Sunday, December 19, 2010

Studio Report

The rabbit and squirrel are pinned to my design wall and patiently waiting for their moment to arrive. (Looks like they are watching that field for Spring growth!)


My studio it too small to have too many projects active at one time, so they will have to wait until Christmas crafting is finished and then I have to resume work on the 5 bed quilts that are my top priority to finish this winter (3 down, 2 to go).

So a quick look around my studio shows the Christmas minis that I'm working on. I'm sending these instead of paper cards.


I debated whether or not to send these as postcards through the mail, but then decided that I'd attach a cord to the tops to turn them into Christmas decorations/ornaments. I figured that by attaching a way to hang them to start with, it wouldn't be left to the recipient to figure out what to do with it or how to hand it up. To attach the metallic cord I inserted tiny grommets in each upper corner and threaded the cord through them.

What's fun about creating these little minis is trying out different threads. For the most part I work with Superior's Bottom Line in the bobbin. On the top I also used their metallic thread, their Highlights thread (loved the punch of that neon color), and their glitter thread (always a favorite way to add the hint of sparkle).


My other favorite for the satin stitch around the edges, besides Superior's Highlight, was Mettler's rayon thread - for its smooth, shiny finish. However, I also tried Curicini Tre Stelle's 12 wt cotton thread (see mini below) and was mightily impressed with the wonderful dense, smooth coverage it produced. Very nice and no problems with tension adjustment. (I use a lot of metallics and heavy weight threads when quilting, so I always automatically reduce the upper tension on my Bernina to around 1 or 2 and use a 90/14 needle.)


Unfortunately, I didn't have any 12 wt Aurifil on hand in colors that would work for the minis, so can't compare it for the satin stitch, but I have always liked it when I want a highly visible quilting stitch and so used it on several of the minis for that purpose.

The rest of my studio is still a mess with all of the hat boxes and hats that I haven't had time to deal with and with various parts of the bed quilts in process, not to mention the pile of yarn balls that were the result of my undoing a knitted coat I had made. (The two you see are just some of the 10+ that are piled on the floor.)


So that you have it, the current state of my studio.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Animals Assembled

Ok, so that's not a scintillating post title. All of my creativity must drained into the squirrels.

The next animal I create during the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops retreat is a squirrel. Technically a Gray Squirrel, but all of the Gray Squirrels around here are two-tone. It's fun watching them outside of my office window. Occasionally I'll see one outside the window of my third floor studio. They are always shocked to see a human that far above the ground! LOL.



It is a fun process to create animal figures. The tricky part is getting the right expression and maintaining the animal-ness while using commercial prints. I like the commercial prints for the little "surprizes" you see - like the flowers on the belly of the squirrel.

The next step will be to come up with a scene to put these critters in.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fused Animal Figures

I'm getting a little break from my regular duties as innkeeper and art workshop director, to join in the fun in the studio during our December retreat. I am giving some informal lessons on how I create the rabbits for my rabbit series. I use two different techniques and was going to show both, but everyone is having such fun with the fused method (which is faster. LOL) that we have gone from rabbits to squirrels!

These are two of the finished rabbits. The one on the right is mine and the one on the left is by Leonie Lister of Australia.


I'm supplying the fabric, so Leonie and I are working on tables opposite of each other and selecting from the same stash, but you can see what a difference it makes with how the values are used and where they are placed on the figure.

These rabbits will eventually be put in a composition with other similarly made elements, but because Leonie, just loves squirrels, we all decided to jump to that.

This is the start of my squirrel - the freezer paper templates.


If I had made the squirrel the same scale as the rabbit, I could have put them in the same composition, but I decided to go for the mondo-sized squirrel. Watch out for your nuts!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Is Lint Really the Issue

I finished using all five bobbins worth of Aurifil 50 wt thread and took the standard shots of the bobbin case and throat plate area.



Yeah, there was lint. Pretty much similar to the lint build up seen with the Curicini Tre Stelle thread. So I have decided that I better do another test with less expensive brand of thread I had been using, to see if there was really going to be that much difference.

So here is a pic after one bobbin of use.


Hmmm. Not a whole lot of difference between this and the Italian threads.

But then I was thinking . . . is lint really that big of deal or is it just the red herring of thread attributes? I mean so what if there is some lint -- after all what do you expect with cotton? Is the presence of lint going to make that much difference in the quality of the stitch or use of the machine? Yes, you do have to clean the lint out of the machine for the best continued performance, but that's just a part of maintenance.

So let's forget about the lint! Let's focus instead on the more important qualities of the thread - the appearance of the stitch, the way it is handled by the machine, and range of colors!

I thought that the Italians were pretty close in this comparison. The stitches were beautiful and the thread ran smoothly through the machine. I'll give the slight nod to Aurifil, though, on the stitch appearance -- the thread really did seem to just melt and become one with the fabric.

However, the difference between the Italians and the cheaper thread was quite marked. I could feel the ridge of the cheaper thread stitches on the surface of the fabric and the louder noise of the machine running with the cheaper thread was definitely noticeable. With the Italians, the machine just purred.

The end result -- I'm giving up using the cheaper thread! Yes, I am definitely on a limited budget but since I'm not using up billions of yards of thread per year, I feel that a thread that can make my sewing machine purr is worth it!

Both of the Italian thread companies offer an array of thread weights and materials, which I'll be comparing as I come to a project that can use them. I'm especially interested in trying the heavy weight cotton threads, as well as the wool and silk threads because those are the threads that a meant to be seen on the surface of the work.

So here's a toast to the Italians! They are as smooth and sweet as a Sauterne!


I'm still working on piecing quilt tops, so if I notice any other aspect of note about these threads, I'll be sure to mention it.

The next top is a Queen size and it will use a simple 3.5" x 12" block design that will appear as stripes of blues alternating with white. These are my blues.