fell off the blogging wagon this summer. It's been busy as most summers are, but part of my reason for not blogging is that I've been quilting instead!

Do you remember this quilt?  I've posted about it a few times.  I love the colors and the vintage look of it.  Well, a couple of weeks ago I got inspired and started working on the next step, embellishment!

I've been on a roll and am nearly finished with the central squares and have two of the borders done.  It's amazing how when you get in that "zone" you can get so much done and it just seems to flow.  I love it when that happens, so instead of blogging I decided to go with it.

At the top of this post you can see the bottom right square and borders in their finished state.  What a difference!  I decided that since I used so many embellishment techniques on this quilt that it would be the perfect piece to post about, square by square.  So, today, let's take a look at my embellishment choices for this section.
Here's the overview again.  When you look at it you don't see a lot of actual quilting stitches.  The piece is very dimensional without lots of "quilting" because there are other ways to add that dimension without using a quilting stitch.
Here's one of the border edges.  Note the running stitch in turquoise with an assortment of beads running through the motifs.  I love to do this because it ties objects together and is a great way to add an accent color without going overboard.  This border piece features a red "softie,"(a scrapbooking embellishment), one of my 1" paper piece squares, and a decorative button.  Notice how they all have central motifs in them.  That's a great way to tie disparate things together. 
Here's the continuation of the border.  Note the red button on the left.  I love to use buttons to highlight polka dot fabrics and give them texture.  They're also a great way to change the colors of the dots to whatever you want.  In this case I wanted to tie the polka dot fabric to the previous toile fabric.  Surrounding the red button with beads is a great way to do it.  Using the black and white makes the separation obvious, and yet ties it together.  Strange how that works!  I also used another "softie" button instead of a plain button in one of the dots.
                           
Next is the quilt square.  The outer border is a batik, which can be difficult to embellish.  In this case I decided to go with an assortment of "red" seed beads stitched along the edges of the red pattern.  I love the randomness of the sizes and the fact that there's one bright pink bead in there, (see if you can find it).  The beads aren't the expensive perfectly sized ones because I like the inconsistent nature of the cheaper beads.  Whenever I use the pricey perfect ones I end up taking them out, they're just too perfect for my imperfection!  I didn't do any quilting on the inner floral fabric, only adding a few flower buttons in different colors to give the fabric some dimension.  The little girl looks like she's writing the words on the fabric.  Kind of fancy writing for a little girl!
Lastly, we have the border next to the square.  I knew I had to have something long and skinny and when I found the Chinese brocade flower applique I knew it was perfect.  The ribbon already had pink dots on it so I accented them with red plastic beads and stitched on three rows of translucent leaf buttons.

I hope that this post gives you some ideas to use in your own quilts.  I love how I can get the quilted look without all those quilting stitches, and it's so much fun finding uses for my collection of buttons and beads.

There are twelve squares to this quilt so tomorrow I'll go over another one with you.  In the meantime I can't wait to get back to my easy chair and my little quilt, (although  my finger really hurts, I need to learn how to use a thimble!).

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ideas

Years ago I worked for a company that had a "Great Ideas" campaign.  I designed these cute little light bulb pins and along with the pin employees won cash prizes for coming up with ideas that made the company more profitable.

At our house we're always coming up with new ideas on how to do things.  My son has been inventive since he was little and keeps coming up with ideas that seem far fetched until we discover that the product is actually available.  His favorite was a shower head that could be set to a particular temperature so that you wouldn't have to let the water run until it heated up,(we live in drought plagued California so water waste is an issue). Lately we discovered that such a product exists.  Now if we could just get him to invent something no one else has....

Anyway, "idea" is a word that always gets me excited.  Yeah!  A new idea!  I just can't wait to see what problem someone has solved for me now.

Of course ideas aren't always good.  They're kind of like "change."  They sound positive, but that isn't always the case.  I've had my share of bad "ideas," and well, "change" hasn't always been for the better, (there've been a few job changes I regret big time!).

I've always been an "idea" person.  Give me a task and I'll find 500 ways to get it done. Not necessarily good ideas, but I'll come up with them!  In my graphic design biz I'm often called upon to come up with fabulous concepts in a very short period of time.  I can't tell you how many meetings I've gone into with one design idea where I've left with an entirely different one.  You have to learn to be flexible and to think outside of your comfort zone.

It's this way with quilting as well.  I've known a lot of quilters who get in their little groove and keep churning out quilts in the same colors and patterns.  Maybe they'll change up a color or try a different pattern but their quilts always end up looking the same.  It's a real trap that you can fall into as an artist.  There's your "style" and then there's your "rut."  Sometimes it's hard to know which is which but I've discovered that when I no longer look forward to doing my "style" then I'm in a "rut" and I need to shake myself out of it.

That's when you've got to turn on that old light bulb in your brain and open up your senses.  When I'm looking for ideas I pore over my quilting books, pull out the fine art books, and start trying to see the things around me with a different eye.  Sometimes a trip to the quilt store helps, or even a scrapbooking or paper store.  Michaels is a great place to go.  It's like the variety store of craft supplies.  So many great ideas!

