Monday, November 14, 2022

My Latest Obsession... Stitch Journals

Over the last several months all of my creative focus has been on creating handmade cloth "Stitch Journals" in which I can experiment in and fill up. Here's an example of one of them...

I began by hand painting all of the fabrics, (Jacquard Textile Colors were mainly used). 

I then machine stitched the fabrics into pages to later hand-bind into the journal.

When I make the "blank" pages I like to add machine stitched lines and bits of machine stitched appliqué.

(I consider the journal to be "blank" until I fill the pages in with hand stitching.)

Those machine stitched lines, and appliquéd bits, act as "prompts"... 
jumping off points for my creativity to land... places for me to eventually fill in with my hand stitching once the journal has been hand bound into a book form. 
(Such as what you see in these photos of a completed journal.)

The hand-stitching creates a sort of non-verbal language. One that can be seen and also felt.

Something almost primitive, and very instinctual.

I take great joy in the whole process... 
from hand-painting, to hand-binding, to hand-stitching.
All of it is meditative, creative and fulfilling.

 And when it's complete, I feel so incredibly satisfied. 

I hope this obsession lasts for sometime.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New Work: Ragged Series

Back in January I began a new series of small stitched works which I am calling my 'Ragged Series'...

Ragged no. 2

In this series I continue to draw my inspiration from my local rural surroundings of Lancaster County, PA. Along with my usual interest in line and shape, I am also playing with texture and taking a wondrous deep dive into exploring the very wide range of local colors, including colors found in the farm fields and old barns, (of course!) to roadside farm produce and flower stands, to the lovely colors of Amish clothing, and old painted farm tractors... It's all fair game, and glorious to me!

Above is an example of how what I see is influencing me. On the right is one of my photos of a local road with old worn barns, and on the left is one of my 'Ragged' pieces. 

To achieve the colors and textures I am looking for, I begin with ripping and tearing bits of assorted fabrics of various weave and fiber content. 

I then individually hand paint each individual piece with different fabric paints and inks. 

The ones shown above were done with a combination of Jacquard and Setacolor paints 
and Tsukineko inks.

Ragged no. 6

Here's another example of local inspiration. Please note however, I don't reference any photos while I work, as I think it would hang me up with trying to get my brain to create more literally. Wishing to keep things abstract, I rely on trusting that I intuitively know these colors, and the rural "feel" I wish to communicate, from a long time of observation and study. I admit to being both surprised and tickled when afterwards I can go back and find photos that connect with what I've stitched. It further reinforces my faith in trusting my gut.

Ragged no. 7

(Inspired by old red barns and the shadows that hide in the corners.)

Ragged no. 8

To date I have completed 14 works in this series and am currently working on numbers 15 and 16. Generally, I tend to work in small series, rarely more than 15 pieces, often less, before moving onto a new subject, as I get so damned bored so easily. It is my true desire however to keep exploring this series at least through 2022. So far, so good... I'm still curious and interested!

I think that interest and curiosity in large part is due to how much I am enjoying the process of painting my own fabric. Above I'm playing with colors and patinas found on some of the old barns, including the wood, the roofs, the shadows... so much beautiful, subtle colors.

Below are a few more pieces from the series along with a couple of examples of local inspiration...

Ragged no. 11

Ragged no. 14

Ragged no. 13

Ragged no. 13 is my only square piece to date, but one of my favorites. 
When making this I was thinking about old red barns and farm fields.


So, that's what I'm up to these days. 
If interested, you can follow me on Instagram where I post each completed piece once listed in my Etsy shop. (To date, as I am writing this post, all but 2 of the 14 have sold, and I hope to list more soon.) 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

New Stitched Talismans Tutorial Pattern!

Object of Comfort Talisman, Front View

I've just released a new tutorial pattern, now available here in my Etsy shop!
This one is on how to make your own stitched talismans using stones and shells as the base like the one shown above, (that I just made yesterday) and the ones shown below.

