Friday, December 28, 2018

End of Year Wrap Up

Well, 2018 zipped by like a flash of lightening, and though it's been quiet here on the old blog, I do continue to make. So, while 2018 still has a few days left in it, I thought it'd be nice to do one last blog post for the year. (Hey, that brings me up to a full 5 posts for 2018... no slacking here.) 

Take a look below to see what I've been stitching since I last posted back in June... 

(Note: If you are a supporter of our current administration, you may not like the creative thoughts behind the works below, and that is ok, as we are all free to believe what we choose to believe. If you choose to leave a comment that obviously differs from my own political views, please make it thoughtful, respectful and constructive. Help me to understand your point of view. Hateful and nonconstructive comments will be deleted. Thank you.)

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land
36" x 36",
Cotton fabrics, (Moda Grunge)
Machine pieced and machine quilted

I made this quilt while reflecting on the many ways we divide ourselves in this country, while at the same time craving connection more then ever. The work itself explores division and reunion. Using a multitude of colors helps to illustrate and celebrate the importance of diversity in America.
(Thanks to Woody Guthrie for the title inspiration.)

31.5" x 21.25"
Cotton fabrics
Hand cut, (no straight edge used)
Machine pieced and hand quilted

This quilt was made while reflecting again on how divided we are as a country and how quickly our world wide credibility is fading under the current administration. The man in the White House seems hell bent on trying to deconstruct the American values that we have held so dear while trying to refashion them into a wholly different America, and it is very alarming to me the speed at which he seems to be accomplishing this and the lack of response from republican senators and congressmen/women.

26" x 26"
Cotton fabrics, (shot cottons)
Hand cut, (no straight edge used)
Machine pieced and machine quilted

This quilt was made while reflecting on several things: line work, local surroundings, and of course, politics. In regard to line work, that's the term I am calling my ever developing and deeper desire to explore organic line shapes and how they interact with each other and how color influences that interaction. (The piece before this one is the beginning of my intent for a more mindful exploration, and going forward in the new year you will be seeing more of that exploration.) (Until I tire of it and move on to something else.)

This curiosity of line is of course deeply connected to the study of lines in my local rural surroundings... those old barns and outbuildings still fascinate me. (Below I've posted a photo I took just the other day that has wonderful lines and is a good example of the loveliness I see on a regular basis.)

And still, my mind can not help itself from continually thinking about our current state of affairs, (fueled no doubt by news often playing in the background while I sew). I seriously considered calling this piece "Tilting at Windmills" in a playful reference to the delusional Don Quixote and our own delusional Don occupying the White House. However, It was Thanksgiving when I finished it and in a desire for rest, I refrained and simply titled it "Windmill". (I'm saving that other title though for a possible future quilt.)

See? Good lines!

And here's a peak at something currently in the works, which I will share more of once it's finished, (which may be awhile). It's not big, but the stitching is going slow. Except for the smallest circle in each fan, I am basically eyeballing it, with the intention of not perfect quilted lines, but nevertheless, unity and relative consistency throughout. Much harder then I thought it would be. .

For all of what is shown, I was going back and forth... stitch a row, then flip the quilt and stitch the next row, thus saving on cutting, knotting and burying thread every row. However, (and here's a tip if you try this yourself!) I have finally realized that it's easier for me to stitch a row where the previous row is below the row being stitched and much harder for me when flipping the quilt and stitching a row where the previous row is above the row being stitched. Having that previous row below helps me eyeball  the new row much easier. So, more cutting, knotting and burying, but less pulling stitches out and starting over. (And if you are reading this but are not a quilter, my apologies for something that must sound very confusing!)

Happy New Year to Everyone!
See you in 2019!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Catching Up

Sometimes I honestly forget that I have a blog, and those sometimes seem to be more often then not of late. Oh Instagram... you have made it so much easier to connect and share and how I enjoy you, but I had this dear blog child long before you and do not wish to abandon her altogether! 
(Forgive me little blog child... I still love you!)

Ok, so what's new? Well, I had to get a couple of new self-portrait shots for a lovely interview, which I will share in a minute. But first, I am going to tell the truth about this above photo. (Which I think looks nice and gives me a rather casual relaxed air, yes?) So this is what you don't see... I was sitting on a low stool, in front of a bookcase where I suspended two long loops of ropes on either side from thumbtacks sticking into the right and left top corners of the bookcase. The quilts had dowel rods in their hanging sleeves and I stuck the end of one rod into one loop and the other end of the other rod into the other loop. Then I clothes pinned the two quilts together around the top middle section. Their was some slack which made them droop, so I then folded the top edges of the quilts over one of the shelves and placed some heavy books on top to take up the slack. Next, I worked to get my old little point and shoot Canon camera, (which is about as high tech as I go) at just the right height, (no tripod. Why, oh why, don't I have a tripod?) I accomplished this by using one coffee table, with one small stool on top, followed by several books, followed by the camera. Easy! I set the camera on a timer, leaned forward, pressed the button to take a picture, leaned back and smiled. I did this about 50 times and still wasn't pleased with any of the shots. Then the quilts fell down and landed on my head. Re-hung the quilts, and took about 50 more photos and voila! One self-portrait of me doing my best to look casual, relaxed and chill!