Last week my son had ARF Camp (Animal Rescue Foundation) and I had 3 hours every day to kill in a city about 30 miles from my house.  It was great because I got to do something I rarely ever do, take my time!  I went into a couple of craft stores and walked every aisle and looked at everything.  I spent an hour looking in a quilt store, and took my time looking at all of the fancy paper goods in another store. 

Now my head is spinning with ideas and I'm once again struggling with finding the time to do something with them.  One thing I did do that I'm pleased about is buy myself a big inexpensive journal where I can write down and sketch my ideas as they come to me.  I keep it by my chair and work on it every night, adding whatever's occurred to me throughout the day.  It's doubtful I'll ever be able to make everything, but now I have another place to go when the idea well has run dry.

How do all of you come up with your ideas?  I'd love to hear...

Happy Stitching!

Susan



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Inspiration for July: Laura Gunn

It's already a new month.  Well, actually tomorrow will be one week into a new month so as usual I'm behind...

For July I chose Laura Gunn's new fabric line "Poppy" as my inspiration fabric.  It's from Michael Miller, which means the quality will be high, (I've yet to be disappointed with one of their fabrics), and the colors are just fabulous!  I love the "painterly" aspect of these, they really are beautiful artwork transferred onto fabric. 

I especially love the dots.  Even if you're a more traditional quilter I can imagine that particular pattern making it into your quilts.  The great thing about "painterly" fabrics is that the colors are so varied within the one piece.  So, for instance you can see several different shades of green in one pattern, so great for tying disparate colors together.  I love this line!

In case you hadn't noticed, I have a real weakness for unusual fabrics.  I just love the challenge of them!  It's easy to make calicoes and simple prints into quilts but these kinds of fabrics call for making new creative choices.  How much fun is that?  Tons!!!

Also, if you get the chance check out Laura Gunn's blog, "Paint in My Hair" at http://lauragunn.typepad.com/, (don't you just love that title?).  It's a great place to see what she's up to and also some ideas of what to do with her unusual fabrics.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Joy of Quilting


I happened to see a picture of one of these Hello Kitty sewing machines the other day and thought it was the cutest thing ever.  At first I thought that they can't sew very well being "Hello Kitty" machines but that was before I noticed that they were made by Janome.  So, I'm assuming they sew just fine and they're so cute that I'd love to have one just to look at, (the one with the bow is "killer" although I think I like the blue one with the Kitty face and the cherries the best.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about how much joy I used to find in quilting and sewing in general.  I started very young and had many firsts; my first sundress when I was 10, my first quilt when I was 13, my wedding dress when I was....OK, that's enough about ages!  What I'm getting at is that I'm realizing that I've lost some of my joy of quilting and it's making me sad.

My last post was about finding the time to quilt.  I think that's a lot of it for me.  When I take the time to quilt I fear I'm neglecting either the business or personal sides of my life.  So, I feel guilty and can't enjoy the simple act of pulling a threaded needle through fabric.

I'm also working on finding ways to integrate my quilting skills into my business life and that's added stress to the mix.  Should I work on creating "commercial" designs or should I just do what I do and make something of that professionally?  It's a quandry for me.  I've always resisted going "commercial" as I feel like people get tired of that really fast.  If you want to be a successful designer of anything you have to have a unique look or people won't even notice your work. 

I noticed this at the last quilt show I attended.  It seemed that a lot of the booths, fabric lines, quilt designs, and books were very similar in their look.  Of course, part of this is that there are trends that everyone wants to follow.  However, I've always been the kind of person who tries to look ahead of trends, or at least to the right or left.  Being predictable isn't something I find doable, although I often wish I did.

My business life has been in the world of event services.  It's an ever changing field where what is hip now will be considered old hat next week.  Since I worked on the design end I was often called upon to come up with new ideas or find a way to update the current trends.  My boss at my last job was a woman who loved creativity but for business reasons held back on taking things further faster.  I remember a conversation I had with her once when she wanted to know what other companies were doing.  I told her that we shouldn't be worrying about what other people are doing, but that we should be doing what we do and setting trends not following them. 

My theory is that once a color combination or style shows up at Target that it's time to move on to something else.  It was hard to convince others that taking things a step further might be risky, but you aren't going to make any kind of name for yourself by playing it safe.  Putting all of your cards on the table is scary, but I learned that real joy comes from taking the chance and reaping the reward for your hard work and insight.

Maybe that's where I can find my joy again.  It's true that I've been leaning towards catering to trends and following along like a little lamb.  But I don't want to be a little lamb!  I want to be a fierce cranky creative ram with big horns and a devil-may-care attitude who doesn't get discouraged by lack of time or energy.

The joy is still there, I just need to go find it.  (It might help if I cleaned my studio, it could be hiding under that stack of fabric over there.....).

Happy Stitching!

Susan