The idea for these first started some 10 + years ago when I was beach combing and came across a massive and beautiful pile of broken, hard-shell, quahog clamshell fragments. I gathered a bucket full of them knowing that someday, somehow, I was going to cover them in patchwork... 
I just wasn't exactly sure of how I would go about doing that.

That seed stayed germinating in my head for a long time before it decided to finally sprout several years ago, when I finally figured out how to do what I'd envisioned all those years earlier...

I was planning on creating a pattern back then, in case anyone else had a thing for collecting such treasures from the beach and might want to make there own. However, shortly after sharing some of what I was making on social media, Quilting Arts Magazine contacted me asking if I'd write a short how-to article on making the talismans for their Feb/March 2018 Issue.

Some of you may remember... they even made the cover...

(A true thrill and honor indeed!!)

After that, the pattern idea just got tossed on the back burner of my brain, and I moved on to other things, (because I never, ever seem to be able to stay focused on one thing for very long).

During the following years, I've been contacted now and again from someone wanting to know if I offered my own tutorial pattern for these, like I do for my Fabric Quilted Beads
and if not was I ever planning on creating one? 
The answer has always been, "No. Yes. But I have no idea when."

Honest and vague.

But now the answer is,"Why yes, yes indeed I do!"

(And that makes me so happy!)

This PDF downloadable pattern, (available in my Etsy shop) offers more in depth instruction then I was able to provide in the magazine article, as well as step by step photo illustrations. For good measure I've included how to make a simple talisman necklace and a tea stained version of the talismans...

The materials and tools needed are pretty basic, and no worries if you don't have a stash of broken hard-shell fragments, as smooth stones and rocks work great as well!

So, if you would like to know how, or want some more info on making your own talismans...

(Or if you just wish to clothe some stones and shells because they look cold and naked to you!) 
Then hopefully this pattern will provide you with what you need!

Object of Comfort Talisman, BackView


Oh! And speaking of Quilting Arts Magazine...

I have a new article featured in their current Fall 2021 issue!

This article is on how to make your own Story Fragments, as shown in my previous post here.

Be sure to look for this lovely issue, it's full of lot's of great ideas and information!


Monday, August 9, 2021

Contemplating Texture and the Quilted Stitch. A Few Things to Think About.

Part of the fun of making a quilt is the actual act of quilting it. It determines so much of what the quilt will be, what it will say, how it will look, and how it will feel, (to the touch and to the heart). Because of that there are things you may wish to contemplate before quilting.

For instance, I wanted the quilts in my previous post to have a clean, modern look, with visible quilting, and I didn't want much added texture. So, I choose to machine quilt, (as opposed to hand quilt) them in a Baptist fan design, which is one of my favorite quilting motifs. In those previous quilts, the quilted lines almost seem to float on top of the surface. That's in part due to machine stitches don't create the same tug and pull of the fabric that hand quilted stitches do, so the texture is generally cut down somewhat in that regard. Side note: Solid fabrics will showcase quilted lines more than prints will, as the quilted lines can get visually lost amongst the printed design.

Other considerations are the weight of the fabrics used. I've found that the heavier the fabric, the less texture is created from the quilting. This is especially true if you choose not to wash the quilt afterwards. Washing and drying a quilt will always increase the texture due to shrinkage. Note: For those quilts shown in that previous post, I used mid weight, (quilting weight) shot cottons, and did not wash or dry them afterwards. This helped keep that crisp clean look by avoiding too much quilting texture.

Now, for this quilt, (which I simply call "Up") I wanted to go in the opposite direction and give it lots of texture. Ingrained, organic texture. And that called for hand quilting, along with some other considerations, such as the following...

1) As mentioned above, the weight of the fabric plays into how much or how little texture your finished quilt may have. Because I wanted lots of texture for this quilt, I chose to use light weight shot cottons. The lighter weight fabrics have the ability to gather a bit more closely, and pucker a bit more easily, when the thread is pulled through it, thus creating more texture (These are all Kaffe Fassett shot cottons that I've had in my stash for years. They are very light weight with a lovely drape.)

