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Friday, December 11, 2009

Baby, It's WAY Too Cold Outside!

The freezing rain tonight, after many days of below 32 degree temps, make me miss the days of warmth, regardless of season. In Oregon we usually enjoy comfortable temperatures all the way into October. This year things were a little colder and winter has been no exception. I love the days when I can step out onto my patio and the air is the same temperature as my skin. It always feels like a warm hug from the sun.

In anticipation of the return of those days, which are a long way off, I'm posting my one winter piece. It is called Waiting for Spring and is inspired by a Hokusai woodblock print. The printed fabric in the center of the quilt is an adaptation of one of his winter scenes. This quilt also incorporates some beaded accents and several three-dimensional elements.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Autumn is Upon Us

Well, most of the trees in my yard have shaken off their leaves for the year. The deep colors took a while to develop but in the end, Nature didn't disappoint. The reds and yellows lit up the inside of my house when the sun did shove the rain clouds aside. It's no wonder so many of us think this time of year is magical. My mother always has favorite trees that she watches go through their cycle each year, but especially in Fall when they are in full color.

The trees in this quilt were inspired by a much larger grove that grows near a local wetland and lake. This piece is made entirely with silk fabrics - mainly dupionni but also some pieces of shantung and noil. The printed piece in the sky is a very special piece of 4-ply silk that was hand-stamped and painted by textile designer Lonni Rossi. It is free-motion stitched using rayon thread.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

3D Leaf Tutorial

So, finally, the promised tutorial on how to make the 3-dimensional leaves like the ones on my Quercus quilt. You'll need two fabrics, one for the top of the leaf, one for the back side. In this case I used a cotton already printed with leaves. You can use any other cotton, rayon or light weight silk, just remember that some fabrics will fray along the edges more than others. You'll also need a paper-backed fusible web like Wonder Under or, my favorite, Steam-A-Seam.

Roughly cut out a piece of the fusible web to cover the shape and size of your leaf. Place the fusible side down on the wrong side of your leaf fabric. Press according to the instructions included with the web. Usually that means 4 or 5 seconds with a dry iron.

Now roughly cut out the leaf with the the paper-backed fusible adhered to the back.

Peel the paper off the back of your leaf, if you're using a print like I did. If you are making a free-form leaf out of a non-printed fabric, you'll need to cut out your leaf shape BEFORE peeling off the paper. It's not a big deal if you peel the paper and then cut out the leaf shape, it's just easier with the paper still adhered.

Now place the wrong side of your leaf against the wrong side of your back fabric. Press once again for just a few seconds. You can give it a shot of steam from the iron if you want to be sure it's well adhered just don't overpress. If you do, the texture of the fusible web can actually show through on the right side of the fabrics. The web adheres easily and doesn't need hard pressing.

Once all layers are glued together you can "fussy cut" around the details of the leaf. On a printed fabric I usually err on the side of leaving some background color as opposed to trying to cut every little detail perfectly.

Start stitching the vein details onto your leaf. To lessen having it pushed down into the needle hole, switch over to your straight stitch plate with the single hole. (Just remember to change it back before doing any zigzag stitiching or you'll break a needle!) As a safety precaution, it is best to hold the fabric with an awl or a stilletto to keep your fingers out of harm's way.

Set up your machine up for free-motion stitching. I also like to use a contrasting, rather than matching, thread so the stitching is fully visible. Start stitching in the veins of the leaf. Don't worry about it being perfect and don't try to hold the fabric flat. Lengthen your stitch length to maximize the distortion that will take place as you add more stitiches. Some fabrics will pucker more than others but you can "help" that happen as seen in the following picture.

Okay, so I said to keep your fingers away from the needle by using an awl. If you leaf isn't distorting as much as you would like, though, you can push extra fabric under the needle by scrunching the outer ends toward the middle. Just keep your fingers at a distance from the needle and DO NOT try to watch TV or get distracted by the cat while doing this. Hint: If you engage your needle down option, you can stop sewing at any time and come back to where you were when you're ready to stitch again.

Once you have finished the stitching, hit the leaf with several heavy shots of steam from your iron. Pick it up and crush it in your hand for a few seconds. Set it aside to completely cool. Now your 3D leaf is ready to stitch to whatever you want. Just tack it in 2 or 3 places to lightly hold it in place. Or, just make a whole bunch and toss them into a tableside bowl or basket for friends to pick up and marvel over.

If you make a leaf out of a fabric that wants to ravel alot, you can hold it over a piece of waxed paper and lightly seal the edges with a seam sealant. My favorite brand is Fray Block by June Tailor. Just let the leaf air dry on the waxed paper. You can steam and crush again if needed.
I hope you'll have fun making these. They actually feel like a real leaf in the palm of your hand.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Q is for Quercus

In the previous post you may have noticed that the flag in the St. Peter's piece looks like it is floating above the surface of the quilt. Your eyes don't deceive you. I frequently like to add dimensional elements to my quilts. I made the acorns and some of the leaves dimensional in this piece.

This small quilt was made for an international challenge several years ago. The theme was the letters of the alphabet. I was randomly assigned the letter Q. Besides 26 American quilters, we also had 26 French and 26 Japanese quilters involved. For some time I wracked my brain to decide what word beginning with "q" could have meaning to all nationalities.

