Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Favorite Tools

It was my birthday the other day and I always use that day, week, month as an excuse to treat myself. I purchased the Louise Bourgeois book about her textiles, a spool rack, and a Roxanne Thimble.  I looked into the thimble a couple of years ago when I was hand quilting, but decided it was too extravagant and since I stopped hand quilting and moved onto doing things that did not require a thimble it was unnecessary. My favorite thimble was a Clover leather thimble, it fit like a glove, but it would eventually get a hole and become useless. So I did it. I went out to Macy's jewelry counter during my lunch hour and measured my finger and ordered the sterling silver thimble.

I admit it took about a week to get used to the metal "armour" versus the leather "second skin," but now I love it! I am so glad I made the investment. No other metal thimble ever fit correctly, they were too big or too small so I always went back to the leather. Now that I love my new thimble the only problem I had was getting the needle through the multiple layers of fabric in my collages. When I used the leather thimble, I would brace my first finger against my middle finger to do the job, but that shifted the silver thimble so I started using my first finger in a way that caused pain in my hand and wrist. 

Rebecca Ringquist, during her Creative Bug class, wears rubber finger tips from the office supply store. I have done this off and on, but I am inbetween sizes so again, one is a little too tight, and the next size a little too big. I also don't like my first finger tip completely covered as I have to remove the tip in order to thread a needle, which I do quite often (I like to choose colors while working so I don't pre-thread my needles which is what Ringquist suggests). Today, while embroidering on the train, I decided to cut off the top of the rubber finger tip. Voila! Perfect! Now I can grab the needle to pull it through the layers of fabric and thread my needles without removing the rubber tip.

 

My beautiful Roxanne thimble and my altered rubber finger tip.

Baci e abbracci

Monday, January 16, 2017

More on the Weight of a Series

My friend and I went fabric shopping on Saturday and I pondered that using textiles to express my creativity has been the one thing that I have stuck with over the last +35 years. Thinking back to my childhood where I frustrated my parents with wanting to try expensive things like the piano, I always came back to drawing. I remember trying embroidery, as a teenager, so I could embroider my jeans like everyone else (I still have the floss and hoop and the leg of the jeans with "Elton John" embroidered on it) but did not stick with it because the only thing I knew about embroidery was satin stitch which was and still is not my favorite.

I was taught how to knit as a child, but only knew the knit stitch and made blankets for my dolls. I turned my Lincoln Log container into a yarn feeder by making a hole in the lid. It was perfect for the skein of yarn (I would bet my last dollar it was Red Heart) and had one pair of aluminum needles. 

The one thing that I stuck with until college was drawing and that won out over textiles until I dropped out of art school and my boyfriend at the time went to a Folk Festival and saw a knitting machine and brought back a brochure. I apprenticed with a couple of local designers and eventually got my first machine--a bulky. I got back into school and eventually graduated from Philadelphia University with a BS in Fashion Design. I continued with machine knitting for years, working full-time in a bridalwear manufacturer digitizing when I graduated, and then part-time while trying to have my own knitwear business. I never got it off the ground for various personal reasons and finally went back to work full-time. 

I did nothing creative for two years and concentrated on my full-time job in insurance. Those two years were the only time I was not doing somthing creative. Eventually I began hand knitting again, this time I learned how to purl. I started drawing again in a journal--not for me--and then just drawing in a sketchbook--without the diary aspect. Then came quilting and packing up the machines to make room for the piles of fabric and sewing machine. Then embroidery. I am absolutely passionate about each phase of textile work I am in, and go back and forth when I get a little bored.

Knowing that about myself, I get nervous when I try to do a series. I don't know why I put the pressure on myself and don't just work freely on anything I want, but I have now started this series of fabric collages and want to make my goal of 25.

The rules are the size: about 6" x 6", flower theme, and each one is monochromatic for the most part (which may change). I am on the fourth one and am still loving it--I hope I make it to 25.

 
 
No. 3 Yellow

No. 4 is Brown--stay tuned...

Baci e abbracci

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reject Block



This is one of the many "reject" blocks that I had laying around my studio. I grabbed it one day to take with me to work on during the commute and lunch break because I NEVER leave the house without a project. This one gave me a few weeks worth of stitching time.

By the time I was almost done with the embroidery I came across this book, Crazy Quilting, which was a nice little guide to add to my library.

I decided to "frame" the block with a quilted border and bind the edge. Still in the quilting process as that was started over the winter break and set aside for my collage series. It is sort of like a crazy quilt with lots of stitches including buttonhole-wheel, feather, fishbone, laisy daisy, chain, blanket, backstitch, french knots and woven wheel. All of it is using different numbers of strands of embroidery floss except for the roses. I, again, went into my stash of coned yarn from my machine knitting days and used 3/2 mercerized cotton. (I gave away a lot of that yarn, but kept one cone of each color--just in case. So glad!)