2) Choosing to set my rows close together gave me more texture than if I had set them farther apart. This is simply because with hand quilting, the quilted stitch provides the texture, so the more stitches, the more texture. (Now every rule has its exception, and sometimes I find that if I am machine quilting close set rows, I get a flatter, more stiff, less textured quilt. This seems to happen when the fabric itself is more densely woven, then if I were to use a light weight fabric.)

3) I like my stitches to be visible, so I don't make them too small, but because I wanted texture, I also didn't make them too big, as again, with hand quilting, the more stitches the more texture.

4) Afterwards, I gave it a light wash, and a few minutes in the dryer, then allowed it to air dry. Had I given it a harder wash, and more time in the dryer, the texture would have been more than I wanted... I wish there were some magic formula I could give to you on this, but practice is the only way I know of getting an intuition of what's too much and what's too little. In regards to washing and drying, when in doubt go for less texture as more can likely be added with another wash and longer dry, but once it's there, it's there.

I suppose needle and thread size also have a say in the texture created when hand quilting, but in all truth, I have been doing it the same way for so long, I don't know. All I know is I like my results, so no need to try and alter them. When hand quilting I use 12 weight cotton thread and no. 9 John James "straw" needles.

Look at that yummy texture! 

Also, look at those little short lengths of turquoise blue stitching that I've place here and their in between the long rows. Hand quilting offers the perfect opportunity to add in little extras. Sometimes it may be cross shaped stitches, (x or + ), other times it may be a little mended area or extra stitches added in like I've done here on "Up". (Hmmm... maybe these random little blue stitches are floating upwards?) Again, something to think about when contemplating your stitching. 

And speaking of contemplating your stitching... how does one decide how to quilt one's quilt? I always say it's best to ask your quilt what it wants. You will find that they are rarely shy and if you listen closely they will tell you exactly what they want to be. (And woe to you who is fool hardy enough to ignore the request. Quilts can be ornery little buggers if they don't get their way.)

So, there you have it. Just a few things on stitch and texture to contemplate before quilting your next quilt. And really, I do mean a few... we didn't even talk about free motion quilting, (I know the humble stipple stitch is often dismissed, but you can get some crazy good texture from combining stipple stitching with machine washing and drying.) How closely and how far apart you quilt those stipples will also play into the texture, as will the weight of the fabric... never underestimate the effect on texture caused by the weight of your fabric, and how open or closed the weave is. 

To summarize, as always, experimentation and practice are key in getting a better understanding of how quilting effects texture, and how the degree of texture is affected by things such as: the the fabric content; weight of the fabric; the choice between hand quilting, machine quilting, and free motion machine quilting; the quilted motif; how closely or far apart the quilted stitches are placed; and whether you wash and dry your quilts, and to what degree if you do. Go play with it and have fun!

For more details on "Up" please see here.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I Still Love Shot Cottons

There was a while a few years back when I was exclusively only using shot cottons when making quilt tops. I adore them for their simple and unpretentious beauty. The way depth and richness is achieved simply by weaving one color for the weft and another for the warp. 

It's a marriage of color that produces its first offspring in that third created color, along with siblings born from the other shades achieved simply by the angle of the cloth and how the light hits it. 

What is not to love?

Somewhere along the line though, I pretty much stopped buying commercial fabrics, preferring to be a bit more thrifty and eco-conscious and use cloth cut from old clothing or vintage textiles. 

And because I loved my shot cottons so much, I stopped using them... odd how that works. Like having Grandma's beautiful old china but never using it.

Well, enough of that nonsense. 
I'm breaking into that stash and I'm going to use it up. 
Here are my first offerings, three improv quilts with freeform Baptist Fan quilting. 

It feels good to use what we find beautiful.

For more info/details on each quilt, or to check availability, please click on the links under the quilts.