But see, all that effort was for a good reason, as I had been asked by the lovely Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios if I would be willing to be interviewed for The Creativity Project, which is where Kim is interviewing 52 quilters over 52 weeks to get to the "Why" we quilt. If you are not already following along, I hope you check it out... both my interview and the others. Kim is doing a wonderful job and I was honored to be a part of it!

And as for creating, well, I've been doing a lot of playing around... much experimenting and just a few actual finished works. This is one of the finished works, a quilt titled "Seasons Merge".

It's machine quilted on my domestic with a a free-form baptist fan adaptation, a design which always connects me to the local Lancaster County countryside with its plowed fields and soft rolling hills.

And I also made this rather lop-sided punch needle pillow which I adore. In the hoop it looked nice and round, but I later realized that the hoop had gotten distorted by the level of tension I had used to keep the fabric taut. Now I know to look for those distortions next time!

And like I said, I really adore this pillow! It was inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch frakturs, which hold great interest for me. And best yet, when positioned at an angle on the chair, as shown above, or...

 held just right as in this second attempt at a self-portrait, 
(which went a bit smoother then the other one) 
you can't even see the lopsidedness!

And in praise of things that are lopsided, off-kilter and not perfect...

This is what makes my heart sing! I am so blessed to live an an area that reminds me daily that there is great beauty in that which is not perfect. Look for it, embrace it and celebrate it!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Rag Rug Inspired

I've always been attracted to rag rugs. Woven rag rugs, hooked rag rugs, braided rag rugs. in fact, one of my earliest textile art crafting memories was helping my grandmother braid fabric strips which she then would curl around and around, stitching the braided cords into chair cushions. I liked how one color of fabric in a braid would end, and a new color would take over. My eyes would flit from this color to that color marveling at how they played off of each other. When I think back all those years ago I can still see a baby blue fabric, a dark green fabric, a brick red fabric, a bit of yellow fabric, and then some dark grey fabric, all twisted and spiraling around together. Pure magic it was, this making something from almost nothing.

So I thought it would be fun to use that love of rag rugs as inspiration in making my own version with yarn and punch needle. I've done some other posts about punch needle, (also known as needle punch or punchneedle) here on the blog, but if you are new here or missed those posts and  don't know what punch needle is, I will tell you...

Punch Needle is an old technique that falls into the family of embroidery. It is done with a pen like apparatus that has a hollow needle inserted into it. Yarn, or floss is threaded through the pen and the needle. Special fabric, (not all fabrics can be punched on, and different forms of punch needle sometimes require different types of fabric) is stretched very tightly either in a locking hoop or over a frame. The needle with the threaded yarn is then repeatedly punched into the fabric on the wrong, that is to say back, side. With every punch a little loop of yarn is formed on the front of the fabric.

Punch by punch, loop by loop, the design emerges. And I marvel over the magic of it the game way I marveled over my grandmother's braided chair rugs all those many years ago.

When making this I collected the 8/2 cotton yarns in the colors that came to my minds eye when thinking back to my youth, standing in my grandmother's kitchen braiding rug strips. I started with the outermost rim of dark grey and worked my way in. I would love to know how many  little punched loops it contains, but counting would have been madness. I even lost count of the hours I spent punching, but I would guess somewhere around 30.  A labor of love and memory and curiosity. Wonderful, wonderful curiosity... she has been my constant friend.

And then I decided to make something else rag rug inspired, so I made some little brooches...

They were also done in punch needle, but with some beautiful Valdaini hand-dyed cotton threads that I was seriously tempted to horde as they looked so lovely in their little box... 

Along with being inspired by rag rugs, 
I also took inspiration from old utilitarian quilts that built their design 
based on the "house-top" block, (think Gee's Bend). 

It's my absolute favorite quilt block as I love it's simplicity and never ending design possibilities.

Each brooch is backed and stitched with some grey wool-blend felt that I had on hand, 

and is mounted on a little card with a short intro description of punch needle on the back side...

I think the next time I print some up though 
I will add a bit about the pen like tool with the hollow needle... wish I had included that on these. 
Sigh... I can always find something that I wish I had done differently!

These are now available in my Etsy shop


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cover Girl

I love a happy surprise and last week I got a wonderful one when I received the news that some of my stitch work had been picked to grace the cover of the new 

Pretty cool, yes?! But wait... what exactly are those? 

Well, glad you asked... I call them"Objects of Comfort", 
(which I actually started stitching before I began my "Objects of Curiosity" 
pieces that I've been sharing in some previous posts here on the blog .)

And what exactly is an "Object of Comfort" you may ask? 

Well, for me it was the idea of taking certain things that I have collected over the years and am attracted to; such as shells, beads & buttons, and marrying them together with bits of lovely fabric and hand stitching. And in doing so I found that these little talismans had been created, 
each made of some things that are soothing and familiar to me, 
and that I can now hold in my hand or stick in my pocket...