One morning, walking through my garden, it hit me. Botanical Latin. Even when people don't speak the same language, if they are gardeners, plant names can be shared and understood as the names are the same worldwide. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that the Latin name for oak, Quercus, was a beautiful choice. Everyone can relate to the strength of the oak tree that grows over many years from the small acorn seed.

Here is a close-up of the dimensional elements in "Q is for Quercus". In my next post, I'll give a short tutorial on how to make 3D leaves. they aren't very hard but very satisfying to experiment with.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Travel Inspired Quilts

Travel inspired my choice of house colors but it also filled my head with images to use in my art work. This little doorway was in Vernazza, one of the villages of the Cinque Terre. I reproduced the scene in a little piece I call 11 Via Pegunia. I've often wondered if I mailed this to the occupants, what would they think?

This piece, also small, was really fun to make. I happened to be in Venice on a national holiday and the flag of Venice was flying in front of St. Mark's cathedral. It was such a grand day. I call this one St. Mark's, Venice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Travel Inspiration

The last post mentioned color inspiration from my travels. This color combination of pumpkin with dark green shutters was everywhere in Italy in 2007. It must have been the latest fashion in house colors.

This next image was found on a back street in Venice so bold color combination is nothing new either. I loved the texture on these walls as much as I loved the rich colors.

I wouldn't recommend adding stripes to wall decor but my hats off to the painter that did this.

Do you suppose the person who painted this wall knew what the bougainvillea would look like when it was in bloom? I hope so. It wouldn't be hard to find this house.

Okay, now we're just getting silly!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome to My Home

Summer can go by so quickly that I sometimes feel like I missed it. I have not felt that effect quite as dramatically this year, but time has blurred, nevertheless. It's been raining the last few days and the evenings get chilled almost as fast as the sun slides below the horizon. Ahhh, time to blog once again.

By now some of you may have noticed I enjoy color. Studying color has provided endless fascination and new learning opportunities for me. I LOVE strong color combination and, the more unusual the better. I can't make any claims to being a color expert but I have been having fun putting color on the walls of my house lately. There's joy in color, too. Here is the first wall you see upon entering my home. Enjoy the tour.

I really went for warm and bold in the bedroom. I should say that I have not painted these colors on all four walls of the room. Each room gets only one accent wall. The rest are painted a light taupe that stands nicely next to the bolder colors.

I'm very influenced in my color choices by some of the traveling that I have enjoyed over the years. The colors of southern France and northern Italy were so powerful and, in some cases, exaggerated, that I couldn't wait to bring those same tones into my everyday life. The kitchen wall got a nice coat of what I can only call Provence yellow.

I went for a little quieter tone in the living room, but no less dramatic. Who doesn't like chocolate?

Wasabi green. Nice name. Great color. This one got onto more than one wall. When the long rainy days of an Oregon winter get here, I'll be ready with inside sunshine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Now for Something Completely Different

Here's the second piece that I made for the Line Dance show. This one is titled The Green Flash and was inspired by the natural phenomenon that can be observed just at the sun sets over tropical waters. I have watched for it in various parts of the world but have never been lucky enough to actually see it happen.

This quilt was made using a technique that is a little different for me since I usually use raw edge applique, with pre-printed fabric, to build a scene. Over time I have been learning to create my own fabric using thickened fabric dye (Procion brand). By thickening the dye it can be painted on just as paint onto a canvas. It can also be used through a silk screen to create an image with a crisper edge. Once the dye is applied, it can also be taken away using a discharge paste. This is similar to what bleach would do but it is a different chemical action. I used both techniques in this piece.

This next image is a close-up of the some of the stitching detail. No matter whether I am using purchased fabric, or fabric I produced myself, I rarely skimp on the stitching. It is my favorite part of the whole process. Although free-motion stitching is the most useful, you can see some use of programmed stitches from my sewing machine to form the textures of the coral.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Green Tomato Summer?

Well, it's been a weird August in my part of Oregon. First, we had a string of blazing, record-setting hot days. Now, we're having cool, cloudy mornings. I don't think I will get more than a handful of ripe tomatoes off my plants at this rate. Good thing the framer's markets are in full swing.

Here is an art quilt I made in early spring when I was anticipating the fresh tastes of summer. I call it Fresh Vegetables. It was made for a show titled Line Dance which required each piece to have a lime green line running through it. It is constructed using my most common method: raw edge applique. I will have more on this in future posts. I had fun picking out a wide variety of printed fabrics to make each vegetable have a unique personality.

Here is a detail of how I stitched some of the roots. The stitching is always fun for me because that is when the detail really gets added. I do this using free-motion stitching using either straight or zig zag stitches.

Here's another detail shot showing how the carrot tops were put in, again using free-motion stitching. Who says you can't have your vegetables and eat them too? I'll be able to enjoy these even in the cold of winter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brand New Blogger

Today is the day I started my blog. I am looking forward to sharing my passion in life - creating art from fabric. Sometimes I use commercially printed fabrics, and sometimes I create my own using dye or paint or both. The best part of any piece, though, is when I add texture with the stitching. I love the time spent sitting with my sewing machine, filling the empty palette with thread colors. I often liken it to a zen experience. Time melts away and the process of creating is all that surrounds me. Often I pick music that complements the mood of the piece I'm working on. It seems that nothing can bring me back to the present short of the fading light of the day.

So, come along with me and see what will emerge from my studio over time. I will also post pictures of previous work. Let's have fun!