And what is that little sparkly, silver cat in the upper right corner? She is my little needle minder and I love her!

Baci e abbracci

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My New Love

My new love is fabric collage. I have wanted to try this for quite sometime as I have been saving the smallest of scraps--sorted by color--for years now. I also have a great collection of larger scraps--also sorted by color--and I have tried repeatedly to use those scraps in a collage but was not ecstatic with the result until now! (Is that conceited? I hope not...)

When I was getting ready to teach a class on Improvisational Embroidery I started doing research as I knew I wanted to try to incorporate collage into the mix. I love research because that gave me an excuse to purchase books. I purchased two books: Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark Making in Textile Art and Textile Collage: Marrying Collage and Textile Techniques. 

Drawn to Stitch was OK, some of the projects were inspiring. I especially liked the miniature collages. Textile Collage was awesome! Perhaps the first textile/craft book that I read every word of cover to cover. This book may have changed my creative life.

I started with my husband's old shirts and other scraps. I found yo-yo's and crocheted flowers. I loved using the wool that I crocheted the flowers with. It is very nice to embroider with and I have a ton of it from my machine knitting days. I also like the contrast with traditional embroidery floss. This is a whole sleeve of a shirt and unfinished as I was not really happy with the way it was going.




I next used scraps and floss. I did not like where this one was going either as it looked too similar to a petri dish and a "little swimmer" breaking through an egg. I tried to work through that, but I still see it when I look at it.

































(I am having a problem with formatting.) "Compromise" was OK. I added text that was not planned and am not too thrilled with it. Again, I used scraps, shirting--that I tea-dyed--and floss.

The flowers and lace took a lot of time and I really started to get into applique. I tried sticking with my use of the button-wheel stitch and learned the feather stitch (I love chain-type stitches!). I will be using this method of making flowers for my new series when I don't have any appropriate floral fabric.

You can definitely see Ms. Pattullo's influence in my work but I hope the way I approach my flowers and stitching is original. I also prefer new fabric--my beautiful scraps--rather than the stuff I picked up at the thrift store. I am also using old shirting and ties that I collected from people I know. (Finally, I am getting to ties from my dad who died 15 years ago.) I will incorporate some of my old clothing collection into my work on other projects, as I have been collecting that stuff for years as well. My felted sweater collection is at least 15 years old waiting for the "right" project.

I have also stumbled across my collection of quilt block rejects and have taken to embroidering on them.

This is a huge change for me as it is almost all hand-stitching. (Well, maybe not a huge change as I was a hand knitter for years. This is a change from sewing on a machine.) I just love it and do it on the commute to work, on my lunch break and at home in the evening in front of the TV. I feel like the embroidery that I have done up until now has prepared me for this new turn in my work.

I am really excited to be tackling something new in subject matter as well. Usually, I like to make things that are pretty to look at or are at least a design that is decorative. I have thought of a project to express how I feel right now about the incoming President and my thoughts about the future. The fabric is on its way so I will have to set aside my series of pretty little collages to work on that--but it is an important statement that will hopefully also be therapeutic to produce.

I took a break from my series to make this little card. It is a thank you note for someone who likes to boat.

 

Baci e abbracci

Thursday, January 5, 2017

When Everything is Going Right in the Studio

Sometimes when I am working on a project and I like the way it is going there is the most incredible feeling of contentment as if finally I hit the nail on the head. Although I know this feeling will not last I thought it was worth noting--maybe especially because I know it won't last... 



 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Weight of a Series

This is another quilt that was waiting to have the binding applied.

 

It was supposed to be the second in a series. Here is the first.

 

Now I am into fabric collage and working on a series. So I probably won't get back to the quilt series. I hope I stick with this one. My goal is 25 fabric collages.

 
No. 1

Back e abbracci

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I have cats. I love my cats but I don't love all of the hair, the damage to the furniture and carpet, and the pulls in my fabrics. So before I put my brand new quilt on the bed I decided to make a matching "bed mat" for the cats to sleep on. Of course these are cats I am talking about so even though I will put the mat where they usually sleep, they will sleep somewhere else on the bed so I will still have cat hair on my new quilt.

I also made matching pillow cases using the The Burrito Pillowcase Tutorial by CraftyGemini. Even though I did not intend to make a quilt for the bed (which is why it is too small) I am so happy with the result. The intention was to re-create fall in a quilt--my favorite season of the year--and now I have fall year round in my bedroom. Many things did not go as planned, but I don't care, this is the most complex improv quilt I have made and I am very proud of this accomplishment.

Colors are not true-in real-life they are spectacular--really saturated.



Very dull photo, sorry...

Baci e abbracci