The idea first planted in my mind several years back while walking the beach in Cape May, NJ, 
(a place that holds special meaning to my family) 
when I came upon a large amount of beautiful broken hard clam shell fragments, 
(such as that quahog shell above with it's pretty touch of purple). 
I collected a bucket full, attracted to the soft pale colors, and their ocean smoothed edges, 
knowing that someday, somehow, I would select some to adorn with fabrics and threads.

And a few months ago the "somehow" finally came to me and I set to work making them, 
finding the whole process and the resulting finished talismans very comforting... hence the name.

Once some of them were were made I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook, where they were spotted by Quilting Arts who then invited me to write an article about them... 

Little did I know that they would wind up on the cover, and I gotta say it's really nice feeling
 and a very happy uplift to this long cold winter, (that I admit is taking a toll on my mood)!

Here's a pic above of all of them together and showing the front side of them...

And here's a pick of their backsides.

Last but not least... if you would like to learn how to make your own, 
check out the issue and find out how!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Circles and Squares

Happy New Year Everyone! 

I feel like 2017 whizzed by. Personally, it was a better year then 2016, which had been a rather tough one. In comparison, 2017 was more like sailing calm waters, albeit with often cloudy skies. Those cloudy skies were what I saw when looking out into the larger picture of world events and knowing how those events effect us all. Anyone familiar with me knows how I feel politically so I will leave it at that... (what more can one say when one has spent a year voicing disbelief, and hurling profanities at the TV everyday as she watches the news unfold until her voice actually grew hoarse?) Sigh.

So about this post... I realized that I have a few end of 2017 projects that I haven't posted yet here on the old blog and wanted to share them with you. Two wall quilts, (one of them at the top of the post) and two punch-needle embroidered pillows to be specific. (I also have some more "Objects of Curiosity" items to share, but will do them in another post soon.)

Let's start with  the quilts... 

Here's that one pictured at the top. My guidelines as I set about making this were that
I wanted to work with small 9-patch blocks and I wanted everything to be hand cut. When I say hand cut, that could be with scissors or rotary-cutter, but no straight edge, no measuring, (outside of eye-balling it) no truing up... you get the point. The purpose is a desire to keep things more organic. It's an expansion on improv/no-pattern quilt making.

I selected these really pretty fabrics which I had in my stash for a few years. Oh yeah, 2017 was also about trying to use materials that I already had.... did great until the very last 2 weeks when I buckled while looking for curtain fabric. But I digress... I separated the fabrics into piles containing the ones that read as the darkest, the lightest and the middle of the road ones, and used those piles to make sure I had a good balance going on in each block.

Then I hand cut the squares and pieced them into the 9-patch blocks using slight curve piecing techniques following the hand cut lines of the fabric edges. Joined the completed blocks in the same manner. Finished by using my faced binding tutorial, but wanting to keep the wonkiness of the slightly curving boarder edges, I used 3" strips instead of 2" strips. This allowed me the extra leeway to cut into the strips where the curves were.

I wanted this quilt to be highly textured, so I machine quilted it with stippled stitching and machine washed and dried it for lots of crinkle texture. I wanted more hand-work to it so I added some horizontal and vertical rows of hand quilting. Trouble is they don't show up that well.

I decided to make another similar quilt, slightly larger, (22.5" x 27" to the 17.5" x 21.5" dimensions of the first one) and this time just did some vertical/horizontal machine stitching and then added more vertical/horizontal hand quilting, which is a favorite quilting style of mine...

(My apologies for the not so great photo here... different day and dimmer lighting conditions. I really do need to get a more professional photo set up. Hey... new 2018 goal!) When I have time I will re-shoot and hopefully get a sharper image as this one is really not up to snuff. Will also try to get some close-ups so you can see the quilting details. Not sure where my head was when I shot these quilt photos.

Okay... I have yammered on enough about the quilts. Now we move away from squares and venture into circles, and brighter colors.... and punch needle!

It has felt like ages since I did any punch needle embroidery and it was lots of fun to bring out the yarns and make a couple of little accent pillows to brighten things up a bit! I decided to keep playing with organic, free-form shapes and designs but added some circles into the mix.

And I really let my circular freak flag fly with this one...

I do wish though it wasn't so time-consuming making these though. Such a little pillow is this round one, (only 8") and it took 16 hours to punch! Didn't keep time on the first, but guessing similar time spent on it.

But I do like the orange... such a happy color! One of my favorites, I think, (if it's the right shade). And speaking of color... I think I need a constant mix of very earthy and muted, along with splashes of bright color in my life. Too much of one and I can go from calm to too down, too much of the other and I can go from happy to agitated. I really marvel at all the people I see on Instagram that seem to be able to stick with a color theme. Their feeds look so pretty and uniform. I feel like they are color purebreds and I am some sort of color mutt. But we are what we are and if I am a color mutt, so be it!

And on that odd note I will end this ramble of a post, saying goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018. May it bring peace, kindness and goodwill to all. May sanity and compassion reign. May creativity flourish. And may you and yours be blessed. xo